Christmas is creeping ever nearer and with it a slew of Festive stories. Choc-lit have a selection that are real crackers (Sorry!) This week I'm talking to fellow Choc-lit author Morton S Gray about her Christmas Novel Christmas at the Little Beach Cafe.
Choc-lit have quite a tradition of Xmas releases and this is your second - what attracts you to the idea of writing a Christmas story?
I quite like the framework that a Christmas story gives to you. There is a structure to Christmas and Christmas events in my fictional seaside town of Borteen in particular and that also gives a structure to my stories. I’ve literally just finished the first draft of my Christmas 2021 novel as I wrote some of it as part of an annual November writing challenge to write 50,000 words in the month.
Also, I love Christmas decorations, Christmas events, not that we’ll be getting many of those this year unfortunately, and the whole present buying, tree decorating, mince-pie eating traditions too.
You've chosen to set Christmas at the Little Beach Café in your fictional town of Borteen - the coast is a more unconventional location for a Xmas book - what were the plusses and minuses? (And will there be snow?)
I may be biased but I love my fictional seaside town. It actually feels more than fictional to me now, as I know all of the residents, buildings and roads. I walk around it in my head as I’m writing and have very clear images of the story I’m writing in that context.
One of my main reasons for having a seaside location was to indulge myself as I love nothing better than being on a beach, although at the moment I live near to Worcester, which actually features as the home city of my hero in this book, and you can’t really get further away from the sea in England than Worcestershire.
The bonuses of a seaside setting are the extra dynamics afforded by the beach, the cliffs and the sea. I guess the disadvantages are that Borteen is a small town and I have to keep track of all of the residents all of the time – I have a Borteen Bible (a list of all of the buildings and residents) together with a map. There are usually snow flurries and a little bit of snow, but I’ve not seen such heavy snow falls as we get inland on the coast – maybe a blog reader can contradict me?
Living five minutes away from the beach, I can confirm that we rarely get heavy snow. It does happen, but not often.
Can you tell us a bit about your hero and heroine - without giving too much away, as your heroine is a 'mystery woman' - what made them the right choices for a Christmas book?
The concept for this book came to life with an imagined scene of a man catching a woman’s hat on the beach. I’ve mentioned above that I have visual images of scenes from my books and this was a very clear picture. After that I was faced with who these two people are, why are they in Borteen and what backstory could draw them together and/or keep them apart.
In Christmas at the Little Beach Café the hero is Justin Sadler, the town solicitor, who has particular reasons to hate Christmas and the heroine is a woman who has just lost her mother and is in Borteen to try to escape her stepbrother who objects to her mother’s will. She loves Christmas and is determined to bring Christmas to Justin’s world.
You like to mix your romance with a touch of mystery - how did you handle that for a Christmas book?
To write a book, I have to be interested in the story. I like there to be romance in my novels, after all it makes the world go round, but I have to have some intrigue or puzzle that I solve for myself as I write the book. You mentioned that Christmas at the Little Beach Café is my second Christmas story, well to give you an example of what I mean, the first Christmas novella, Christmas at Borteen Bay starts with the local policeman finding a body on the beach – not probably what you’d associate with a Christmas romance? Then I had to work out the identity of the body and why it came to be on the beach in the first place.
Were there any vital touches that you felt had to be included in the book to make it feel Christmassy - I'm back to the snow again.
Borteen has a lot of Christmas events – a town Christmas tree dressing and lights switch on, carol singing, Christmas fair, etc. With all of the shops there is plenty of scope for Christmas window displays and lights too. You also need at least a few mince pies and some Christmas music!
How important are a supporting cast for the story? (I have to say I have fallen heavily for the seagull on the cover - does he have a role?)
Ah, Ryan the seagull! Yes he does! My hero talks to the seagull on at least one occasion when he’s upset.
Christmas at the Little Beach Café is my fifth book set in Borteen, so I’ve managed to amass a fair number of regular residents for the town. The secondary characters are vital to the story as they provide the backdrop to any action the main characters are involved with. For me they also add to the structure of the novel and make day to day life in Borteen more realistic.
How do you expect to be spending the holiday? Do you have any special things that you always do, decorations that have been made or handed down, things you like to eat? (I'm always about the food)
As I’ve already mentioned this year will be a bit different, but normally my husband spends a fair part of his working life abroad. His favourite Christmas song is “Driving home for Christmas” because he is usually driving back from an airport to begin his Christmas break.
We have a fairly traditional Christmas, trees up at the beginning of December, huge number of Christmas cards posted, family Christmas lunch (which thankfully aforementioned hubbie cooks), then long walks, Christmas games and a jigsaw and a relax from the freneticness of the rest of the year.
What can we expect next from you?
I have more Borteen novels to come. My sixth novel is already with my publisher Choc Lit and will hopefully be published in the Spring. I’ve just finished the first draft of my next Christmas book and there are at least another two Borteen books in various stages of completion which I need to finish.
Biography for Morton S. Gray
Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.
Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.
Instagram - Instagram https://www.instagram.com/morton_s_gray/
Morton’s latest release is Christmas at the Little Beach Café published as an e-book and audio download on 17 November 2020.
Run away to the little beach café this Christmas ...
Five years ago at Christmas, solicitor Justin Sadler made the decision to leave his comfortable existence behind and move to the coast. Since then, he’s tried his best to ignore the festive season and, as he sits in the little beach café and reflects on that fateful night when his life was turned upside down, he expects his fifth Christmas alone to be no different to any of the others since he made his escape.
But when he encounters a mystery woman on the beach, he soon realises he may have found a fellow runaway and kindred spirit. Could Justin finally be ready to move on and let Christmas into his life again?
You can buy Christmas at the Little Beach Café HERE