Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rudolph Day: The Christmas Village--Interview, Review, and Giveaway


Please join me today in welcoming author Melissa Ann Goodwin.  Her new Christmas novel, The Christmas Village, will release on October 15.

Welcome to The Christmas Spirit, Melissa. I’d like to thank you for joining me for this interview on this lovely Rudolph Day.

Michelle, thank you so much for hosting me! Your blog is the perfect place for my first online interview in advance of the release of my book, The Christmas Village. I’m really delighted that you invited me and I look forward to chatting with your followers too.

Your middle grade novel, The Christmas Village, releases mid-October. Can you tell me what inspired you to write a Christmas-themed book?

I have wonderful memories of Christmas. I grew up in the beautiful town of Andover, Massachusetts, and I remember snowbanks that came up to my chin, ice-skating on the pond behind our neighbor’s house, the candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church and the magic of homes ablaze with holiday lights. 

At holiday time, everything is magnified – our love of home, family, friends and mankind in general, our longing for those from whom we are separated, and our propensity toward forgiveness. So, as a writer, it’s wonderful to be able to tap into that extra emotional OOMPH that holidays provide when they are used as the backdrop to a story. And, writing this book allowed me to honor my own fond memories of Christmases-past. 

I read on your blog that you have had your work published in several publications and that your poem, “Poppies”, won 10th place in the 2010 Writer’s Digest Annual Poetry Competition. Congrats, by the way! Was any of your previous work Christmas-themed as well? If not, what other genre do you enjoy writing?

Thank you! The Christmas Village is my first Christmas-themed story. My writing career has actually been oddly focused at two extremes. At one end of the spectrum, I’ve written many stories, poems and articles for children’s magazines. At the opposite end, I wrote tons of articles about aging and caregiving because I had experience working at a non-profit that helped older adults. Between those extremes, I’ve published short memoirs, essays and poems. 

Everything interests me and I don’t like to be boxed in, so I don’t plan to stick with any particular genre. I also love historical fiction and Agatha Christie-style mysteries. My goal is to write a book in every genre that I love to read. I think that would be a blast! My next book will be Young Adult historical fiction. 

When you write, do you like to have a complete plan or plot outline or do you just write as you go or “fly by the seat of your pants”, like they say?

Ha! It’s a little of both. At the start, I have some characters in mind and a basic plot idea. But then I start to write, and all bets are off! The story takes its own direction, unplanned characters show up, and better ideas come along. So I don’t outline until I am far enough into the story to see what has actually emerged. Then I sketch out the chapters, but it’s never what you would call a firm outline – it’s more of a guide. When I started The Christmas Village, I had no idea that the plot would take some of the twists and turns that it did. That is part of the fun of it – surprising even yourself!

What would be your number one piece of advice for aspiring authors?

Give yourself permission to write a simply terrible, dreadful, pitiful first draft, just to get something down on paper. The hardest thing for a writer is getting started, so allowing your first scribbles to be a lot less than perfect takes the pressure off. I guarantee you that, no matter how bad you think it is, there will be something valuable that you can pick up from and keep going. My first drafts are just awful.

What do you think is the most important Christmas tradition? What do you think is the key to Christmas spirit?

The tradition I cherish most is the giving of gifts. But what I am thinking of is not a pile of gifts under the tree or an expensive diamond bracelet (though I have nothing against those either!). When someone gives you a gift that shows that they know and appreciate who you are as a unique human being - because their gift is so perfectly “you,” or when someone makes you something with their own hands or from their own imagination – to me, that is a very precious thing and the best possible kind of gift.

Regarding the Christmas Spirit, I think that having a heart that is open to forgiveness is key.

Do you have any favorite Christmas books or movies? What about music?

My favorite Christmas movie is the original Miracle on 34th Street. It’s a Wonderful Life is a close second. I also love the old TV movie, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, with Hermey, the elf who wants to “BEEEEEE a dentist”. My sister and brother and I still go around saying that line, just the way Hermey says it.

I’m partial to sentimental Christmas songs like, “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I also love traditional Christmas carols like “Silent Night”, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, and “Joy to the World”. 

Oh, let’s face it – I like them all!

