Hanukkah days and Christmas Nights…

Here it is! The cover for book no. 3… ‘Hanukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery’.

Hanukkah book cover

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The twee row of shops (just like Turnpin Lane in Greenwich, London, where this story is set), the snow, the lamplights, and the ice cream (my favourite). All set against a beautiful purple backdrop.

This story is one I’d thought about writing for years, have tried writing for years, and have tinkered around with for years. In every format or incarnation, it never worked. I just couldn’t get it right. It was on a beach, while eating a bowl of melon gelato (my absolute favourite ice-cream in the world) that I shook my head, pulled out my laptop (yes, I take it to the beach with me) and started writing the first chapter.

I knew the last chapter, you see. I had the last chapter worked out in my head. I know some writers would get that out first, and work back from that point, but I’m not that kind of author. My reward for writing the rest of the book is to get to write the last chapter. The last chapter is my literary pat on the back, the creative version of a glass of champagne. I love writing last chapters.

I don’t want to talk about the plot of this book too much before release day, but this story is very personal to me. A friend of mine reading this would find it absolutely littered with easter eggs from my life. From the Greenwich setting, to the ice cream mentioned, to the food eaten, to the places visited… it’s all taken from people I’ve known, or things I’ve experienced.

I’m not the kind of author who puts themselves into their books, normally. At least, the characters are never me, or a self-insert. Their feelings or emotions might have been ones I’ve experienced, but their personalities, their quirks, their conflicts… those are all created for them, or, in that strange way that often happens, simply a result of putting them from my mind down onto paper. And ‘Hanukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery’ is no different to my other stories: Cohen and River (my hero and heroine) are entirely their own characters. But the rest of the story? Well, I poured my heart and soul into this one. I applied what I called my ‘method writing’ technique to this one. I ate copious amounts of ice cream (a hardship, I know). I baked challah and rye bread. I walked around Greenwich and China town. I sat by the Royal Observatory. I lived and breathed these characters for the three months it took to write their story.

When Choc Lit suggested I might want to try my hand at a holiday story, I fully intended to write a regency one. In fact, I wrote four chapters of a regency Christmas book, which may or may not be finished in time for next year. But when I went to start on the fifth chapter, this story poured out of me instead. I wrote a chapter a week for three months, and then an extra two when I realised twelve just wasn’t enough. This was one of those stories which was just plain fun to write. I never imagined in a million years that anyone would actually publish it, so I had a ball of a time writing it just for me. When I did submit it to Choc Lit, I said in my submission, quite plainly, that I was fully expecting it not to be accepted. It was, after all, off brand for me. It was not historical, but modern day. It focuses on Hanukkah. It incorporates quite a mix of elements. It is told entirely from the perspective of the hero. I re-read the manuscript, and told my husband that I expected it not to be published. I told my friends I probably wouldn’t have a story out for the festive period this year.

But Choc Lit surprised me. They not only accepted it, but were even enthusiastic about it. I thought for certain that it would be an awkward, ‘sorry, not for us’. I wasn’t expecting it to be ‘we think this is a lovely story’.

Which just goes to show that in publishing, you just never know. What you think will be a ‘no’, might just turn out to be a ‘yes’.

I’m going to blog more about this book later, closer to release day. There are certain parts of this story that need to be discussed, especially that of the life experience of my heroine, River.

Until then, I’m going to crack on with next years Christmas story and my next non-seasonal books…. and eat more ice cream, of course.

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