If you enjoy reading Christmas stories during the holiday season, you're in for a treat this Mixing-it-Up Monday. Recently, I interviewed author Liz Johnson about the new nine-in-one compilation called A Log Cabin Christmas. She's one of the nine contributing authors. This collection hit the New York Times bestseller list in September, shortly after its release. See the note dated September 28th from the editor, Becky Germany, here. Congratulations to everyone involved! Relax and enjoy this second Christmas treat. ~ Annette
How did this project come about?
A Log Cabin Christmas Collection really came about because of Becky Germany, the brilliant fiction editor at Barbour. She had a vision for a book that featured stories set in American log cabins in the 1800s and invited authors to submit their novella proposals. I have no idea how many proposals Becky received. I just know that after a couple months of waiting on pins and needles, I received a very kind rejection note. Yep. Becky had filled all the slots and couldn't use my story. I was terribly sad, but loved my story so much that I couldn't just give it up. I was busy thinking of places it might fit, when I received a call, email, and text from my agent--all of which I missed! As I understand it, another author was unable to participate, and Becky offered me the vacant spot. I'm so glad she did!
This is a novella compilation. Tell us about that process. Was there a lot of collaboration? Do the stories overlap? Is it key to read the book from first novella through to the last, etc.? Any advice for writers who are collaborating on a project?
Each of the novellas in the collection is written by a different author and completely self-contained, so readers can enjoy them in any order. We didn't officially collaborate on the writing portion. Unofficially, however, I was honored to work with Michelle Ule, who authored A Dogtrot Christmas. She suggested we swap stories and give each other feedback. Her suggestions really improved my story, and I ended up with the easiest edit I've ever had. My only advice for other authors working on a compilation like this one is to be open to feedback from their fellow authors and especially their editors. Editors get to see the big picture of the collection long before the authors do.
What is the theme of your novel or novella? How did you tie Christmas into the story? How did you go about choosing a theme for this story?
My novella, A Star in the Night, is about Cora Sinclair, a woman who serves at a field hospital toward the end of the Civil War. She sees things at the hospital that stay with her, invading her dreams and leaving her terrified of being a woman in love with a man who might never come back from the war. Following the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee on November 30, 1864, Cora finds a wounded union soldier and takes him back to the cabin she shares with her grandfather. But as she's nursing Jed back to health, Cora's nightmares continue. And it's Jed who challenges her to cast her cares at the feet of Jesus. The theme grew naturally out of the situation and the characters. I just tried to imagine how I would react to seeing that kind of pain and loss. It stays with a person and can cause anxiety. But the Bible is pretty clear that we're to cast all of our cares on Him. And the Christmas tie-in, again, came naturally out of the time of year. Cora makes Jed promise not to leave until Christmas, as he's still recovering. As he's stuck there, they plan their Christmas celebration.
What is your best advice for writers working on a seasonal novel or novella? Did you set a mood as you wrote in order to get into the Christmas spirit? Did you write it at Christmastime in past years, or during the hot summer months? ;)
I'm so glad I didn't have to write this during the summer, or I would have had a terrible time getting into the Christmas spirit. :) I signed my contract on this one in October, so I could have—maybe should have—written it in December. But like any good procrastinator, I waited until after Christmas to really dive into it. So my little tree and lights stayed up in my apartment clear through January. I refused to take them down with the hope that they'd help keep me in the spirit. I think they did their job pretty well. I do find that regardless of the time of year, looming deadlines always get me in the mood to write what I need to. :)
What are you hoping readers take away from your story? How will your story minister to readers? How can writers help their readers glean the takeaway?
I hope readers will be encouraged to let go of their worry and fears and be reminded that God cares for them. I think it's easy to forget that God cares about the things that weigh heavy on our hearts, and the only way to truly get through them is to lay them at his feet. Writers each have their own way of sharing the takeaway of their stories, so I'd suggest they write what feels natural and authentic to them.
Thank you for visiting Seriously Write in December! We wish you all His best this Christmas season and always.
Thanks for having me!
Liz Johnson is a full-time marketing specialist by day and a writer by night. She makes her home in Nashville, TN, where she enjoys exploring the history of the area, theater, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her two nephews and three nieces. She loves stories of true love with happy endings. Follow her misadventures in writing at www.lizjohnsonbooks.com.