The author of more than 200 books(!), Melody Carlson’s titles have sold more than six million copies. For several years, she has published a brand-new Christmas story, and this year is no different! She continues her Christmas tradition with A Christmas by the Sea (Revell): When Wendy Harper inherits her family’s shabby but charming beachside cottage in Maine, can this Christmas season bring her the miracle she needs and provide her with the joy and love she never expected? In this Q&A, Melody shares why she writes a Christmas novella every year, reveals the inspiration behind the latest book, and explains how she manages to be so prolific…
You’ve written more than two hundred books. When did you first begin writing Christmas novels?
I can hardly believe that I wrote my first Christmas novella more than sixteen years ago. Time flies when you’re having fun. And I must admit that writing Christmas stories truly is fun for me. I look forward to writing many more!
What motivated you to write stories revolving around the Christmas season?
I’d written several children’s Christmas books and felt like grown-ups needed some uplifting stories to get them into the Christmas spirit too—probably even more so than kids!
But because I realized that many people struggle during the holidays, I didn’t want my stories to be all sugary sweetness. I wanted readers to relate to realistic characters and challenges but to ultimately be inspired to embrace their own Christmas festivities with hope and enthusiasm.
My first Christmas novella, Angels in the Snow, came out in 2002. It was a story about an artist who’d lost her husband and son and was trying to get back to her art—and her life.
For some reason, it really seemed to connect with readers. At the time, few publishers were releasing holiday novellas, but because it worked, I’ve done them ever since.
What was your inspiration for writing A Christmas by the Sea?
We used to have a lovely little beach cabin and, for various reasons, decided to celebrate Christmas there one year. Just days before Christmas, we were walking the beach as usual and suddenly began finding sand dollars—dozens and dozens of them. We collected several hundred in just one morning!
After cleaning and drying them, I began to transform them into sand dollar “angels” that I used to decorate a Christmas tree we’d placed in our sunroom. It was the most beautiful tree we’d ever had—and a sweetly memorable Christmas.
After that, I’d always planned to write a Christmas story set by the sea—and I finally did it!
What do you hope readers gain from A Christmas by the Sea?
As always, I hope they’ll be entertained and uplifted. My main character, Wendy, has a lot of challenges facing her. She’s a widowed mom with massive bills who is simply trying to provide stability for her preteen son, and naturally, it’s not easy.
I was raised by a single mom, so I understand this personally. I hope readers will relate to her challenges and be inspired by her ingenuity, as well as be encouraged to welcome their own holiday challenges with creativity and hope.
You have been such a prolific author, writing in different genres and for different age groups. What keeps the ideas coming for you? Where do you find inspiration, and what do you do if you are not feeling inspired?
It takes very little to get a story percolating in me. It can be a scene that makes me wonder, a sentence from the newspaper, a vivid dream, a childhood memory—and so on. I find inspiration all around me and the challenge is to not try to make everything into a book.
But sometimes, if I’ve been crunching on a deadline, or life is a challenge, I will take a break and clear my head—usually spending some time in nature—and wait until I feel inspired. Thankfully, it never takes very long.
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A Christmas by the Sea
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