(To celebrate today’s launch of ‘Home for Christmas’ I’ve a copy to give away at the end of this post)
“Beth Prince has always loved fairy tales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she’s finally on the verge of her own happily ever after.
She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox – a charming but rundown independent cinema – and has a boyfriend who’s so debonair and charming she can’t believe her luck! There’s just one problem – none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn’t look like Aiden’s going to say it any time soon.
Desperate to hear ‘I love you’ for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands – and instantly wishes she hadn’t. Just when it seems like her luck can’t get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he’s determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas.
Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?”
Well, it’s no secret (to my nearest and dearest) that I’m a lover of Christmas (I have been counting down – thanks to a phone app – since January!). And, so, at this time of year I indulge in both seasonal movies and books. And, Cally Taylor has delivered a jolly festive read, with the main character being what my girl friends and I would lovingly declare ‘one of us’.‘Home for Christmas’ is a romantic comedy that sparkles with embarrassing moments that will make those who are also ‘one of us’ nod and cringe.
A seasonal read that’s perfect for these cold winter nights. Snuggle up next to your Christmas tree, open your heart and indulge in Beth’s life. ‘Home for Christmas’ is guaranteed to make you cringe, laugh out loud and shed a tear or three.
Great title! Where did you find your inspiration to write this novel? ‘Home for Christmas’ was originally called ‘Happiness Ever After’ and it was the notion of happiness and how and where people look for it that drove me to write this novel. The main characters, Beth and Matt, are unhappy in their jobs or relationships and believe that if only X,Y,Z happened then life would be perfect. But, as we all know, life doesn’t quite work out like that!
How long did ‘Home for Christmas’ take to write? Forever! No seriously, I suffered from Second Novel Syndrome big style with this novel and everything took longer than it did with my first novel, ‘Heaven Can Wait’. The first draft of ‘Home for Christmas’ took me seven months to write, I edited it in about four months and then there was a year of rewrites before, finally, it was ready. It took about two years from start to finish which might not sound like a long time considering I’ve got a full time job too but it was double the time it took me to write ‘Heaven Can Wait’.
Tell me about the setting, about Picturebox Cinema. Does it exist in the real world? (I have a love of old cinemas) Yes it does! There’s a lovely cinema in Brighton called ‘The Duke of York’s’ that I based the Picturebox on. Unlike the Picturebox, which is independently owned in my novel, the Duke of York’s is part of the Picturehouse chain but it’s still a fab, quirky cinema with a bar and cafe on the first floor, a mezzanine level with sofas, a resident ghost and over 100 years of history. Unlike huge multiplexes it’s got its own individuality and charm and is one of my very favourite places in Brighton!
What advice would you have for anyone who has a partner who can’t say ‘I love you’ to them? Oooh God. Tricky question this. Like Beth in ‘Home for Christmas’ I had to wait a long time to hear ‘I love you’ for the first time. I was twenty-three before a boyfriend said it to me and the relief I felt was huge. I’d genuinely started to worry that there was something unlovable about me.
There does seem to be a time limit on when that phrase should be said and I’ve had several conversations with friends about ‘how long is too long?’ i.e. how long they’d be prepared to wait to hear ‘I love you’ before deciding the relationship was dead in the water and moving on. The general consensus seemed to be that if a partner hadn’t said it within six months then…*makes sawing motion across neck*… but every situation’s different.
The one thing I’ve learnt from relationships is that SAYING I love you is one thing and making the person FEEL loved is another. I’ve had relationships where I’ve been told ‘I love you’ and felt anything but, and been in relationships where the three little words were rarely said but my partner’s ACTIONS made me feel utterly adored and loved. I know which I prefer.
Of course there’s also the issue of what to do if a partner who used to say ‘I love you’ freely at the beginning of a relationship stops saying it several years in… but that’s a topic for another book perhaps.
Writers often find redrafting and self-editing difficult. Can you offer any words of wisdom? Put your head down and get on with it. It sounds harsh, I know, but if you want your book to be the best it can be you’ve got no choice. If I’m being a bit more helpful, and practical, then I suggest getting out some index cards and jotting down everything you’ve got – all your scenes – and then laying them out on the floor. Pluck out the scenes that aren’t working and see what you’ve got left. Where are the gaps? How can you fill them? Brain storm. Jig the cards around. Use the characters you’ve got and/or add new ones. In order to redraft effectively you need some kind of map (made of index cards or otherwise) to point you in the right direction or you’ll get horribly tangled up in words. The clearer you can see the solution the easier you’ll find it to write.
Can you offer any tips for people wanting to be published in the current climate? Write the book you HAVE to write but also, and this will sound like a contradiction, keep an eye on the market. If the book you feel you HAVE to write is a Young Adult vampire trilogy you may want to keep your publishing expectations low because that market is pretty much exhausted and you’d have to write something utterly AMAZING for a publisher to take a chance on you. But don’t try and second guess the market. You might hear on the grapevine that publishers are looking for women’s fiction about the Romans (as a publisher revealed at the RNA conference this summer) and eagerly sit down and start penning one but you’re not figuring on the fact that, from first word to publication, it takes at least two years for a book to get published so you’ve probably already missed the boat. Write the novel that’s burning inside you and, if you’re lucky, you’ll find that someone out there – an agent and/or a publisher – loves it as much as you.
Who do you feel would be your ideal reader? Someone who can still remember losing themselves in fairytales, someone who believes in happily ever after (or who likes the escapism of books about it), someone who likes to be made to laugh and cry and someone who likes to be entertained rather than have their grey matter fried by fancy language and philosophical questions!
What do you plan to write next? I’m currently taking my own advice and writing the book that I feel compelled to write (I call it Project B) even though I don’t have a publisher for it and my agent only knows the sketchiest of details about it. I’m getting a huge kick from writing something just for me that isn’t under contract. I’d love it to be published, of course I would, but that’s not why I’m writing it. I’ve also started to think about my third chick lit book and am spending time daydreaming about the main character and all the obstacles I’m going to throw at her.
What would you like for Christmas this year? Love and laughter. You can’t ask for more than that.
What are you top 3 favourite Christmas-themed films? Oooh, great question! 1: Scrooged. 2: It’s a Wonderful Life. 3: Miracle on 34thStreet.
And, finally, (with the skillful smoothness of the finest of interviewers) do you in any way know Simon Cowell? No but I know a TV executive who works for ITV. He might know him…
I’ve a copy of ‘Home for Christmas’ by Cally Taylor to give away. Simply leave a ‘please pick me’ comment by 3pm (GMT) November 14, then I’ll pop all names in a mug and ask a small child to select a winner. This competition is open to all.
About the author: Cally Taylor lives in Bristol with her boyfriend and their ridiculously large DVD/book/music collection. She shares her ‘study’ with the washing machine and ironing board and writes her novels in any spare moments she can squeeze in between the day job and her social network addiction . She started writing fiction in 2005 and her short stories have won several awards and been published by a variety of women’s magazines. Her debut novel ‘Heaven Can Wait’ has been translated in 13 languages and was voted ‘Debut Novel of the Year’ by chicklitreviews.com and chicklitclub.com. Home for Christmas is her second novel. You can find out more about Cally by visiting her website or blog, or by following her on Twitter and Facebook.