I love Halloween, but I love Christmas even more. While I was a little distressed to find Christmas merchandise out in the stores in August, it doesn’t bother me as much now that the weather is turning cooler and it seems to get darker at a depressingly early hour each day. So if you’re in the mood for a little Christmas–the fun aspects, not the work–I hope you will celebrate with me as we count down the Cotillion Christmas Traditions releases for 2013. Each week, EC Cotillion will release a new Regency short story centering on a Christmas tradition. These stories are traditional both in the sense of the holiday and in the style of writing. The characters will behave like they would in a Jane Austen novel rather than an episode of Regency House Party or Real Housewives of Brighton.
The first release in this year’s Cotillion collection is “Twelve Days of Christmas” by Barbara Miller, a story about a couple trying to remember Christmas traditions while they deal with runaway brothers.
What comes first: plot or characters?
One character comes first and that hero or heroine has to invent their counterpart. I thought up Tamara first and she helped me create the perfect hero for her. She discovers Ash to be flawed but with self-doubt more than anything. It’s not her job to save him but he decides it’s his responsibility to save himself in order to be worthy of her. The plot must serve the characters and their relationship, not the reverse. Plot is easy to fix, but if you make a misstep with character creation you have to start over.
What is your writing method?
I write via a bizarre and scary method I call active outlining. I write all the dialogue first with the connective tissue being bits of synopsis place holding the plot together. Once I get to the end of the patchwork of conversation, it know how it will end and I construct the action or plot. Then I fill in introspection and tagging. Finally I do description and transitions. It’s quick and crazy, but I have to be careful not to turn in too early a draft. Six iterations gets the book close to finished, but I still have places where the editor wants more introspection.
What author has most influenced your writing?
Georgette Heyer was by biggest influence. I was amazed that she could get humor into even the gravest situation. My goal is to get humor into every book. It’s such a part of life it needs to be present in every story.
The Twelve Days of Christmas:
Tamara Gifford gets herself invited to Oakley Hall for Christmas to rescue her brother from the reportedly depraved Lord Oakley. When she arrives she discovers that Ashford Steel is a former soldier trying to adjust to governing an estate. He is happy to have his mother and Tamara for company since his brother is supposed to be spending the holiday at Tamara’s house in London.
Though they are both angry at the deception of their brothers they enjoy banding together to find them while Ashford tries to remember the tradition of what Lord Oakley is supposed to do on the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Tamara gives him sound advice about how to go forward with his life rather than looking back. In return he helps her to see that she must make a life for herself and let her brother go. After they locate the young men and rescue them, Tamara agrees to marry Ashford, but what her brother wants to do with the rest of his life could tear apart their hard won love.
[Learn more about the story at http://www.ellorascave.com/twelve-days-of-christmas.html]
Barbara Miller teaches in the Writing Popular Fiction graduate program at Seton Hill University and is Reference Librarian at Mount Pleasant, PA Public Library. She has published historical romances, mysteries, and young adult books and has had two plays performed. You may email email@example.com or visit www.fallsbend.net.
And so begins my countdown to the Christmas season. There are eight stories in the Cotillion Christmas anthology this year, so it’s an eight-week countdown. And my story, “Sense of the Season,” is the last one (guess who was the last one to turn in her submission?) So get ready to curl up with a cup of hot spiced cider (I like mine with dark rum) and spend some time with seasonal traditions.