Once upon a time I was writing a Christmas book for Harlequin Presents/Mills & Boon for whom I have been writing nigh on 27 years. This was not the first Christmas book I had written for them, but it was one I had been looking forward to writing for quite a while.
It had to do with an elder brother of one of my Savas heroes – and he was a hard-nosed, hard-edged bah humbug sort of hero. He needed serious shaping up, and I was looking forward to it. So was my heroine.
My publisher, however, suddenly had other ideas. They thought it was a long time until Christmas (indeed it was – 16 months) and so, they said, why didn’t I write another book in the meantime?
Red flags should have waved. Frantically.
But these were young editors inexperienced in the ways my creative brain works – or doesn’t. But if they didn’t know better, at least I should have.
I didn’t. Or if I did, my “sure, why not?” gene over-rode my good sense.
I thought long and hard over this notion for about five days and said, “Okay, I think I can come up with another story.”
And I did. I liked the characters, Alexandros, and Daisy. I liked the idea that she was a matchmaker and he needed a match. Not her, of course! Daisy was determined about that. She and Alex had a history – and part of that history he knew nothing about.
It was, let me tell you, fraught with potholes as big as Crater Lake and roads as rough as tracks through the wilderness. It was not an easy slog. It was made harder by my discovery several chapters into the book that really I had a long book plot that I was trying to stuff into a short book.
It wouldn’t stuff. I had to go back to page 1 and rework the whole thing.
And then there was page 123 beyond which I could not seem to get. Weeks passed. Months passed. Editors emailed, at first solicitously, and then, I suspect, a bit frantically. How was the book? they asked. How were Alex and Daisy? Were they getting on with it? Were they moving? Were they at least breathing?
They were. And they were also being re-re-re-re-written. Far more than I wanted. Far more than THEY wanted. But when it’s right, it’s right -- and when it isn’t, it needs work. Alex and Daisy got a lot of work.
Finally in late winter, I realized that if I was lucky they were going to be an unintentional Christmas book. If I finished when I expected, they would reach their happy ending in time for a December pub date. And so . . they became a Christmas book, too.
I love them as a Christmas book.
Only two things I’m sad about: the scheduling snafu which eliminated some of the books for North America when The Powers That Be re-jigged the schedule means that Alex and Daisy’s story, now called Breaking the Greek’s Rules, will not be a paperback in North America. It’s out in UK now and, presumably will be elsewhere some Christmas (maybe even this one). But if you’re in North America (or anywhere else) and want to read it you need to check out Bookdepository which ships the UK edition world-wide postage free; and I feel a bit bad about the fact that my original Christmas book is still languishing in a file on my computer where I left it. But maybe it will surface again in time for another Christmas down the road.
I dare hope.
In the meantime I’m trying not to make the work in progress next year’s Christmas book. One thing I’m fairly certain of: no editor is going to ask me to jump books mid-stream again. I think we’ve all learned our lesson where that’s concerned.
Check out an excerpt to Breaking the Greek’s Rules on my website. Disregard this cover. In spite of what you see here, it really is a Christmas book. I promise.
Skating image by Gabriel Rodríguez, Sevilla, Spain () [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons