Donna: love the Victorians, I love Scotland and I love Christmas, so it’s little wonder that I was immediately drawn to Liz Curtis Higgs’ new Christmas novella set in Victorian Scotland A Wreath of Snow. (And did I mention that I also love Liz Curtis Higgs?)
My review: Margaret Campbell’sChristmas is in shambles when her invalid brother is so impossible her visit to her family in Stirling becomes untenable. And then a mountain of snow stops the train she is taking back to Edinburgh. Worse yet, the handsome stranger who has befriended her turns out to be the very man who caused irreparable damage to her family years ago. As the snow piles higher and higher and the personal and family relationships become more and more tangled Margaret must call on the foundations of her faith to find the way forward for everyone. This is a charming tale of restoration readers will treasure. Definitely a 5-star holiday read.
And I am so thrilled to have Liz Curtis Higgs herself as my guest today to talk about writing A Wreath of Snow
. Welcome to “Deeds of Darkness; Deeds of Light,” Liz.
Liz: It’s a blessing to be with you, Donna! I’ve enjoyed your fiction set in Britain for many years, and so am grateful to count you among my dear readers and friends.
Donna: Many authors have a tradition of writing Christmas novellas, but this is a first for you, I believe. What prompted this new endeavor? Do you expect it to become a tradition for you?
Liz: You’re quite right: this is my first go at a Christmas novella. My two contemporary novels—Mixed Signals and Bookends—both featured prominent Christmas scenes. But this is the first time I’ve ventured into the land of Anne Perry, Donna VanLiere, Melody Carlson, and others who spin touching stories each holiday season.
I confess I love Christmas novellas and pull them out every season, displaying them around our old Victorian farmhouse—on a bookshelf, on a mantel, on a side table—then picking up a favorite on a wintry evening, knowing I can enjoy the story in one or two sittings.
When I stumbled upon World Railways of the Nineteenth Century at a used-book shop two winters ago, a story began to take shape. Once the characters began whispering to me, we were off and running. I knew from the first A Wreath of Snow was going to be a Christmas novella. The story spans across just three days—Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day—though we do cover a good deal of emotional ground.
Donna: Liz, I won’t ask why you set your story in Scotland because we share a mutual passion for that lovely land, but why Stirling? You mentioned in your Author Notes that your daughter accompanied you on your research trip— a great pleasure I’ve had a few times with my daughter. Tell us about some of your favorite moments in Stirling.
Liz: Stirling is a grand town, and Stirling Castle is one of my favorites in Scotland. My daughter and I lodged on Broad Street in the midst of the historic area not far below the castle. She shares my affinity for kirkyards, so our first day in Stirling found us tiptoeing about with our cameras.
In the week that followed we walked up and down the steep, hilly streets, shopping and eating our way from one end of Stirling to the other. Cambuskenneth Abbey and the Wallace Monument are both nearby and lovely to photograph, and the view of the King’s Knot from the castle is splendid.
One of our sweetest memories unfolded when we spent an evening at the movies and saw a preview of Walt Disney’s Brave. A wee, redheaded lass seated in front of us gasped when Merida appeared on the screen. “She’s like me!” she said in a stage whisper. “She’s Scottish.”
For a colorful glimpse of Victorian Stirling, take a peek at my board on Pinterest:
Donna: I was fascinated with your descriptions of the curling match which is so central to your story. Curling is a sport most Americans are completely unfamiliar with, although it is also popular in some parts of Canada. Have you ever managed to attend a curling match— not in your Native Kentucky, I would venture?
Liz: Alas, I’ve never attended a curling match, and so had to do lots of research online, in books, and on film. I wanted to include curling in the story, since it’s very much a Scottish sport and was quite popular in Stirling during the late 1800s.
Donna: Liz, I knew we shared many interests, but I didn’t know before that a fondness for trains was one of them. Have you had some memorable train journeys? Or do you have a dream train trip in mind? I’ll have to tell you that my dream is to take the Canadian Pacific across Canada from Banff to Quebec City and visit our children who live more-or-less at each end of the line. Your turn now. Maybe something on The Flying Scotsman?
Liz; I’m right there with you regarding a Canadian Pacific Railway adventure. Hubby and I keep looking at that one with longing. I’ve taken small railway trips in Colorado and Australia. But the trip I’d really like to take is on the Royal Scotsman. http://www.royalscotsman.com/web/rs/the_royal_scotsman_introduction.jsp Considering the cost (oh!) that will not likely happen in our lifetime. But a lass can dream, aye?
Donna: I love the epigraphs you use at the beginning of each chapter and am amazed at the breadth of their sources and their appropriateness for each situation. How in the world do you manage to ferret all those out?
Liz: I spend a crazy amount of time reading through books and searching online for just the right literary quote to capture the heart of my book, as well as the heart of each chapter. Whenever possible, I use quotes from the time period in which I’m writing or from an earlier era—so, nothing from the 20th Century—and if the pithy quote was spoken by a Scot, so much the better!
Donna: Liz, thank you so much for the pleasure of reading your book and for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us today. Is there anything else you want to share about Wreath of Snow before you go?
Liz: At its heart, A Wreath of Snow is about forgiveness. For many people, Christmas is not a ho-ho happy time, especially if they’re separated from their families or, even more heartbreaking, separated from the Lord. That’s exactly where I was in my mid-twenties, and so Christmas was one of my least favorite days of the year. I had yet to discover the joyous gift the Christ child brought into the world: grace. In A Wreath of Snow, Margaret and Gordon have lessons to learn about that precious gift as well. Naturally, you can count on a happy ending!
Donna: Oh, and be sure to tell us where we can read more about you and where your books are available.
Liz: You’ll find my fiction and nonfiction books in all the usual places: Amazon.com, ChristianBook.com, Barnes & Noble.com, as well as brick-and-mortan bookshops, and Christian bookstores especially. For descriptions and links to all my in-print titles, pop on my website and click on “Resources”: http://www.LizCurtisHiggs.com.
Holiday blessings to you and yours!
Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.