Musings on Christmas Fiction

- by Susan Lyons

An odd topic for September? Yes, isn’t it? Here’s why I chose it.

Today is release day, always an exciting time for an author. But . . . hmm . . . this release, on September 28, is for a Christmas anthology (The Naughty List, with novellas by Donna Kauffman, Cynthia Eden, and me wearing my Susan Fox author hat). I’ve barely got my head around the fact that summer is over (though today’s rainy weather here in Vancouver is a good clue).

Most publishers make it pretty clear that they, not the authors, are the experts on marketing. One has to assume it’s their expertise and experience that drives the decision when to release certain titles – e.g., that the optimal release date for a December holiday book is late September.

I’m sure there’s a rationale. It escapes me, but then I’m not a marketing person. Does anyone know, or have a theory? I’d love to hear your ideas.

It’s interesting, though, that the spooky Halloween books are generally released in the same month as Halloween – not three months ahead. The Valentine’s Day books are released in February. Well, of course Christmas is a much bigger event for many people, and they do anticipate and plan for months ahead.

Here’s another thing I muse about. There are lots of Christmas-themed books in popular fiction. But there are other religious holidays in/around December, such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Al Hijra (Muslim new year). We don’t see many stories about them. Why is that? Is Christmas really such a big deal for a huge percentage of the population?

I did a quick internet search to find out how many people in the United States celebrate Christmas. I was stunned to find this result: 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas (,2933,105272,00.html). Wow! Okay, now I see why the publishing industry has such a bias in favor of Christmas stories.

I think there’s another reason these stories are so popular, even for people who aren’t religious or whose religion doesn’t include Christmas. Most of the time, they aren’t about the religious holiday itself, so much as about the spirit and values: family, community, love, peace. Those things are at the heart of Christmas, and Christmas stories, and they resonate for many, many readers.

When you find yourself in the mood for Christmas, I hope you’ll check out The Naughty List. My novella is titled, “Tattoos and Mistletoe.”

Why would you ever want to go home again, when the town treated you like trash? Yet Charlie Coltrane has to return to Whistler this Christmas and supervise renovations on her aunt’s B&B if she’s to inherit the money to open her own tattoo parlor in Toronto. What a surprise that the contractor in charge of the renos is LJ Jacoby, high school geek transformed into the town’s hottest bachelor. LJ’s about to teach Charlie that sometimes you have to confront your past to find your future—and that Christmas really can be the most romantic time of the year.

What are your thoughts about Christmas books? Or is too early to even think about Christmas? When do you think holiday stories should hit the shelves?

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