You are a certified restorative yoga teacher. How did you get into that and what do you like best about yoga?

I took yoga with my mother when I was 12-years old, so yoga has been with me most of my life. Neither Mom nor I were athletic types, and what I loved about yoga was that it was something I could actually do! 

My decision to pursue teaching yoga came without much forethought – I just jumped into it when we moved to Santa Fe. I specialize in restorative yoga because it is calming to teach, and very nurturing for students. I like creating an environment where the students are encouraged to be as kind to themselves as they are to the other people in their lives.

I think yoga is a wonderfully complete system for building strength, flexibility and balance, for helping manage stress, and for healthy aging. I feel that it keeps me balanced physically and emotionally. And, I usually sit quietly in meditation for about 15 minutes before I write. That clears my mind and often, creative ideas just pop in.

You have been moving recently, from a house to an apartment, then in six months, you will be buying an RV and traveling the country. How fun! What made you all decide to do that? What places are you most looking forward to visiting?

Oh my gosh! My husband and I decided that we wanted to have more fun, and there are so many beautiful places to see! Right now, we feel tired of being homeowners and all that comes with it. And for me, I see the opportunity to have more free time to write, to spend more time by the ocean, and the chance to visit friends and family all over the country.

I’ve always wanted to go to Nova Scotia, and that’s at the top of our list. I also want to go to the Northwest and see Yellowstone and Glacier National Park, then down to Yosemite and the California coast. We’ll go everywhere and see everything.

Do you think living in an RV will change your writing dynamic?

I’m sure it will. I will have more free time, and I am a writer who needs a lot of free time in order to get into the flow of a story. I’m looking forward to being more prolific. I also think there is an opportunity to write about our adventures along the way. Maybe I’ll blog about it.

Okay, for my final question, how about a little Christmas this or that?
  • real tree or artificial tree? REAL
  • clear lights or colored lights? WHITE, BUT I LIKE COLORED LIGHTS TOO
  • mistletoe or holly? HOLLY
  • hot chocolate or hot spiced cider? HOT CHOCOLATE
  • sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies? GINGERBREAD
  • egg nog or boiled custard? HMM…I’LL GO WITH EGG NOG
  • Rudolph or Frosty? RUDOLPH
  • Scrooge or The Grinch? SCROOGE 
Thanks again for spending time with us today, Melissa! I wish you much success with the release of The Christmas Village!

Michelle, thank you again for hosting me on your wonderful blog. It’s a treat to find people who share my love of both books and of Christmas! I’ll let you know when The Christmas Village is available – it won’t be long now! There is a Facebook page for the book, so stop over and LIKE it when you have a chance. I also have a blog where I’ll be updating about the book, my blog tours and any upcoming book signing events.

Visit Melissa and The Christmas Village:  Blog |  Facebook 
and on Twitter @GoodwinMelissa

About the book:
The Christmas Village is a holiday adventure the whole family will love, filled with suspense, secrets and surprises to the very last page.

Jamie wished that he could live in Grandma's miniature Christmas Village, and now that wish has magically come true. But is the village really what it seems? What stunning secret does it hold? And how will Jamie ever get back home? 

My thoughts:
The Christmas Village is a delightful holiday story geared toward middle grade readers.  However, this is a book the entire family will enjoy.  Not only is the story an adventure, it also contains a message of love, friendship, and forgiveness.  The nostalgic times of Christmases past, when villages and towns gathered in the town on Christmas Eve for celebration and companionship, the portrayal of the depression era and how people banded together to help each other in hard times...these elements are all present here and it's a refreshing and comforting read, perfect for reading at Christmas time, reminding us just what the Christmas spirit is all about.  

Melissa is giving away a print copy of The Christmas Village to (1) lucky winner in the US or Canada.  To enter, leave a comment telling us where you would go if you time traveled at Christmas.  For ONE extra entry, LIKE The Christmas Village Facebook page HERE and leave a comment on the page saying you are visiting from The Christmas Spirit.  Be sure to leave in your comment that you liked the page.  Winner will be drawn on Monday, October 10 Monday, October 31 using  Please leave your email address in your comment so I can contact the winner.  The book will be available after October 15 and will be sent to the winner when it is released.

Good luck!

Always in spirit....