Hi. I am delighted to do something very rare for me, which is to introduce a guest blog from the remarkable author Katey Lovell. Here it is below in her own words.
I often reminisce about the small-town Christmases of my childhood, but having lived in Sheffield for the best part of twenty years I’ve actually spent as many Decembers here as in my hometown of Monmouth on the Wales/England border.
Although there are things I miss about Christmas at ‘home’ (Santa’s ‘sleigh’ taking to the housing estates, the faltering lights that zigzagged above the main shopping street, visiting my extended family) living in a city does offer a multitude of ways to celebrate the season. My adopted city has an annual Christmas market where the central Peace Gardens and Fargate shopping area become home to scandi-style wooden huts selling candles, crafts and food from all around the globe. There are light switch-ons and Christmas fayres galore, carol and Christingle services and cinemas that screen ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ every Christmas Eve. There are also wonderful charities reaching out to the city’s most vulnerable. It’s busy and chaotic at times, but the Christmas spirit is still very much evident – and this is what prompted me to write my latest novel.
Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown first came into being back in November 2016, when the book was my NaNoWriMo project. The book is set across the Pennines from me in Manchester, and the eponymous Joe and Clara are keen to raise funds for The Club on the Corner, a local youth group in desperate need of funding to increase staffing and to renovate the building they use. Throughout Advent they not only throw themselves into fundraising efforts but also into their own Christmas countdown. A December bereavement has affected Joe’s enjoyment of Christmas and Clara gives him gifts to remind him of the joy of the season, whereas Clara (who’s trying to get her own life back on track after discovering the man she thought was the love of her life had been cheating on her) allows Joe to take her on a series of festive ‘non-dates’ across the city. They attend a choral recital at Manchester Cathedral, ‘The Nutcracker’ at The Palace Theatre and enjoy the city’s famous Christmas markets, alongside partaking in other Christmas traditions such as ice-skating and following an Advent window walk.
It’s a book about charity and giving, trust and love and I really hope that with this book I’ve managed to capture what Christmas within a city is really like – how if you dig beneath the hustle and bustle, the manic shoppers and the over-crowding, Christmas magic is all around us.
Katey Lovell is the author of three rom-com novels published by HarperImpulse. Her latest book, Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown, was released in ebook in October and available in paperback from November 30th (preorder available now).
As Christmas approaches Joe Smith knows he should be celebrating with friends and family, making the most of the season. But for Joe, Christmas only holds painful memories. Ones he can feel crushing his heart, a reminder of a time he can never forget.
Clara O’Connell loves Christmas. For her it is the most magical time of the year. And she’s determined to make Joe love it too! She knows he’s hurting, but maybe she can help to ease his pain. Her plan: One special gift every day to remind Joe just how loved he is.
But the clock is ticking. Will the Christmas magic wear off at midnight or will Clara’s Christmas countdown be the perfect gift to heal Joe’s broken heart? And in doing so, maybe she will get a gift in return…Joe’s love for Christmas and forever…?