Hello, friends! Do you know one of my favorite things about December? ‘Tis the season not only to be listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies, but also to be reading all kinds of lovely Christmas books! I’ve already read and reviewed some holiday themed cozy mysteries, and now… it’s time for something a little different.
Recently, I told you about a couple of Hallmark Publishing Christmas titles that I was looking forward to reading. Not only did I get to read my first one, but I was also able to talk with the author of this lovely book!
I can’t wait to share this story and conversation with you, so read on to find out more…
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The Christmas Company by Alys Murray is a delightful story about a small town in Texas with a really BIG Christmas spirit… so big, in fact, that a branch of a local company is solely dedicated to the holiday and to the huge Christmas festival hosted each year by the community. There’s decorating, caroling, festivities… and yes, even a reenactment of A Christmas Carol each year! That is, until… (cue ominous villain music)… a real-life Scrooge comes to town and unceremoniously rips it all apart. You see, the Christmas Festival just isn’t… profitable. Well, then.
Kate, a hometown girl and employee of The Christmas Company, isn’t going down without a fight. She launches a campaign to win over Scrooge (who is actually named Clark) and to get to the bottom of why he hates this holiday so much, and why he doesn’t appear to care about another living soul. Along the way, this standoff slides into a pair of people truly trying to understand one another. But will the whole situation be too much to overcome?
I found this story truly heartwarming. The author, Alys Murray, paints a vivid picture of Christmas in Miller’s Point. The holiday turns this tiny town into a Victorian Christmas village straight out of a Dickens novel. The references to A Christmas Carol and the parallels of this book to that classic story were enchanting… it made me want to revisit that title as well. And I loved optimistic, forge-ahead Kate… she’s exactly the person you’d want in charge of saving Christmas!
And talk about a town you’d want to visit over the holidays! Miller’s Point sounds like the perfect place to spend Christmas, and the festive and descriptive scenes made me wish the little village were a real place to go have a sleigh ride and a hot chocolate!
I happen to have “met” Alys, the author, on social media (again, that Twitter writing and blogging community is awesome!)…. so I asked her if she’d be willing to chat and answer a few questions for me and for everyone that loves The Christmas Company! She was happy to oblige, so here are some of her thoughts on writing, Christmas, and more!
When did you start writing, and what brought you to it?
I’ve been writing since I was a little girl! I was an avid reader and I think it’s very natural for avid readers to want to write their own stories, so all throughout my childhood and teenage years, I filled countless notebooks with books and stories. It’s been with me all of my life!
But my professional writing career began my sophomore year of college, when I took a play writing class. I wrote a play I was very proud of and that got some buzz, and it was the first time in my life that I thought I could actually make a go of writing professionally! Up until then, I didn’t know that I could ever write something good enough that people would want to read it, but after so many people enjoyed my play, I thought that maybe I should give writing a try!
The Christmas Company is set in a little town that cherishes its holiday traditions. Are you, like your character Kate, “all in” on Christmas, and did you grow up with a lot of traditions of your own?
I’m definitely a Christmas gal like Kate! I’ve always been a huge fan of the holidays and we had so many traditions that have followed me throughout my entire life. Some of them are even in the book! Clark’s Christmas Candle from his mother is a Christmas tradition of mine, and Kate telling the stories behind the ornaments as they decorate the tree is based on another family tradition of mine.
Also, my father used to always put out a small Dickens Christmas village on our front table. As soon as I saw Bob Cratchit’s house and the cute little London street lamps on a bed of fake snow, I knew it was Christmas!
How did you come to publish your novel with Hallmark? Were you a Hallmark fan before?
I was absolutely a Hallmark fan before! Two days into writing The Christmas Company, I was scrolling through Twitter and saw that Hallmark was looking for novels for their new publishing house. In my heart, I just knew that once The Christmas Company was ready, I had to send it to them! A few months later, I was signing my publication contract!
What is something that you’d love to tell us about your main characters, Kate and Clark? (Spoiler alert!)
I would love to tell you (and this is only for those who have read the book because I don’t want anything to be spoiled!) that Clark might just be planning a very special Christmas engagement for Kate at next year’s Christmas Company festival…
What are you most looking forward to over the Christmas holidays?
I now live full-time in London, and this will be the first Christmas I ever spend in London! My fiancé and I have planned to go out on Christmas night and ride around London on our bikes, seeing the sites and Christmas lights while everyone else is inside having their Christmas dinners. It will be so beautiful to see London this way! I can’t wait!
In The Christmas Company, you reference Dickens and A Christmas Carol throughout the story. Are you a big fan of Dickens? Would you say your writing is influenced by the classics? What are some of your favorites?
Yes! I’m a huge fan of Charles Dickens! When I was a kid, instead of going into ‘Time Out’ when I was in trouble, my dad would sit me down in a chair with a very big book (usually Great Expectations), and make me read a full chapter before I could get back up and play. The problem was that I started to love these old books that my dad made me read! My favorite Dickens is probably Oliver Twist, but that’s probably also because I’m a big musical theatre nerd and love the musical! I think my writing is influenced by the classics, especially female writers like Fanny Burney and Elizabeth Gaskell. Elizabeth Gaskell wrote my favorite classic novel in North and South, and while Clark is, of course, inspired by Scrooge, I also found a lot of inspiration for Clark in the hero of North and South, Thornton.
I love all of this information… it puts me in a Christmas mood even more! Many thanks to Alys for the interview… and for writing such a fun story!
You know what would be really fun? Give this book as an early gift to a couple of friends… then meet for brunch and talk about the story, along with all your favorite holiday memories and traditions.
Better yet, plan ahead for next year’s book club… read both The Christmas Company *and* A Christmas Carol as your December titles (no worries, they’re both quick, easy reads!) and use them together to spark wonderful Christmas-themed discussion with your group. (Try this beautifully illustrated edition of A Christmas Carol!)
If you’re looking for a sweet, uplifting Christmas story (for yourself, or to give as a gift)… well, it would be hard to find a better option than The Christmas Company. I give this book five festive stars! Highly recommended for anyone who believes in love, community, and the spirit of Christmas!
Get The Christmas Company:
In the next couple of weeks, don’t forget to revisit my Holiday Gift Guides as you shop, and peek at my previous reviews of Christmas themed titles for great cozy books to curl up with once all that shopping is done. Happy reading, friends!
December on my blog will bring lots of fun content… I’m participating in #Blogmas which is a big deal in the blogging world, as well as Bookending Winter through Bookend Events. Look for gift guides, Christmas book recommendations, holiday favorites, and more!