To celebrate the paperback publication of The Christmas Holiday, author Sophie Claire shares the inspiration behind her charming, heartwarming festive read!
I’m often asked what inspires my books and in this case it was a very sad but true story which has haunted me since childhood. It happened to one of the male teachers at my primary school and I was ten years old at the time. He was the most popular teacher in the school and everyone, boys and girls alike, adored him; I was no exception. He was friendly, good-natured, and always telling jokes and making us laugh. Then one day his wife became ill and died.
She was only 27, and I’m guessing he was around the same age himself. He disappeared on sick leave for a few months, and when he came back to school the change was shocking: he was a shadow of himself. He’d lost weight, there were shadows under his eyes and he never smiled any more. Never.
His grief was so visible that it really marked me. And, being so young, this was my first experience of grief and how it can break someone. I left that school shortly after and, although I always hoped that he’d rebuild his life and find love again, I can’t be sure what happened to him.
I suppose this mystery fuelled my imagination, and in my book, The Christmas Holiday, I wanted to explore how a grieving widower, still in love with his wife and clinging to her memory, might move on and find love again. Enter my fictional hero, Jake Hartwood.
Once I had Jake, I needed a heroine, and I thought it would be fun to make her his polar opposite: a cheerful, chatty optimist. At the beginning of my story Jake is broken, and I knew Evie’s happy outlook would really grate on him. The only problem was, he’d go to any length to avoid her, so how would I get them together? I conjured up a snowstorm which forced them to spend the night together in a freezing old house with only a log fire and Jake’s faithful Dalmatian for company. Now they had to talk to each other, and I had great fun watching the sparks fly!
But Jake and Evie had a lot more in common than they first realised and much to teach each other, so drawing out the romance between them was a delight. I like to share my love of Provence in my books, and since they were both dreading Christmas they made plans to escape there – together.
I won’t give away any spoilers, but I hope you’ll enjoy following their journey – and perhaps fall in love with Jake too along the way.