When Sophie grants her niece’s Christmas wish to spend the day in the place her recently-lost sister loved the most, she struggles among painful childhood memories in the place she loves the least-Walt Disney World. But when she runs into a charming stranger, who offers up his extensive Disney knowledge, he instantly becomes her hero. Will Sophie continue to allow her painful past to haunt her, or will she let it go?
To find out how successful Sophie is with her challenge of moving past her painful past, I’ve been joined by returning author Alex Bailey. Alex, it’s lovely to chat books with you again, and I’m eager to find out all about Sophie, so let’s wind time back to the start of this book. How did the idea originally come to you?
The story began when I was in Disney World. All the magic of the holidays surrounded me and the image of romance came to mind. And how joyous it would be to find a sense of healing within the magic.
Did you use this experience of Disney World or perhaps events from your life where you need a little healing to build the storyline?
I love this question, but there’s not enough space here to explain my full answer, so here’s the Reader’s Digest version. I lost my mom at age three and Disney was a refuge for me and my brothers growing up. I feel I owe so much to Disney because it truly was a respite from some of the trauma of everyday life. I also had an older brother who took care of me, much like Sophie does for Ariel. And I drew on many things that I love about the parks, movies, songs, etc.
I’m sorry to hear about your mother, but I’m glad to hear that you and your family found a refuge in the wonderful world of Disney. As you were writing all about Disney World in this novel, did you find your mind wandering off to the movies or tv shows as you wrote?
I stuck with focusing on my characters, their personalities, their habits, their unique qualities.
When you were in the swing of things your characters obviously took up a larger amount of your thoughts, but do you remember how they originally developed? What can you share about this time?
The characters came to me when the story came to me. I knew I wanted it to be about loss and healing. What better way to portray that than a little girl who lost her mom and a loving aunt who made her Christmas wish come true?
That’s a pretty awesome way to make wishes come true if you ask me. This book has a very strong personal element for you, but did you still feel that you learnt something new from getting it all down on paper? What was the most interesting thing that you learnt?
That there are zero Hidden Mickeys in the Contemporary Resort’s rooftop restaurant, California Grill. That, I did not know.
Wow, really? I wonder why that is. Surely they didn’t run out of Mickeys to hide! Other than the importance of Hidden Mickeys, what was the central message you wanted to share with readers who pick up a copy of Once Upon a Romance?
I wanted to share the joy I feel being in Disney World and the healing I’ve received when being in the parks.
Are you energised to output a consistent amount of writing when you get to write about healing like in this book, or does the emotion tend to overwhelm you?
Writing consumes most of my days now that I’ve retired. And I couldn’t be happier. These stories have been locked away far too long and it’s such a relief to release them to the world. I feel like a weight has been lifted from my chest.
I love that you’ve both lifted the weights from your chest and written an engaging novel. What a fantastic feat! What project are you working on that could possibly follow up that?
I’m currently writing the second book in the series, Once Upon an Engagement.
The title gives a big hint away, but if it has as much magic as the first book in the series, I’m sold! Looking back from the first book you ever wrote, to the first book in this series, to what you’re writing today, how do you think that your voice as an author has changed?
Oh, it has definitely morphed into more of who I am. I started writing 20 years ago and I cringe when I think about what or how I wrote. Thankfully, those stories will never see the light of day.
*Laughs* That’s one thing that’s fantastic about the pre-internet times, it was much easier to remove stories that you want to hide! So that’s the stories you want to hide. What about the ones you want to showcase, what steps have you taken to brand them to make it easier for a reader to recognise your work?
The only thing I’ve done is to realize that a splash of magic has appeared in every book I’ve written so far, so I made that my brand. I also write short stories and have a few published and so my tagline is: Stories with a splash of magic.
I love that tagline! It’s awesome. Now, of course, I’m intrigued so you’ll have to tell me a little more about your magical books. What have you released so far?
Very good question! Well, I have The Future Memoir of Ann Jones, which is a time-travel romance and under my other pen name: Hoot N. Holler, two books – Terror in Boring Town: A Sam and Rex Adventure (recipient of the 2018 bronze medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards) and Skerry Island: The Prince and the Pirate Book 1.
You know I never get sick of the name Hoot N. Holler. It just rolls off the tongue and into my heart, right next to my own Disney memories. I’m a little way away from my next Disney visit I’m going to wrap our chat up so I can check out the Disney memories you’ve gifted us in Once Upon a Romance.Alex, thanks for sharing your magic with us today, and I can’t wait for your next splash of magic!
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Once Upon a Romance (A Dream Come True Book 1) ( ASIN: B07JQK3WFZ )‘.
Want to find out more about Alex Bailey? Connect here!