Beneath her cheerful facade and name, Christmas Carol carries a heavy burden. Can joy re-enter her life when famous author, Blake Dugan, gets stranded in her small town?
Will joy appear during the holiday season in this small town? Morgan Mandel, author of ‘Christmas Carol’ has joined me to celebrate a little Christmas in July while chatting about her novel. Morgan, thanks for sitting down with me today to bring a little mid-year cheer to the author interview. Where did the underlying cheer for this novel originate?
An actual restaurant where the waitresses sang songs while serving patrons stuck in my mind. The waitress in this story not only sings off key, but also sings to hide her sorrow and help others cope with theirs.
A singing waitress sounds so sweet! Were there any other things that you’ve seen in your life that merged around the idea of a singing?
I was able to draw on some of my experiences as a writer when crafting the hero, who happens to be an author. Also, I’m somewhat familiar with Wisconsin.
Somewhat familiar sounds like you did a little research for precision on Wisconsin. What kinds of things did you need to look up to ensure your tale was on the money?
I did a bit of online weather and geography research.
In this Wisconsin small town way of life, how did you find that the characters came to life? Did you have any starting point that helped your characters evolve?
I wanted to write a Christmas story. The title of this one is a twist on the popular story, A Christmas Carol. In this one called Christmas Carol, the heroine was born on Christmas, so her parents named her Christmas, and her last name is Carol. Many just call her Chris.
Chris would be much easier! How have choices in the plot, like naming a child Christmas Carol affected the personalities of the characters? Overall, do you feel that the personalities were pushed by the plot, or was the plot pushing the personalities?
Their personalities developed along with the plot.
So there’s a more a simultaneous relationship between the two. If you were lucky enough to have the relationships between your characters put on screen, who do you think would be able to give the right touch?
Almost any of the Hallmark Movie actors would fit nicely.
Yeah, I think you’re on the right track there. And your story would nicely fit into Hallmark movie arena so I think it’s a good selection to open it up to anyone in that acting pool. If you had to give a single direction to any of these actors to make sure they take to heart what you really wanted to say in this story, what would you tell them?
Be kind to others.
That’s so very true for both in and outside of the holiday season of year. What did you love most about getting this story down on paper?
It gave me a warm feeling to write about the small town neighbors who banded together in the face of tragedy. Lately, I’ve found myself taking more of an interest in my own neighbors.
I hope that you’ve managed to form some new firm friendships with your neighbors! Was the value of friendship one of the biggest learning experiences that resulted from your efforts on this novel, or was there another element that you felt with more intensity?
Writing for a specific holiday season was my goal and I accomplished that.
Writing for a specific holiday is tricky, but it must have been great to feel that sense of achievement. After you had reached this achievement, were there any points that took notes on to improve your writing process?
If I had had more time when writing this book, I might have been able to expand the word count and reach a larger audience. Many publicity sites don’t care to promote short books.
Some days I’m surprised by how many books can’t be promoted on publicity sites! Short reads often mean there’s less filler content, and you just get to stick with the most important emotions of the story. As someone who has faced the challenges of sharing shorter reads with the world, do you have tips for authors who might be in a similar situation?
Joining Chicago-North Romance Writers of America helped me immensely. At our chapter meetings, we critique manuscripts and learn great tips on what to do and not to do. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
By taking a step back to critique your work, have you also thought about how to position yourself as an author within the market? For instance have you thought about, or started working towards setting up an author brand for yourself?
If I only wrote one genre, I could create a specific author brand. Since I’ve written mysteries, romances, a book on adoption, short stories in an anthology, as well as a non-fiction book about the dogs in my life, you might say my brand is diversity.
*Laughs* Diversity is always lots of fun for the author! What diverse writing project are you currently working on?
Right now I’m working on a completely different kind of book than Christmas Carol. My new one involves good and evil twin brothers who fall for the same gal. I hope to have this work in progress ready by the end of summer.
Good luck with its progress! I hope that you meet your target. What keeps drawing you back to writing now that you’ve written across several genres?
I’ve been an avid reader all my life. Writing is a natural offshoot, where I can feel in control of what happens in a book.
How do you develop that control when you’re starting out with a new writing project? Are you a big advocate for planning or do you write by the seat of your pants?
In a romance, I go for the happily ever after, where the hero and heroine end up together. In other genres, such as mysteries, I usually can tell how they will end about halfway through the manuscript.
I find it interesting that you don’t necessary know where the mystery will end before you start as most mystery authors I chat to are very strong in knowing their mysterious outcome before they start. As you like writing across multiple genres I’m sure you have new writing ideas popping up all of the time. Do you have any strategies for keeping track of them?
I jot down ideas and place them into a folder. I also keep stock image samples on my computer to remind me of possible characters in books I would like to write.
Once you have your ideas folder and images sitting gathered, how does the writing process unfold? Do you have any writing rituals?
I like to write at my desk at home, where I’m the most comfortable. Sometimes I write on vacation, where the conditions in the cottage are cramped and not as ideal for writing.
Is there any music that puts you in the mood when you’re at your comfy desk?
I enjoy most country and western songs, but also write with talk radio in the background. I like some kind of noise while writing, but nothing intrusive.
What happens when your outside thoughts are too intrusive on your writing progress for the day and are leading you towards writer’s block? Are there any practices that you do to get yourself unstuck?
If I’m not in the mood for writing, I don’t force myself. My brain tells me it’s not the time to write. To figure out a puzzle in a book I’ve already started, I think over possible solutions while walking my dog or doing other everyday activities.
Once you’ve worked through all of the times when your brain wasn’t ready to write, and you’ve reached that finished book, how do you approach editing?
When I finish a book, I do a spell check. After that, I read the book more than once and check for repetitions, better words or phrases, improper grammar, right spellings that spell check didn’t catch, and also what people say or do which might not make sense. When I’m satisfied, I contact fellow authors to look it over, as well as readers.
That’s quite a thorough system that you have setup there, which leads me to think about your day job. Do you think that processes within your day job have exposed you to ideas that have positively impacted your writing?
I was an administrative assistant at a law firm for over 38 years, and I drew on that experience when writing my thriller, Killer Career. I’m presently retired, but find myself as busy as when I had a day job. For years, my husband and I have been blessed by the presence of one dog or another in our house, and I drew on that experience to write my non-fiction book, Our Fur Babies.
*Laughs* I love that you’ve written a book called ‘Our Fur Babies’! That’s fantastic! Let’s continue our on the furry and light-hearted trajectory by moving into the quirky quick fire question round. To kick off the fun, what is your favourite quote?
All’s well that ends well.
Other than your current and previous careers, what other occupations could you see yourself enjoying?
Volunteering at a dog adoption agency.
*Laughs* All the fur babies you could ever want in one place! I’ve often thought about that one myself too, but I’d be trying to take them all home! Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
The wisdom and simplicity of that philosophy is so understated. Have you tangoed in the snow?
Only by mistake, if I slip.
*Laughs* I’m impressed that you’ve turned a clumsy slip into a highly sophisticated dance move! What is your favourite flavor of ice-cream?
Vanilla with Reese’s peanut butter cups mixed in.
What is your favourite word?
Without revealing too many secrets, is there a favourite line from this novel that you would like to share with the audience today to round out interview that gives just a hint of intrigue to entice people to pick up a copy of ‘Christmas Carol’?
Let the poor thing have her songs, if that’s what made her happy.
Morgan, thanks for sharing happy songs and bringing a touch of Christmas cheer to July!
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Christmas Carol ( ASIN: B00R20N0B2 )‘.
Want to find out more about Morgan Mandel? Connect here!Morgan Mandel