It’s that time of year, when even some of the most hardened and sarcastic of us yearn for entertainment as warm and homey as a Christmas sweater. If you’re one of these people, then author Patricia Kiyono has the book for you:
Photographer Mitch Carson is tired of big city life. He just wants to settle down in a quiet town with his daughter, Angie. Even that doesn’t quell his fear of losing his daughter to his scheming mother-in-law.
Sophie Gardner wants to be a screenwriter. She’s ready to leave small town Zutphen, Michigan and go to Hollywood. With a theater degree under her belt, she’s busy writing scripts while helping out her sister Joanie, who’s bedridden with a difficult pregnancy. Unfortunately, Joanie has somehow coerced Sophie into directing the Christmas pageant at Zutphen Community Church.
When Sophie and Mitch meet, the attraction is instant and mutual. But each wants what the other is trying to get away from. Can they deny their feelings and pursue their dreams? Or will the holiday prove to them that their true wishes might not be what they’d thought?
Now, I know that “sweet” romances aren’t everyone’s thing, but I really enjoyed this one. It’s like a romantic comedy version of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and it really tickled my Hallmark Channel bone. And it’s set in Michigan, which automatically wins points from me. Patricia was cool enough to answer some interview questions:
1. Why a Christmas story?
Christmas is probably my favorite holiday, and its overall message of joy and redemption are perfect themes for a sweet romance. Also, I had a great time writing Christmas stories in 2011 (Christmas Phoenix) and 2012 (The Partridge and the Peartree), so it seemed natural to write another one for this year.
2. Your story is set in Zutphen, Michigan. Do you have real-life ties to the location?
Zutphen is a fictional place (although there is a school and a church with that name as well as a town in the Netherlands), and it’s representative of several small towns in the corridor between Grand Rapids and Holland, MI. I live in that strip near Interstate 196, and I grew up here. In fact, I once asked my dad why our last name didn’t have a Van in front of it like most of my friends’ names!
3. Some readers reject romances where children play an on-screen part in the story, but you managed to write kids who weren’t cutesy or contrived. Do you have any tips for writers who want to craft believable child characters?
Wow, what a compliment! I guess my advice would be to spend as much time with kids as you can. In addition to raising my own kids (and spending a lot of time with my step-kids), I taught elementary school kids for 28 years, and directed the children’s choir at my church for a long time. Angie Carson reminds me of one of my daughters: very resourceful, intuitive, and compassionate. The Longton twins remind me of several kids (male and female) that I’ve worked with over the years! The line “I didn’t poke her – it was my finger” is one I heard in my classroom.
4. Do you have any fun family Christmas traditions you’d like to share?
We always celebrate with our kids and grandkids on Christmas Eve. For the past several years, our dinner for that gathering has been pizza. We’ve ordered it from several different places, but we always get one all-cheese, one with lots of meat, and one with everything. With five kids and nine grandkids, it’s the easiest meal for everyone. Another tradition is that each grandchild gets a fleece hat. I sew hats with a non-profit charity, and they let me choose one for each child.
5. What will we see from you next?
I’ve always got several projects on the burner! The Friendship Star Quilt, a Stitching Post romance written with Stephanie Michels, is in editing now at Astraea Press. I’m also working on a sequel to The Samurai’s Garden as well as a sequel to Christmas Wishes and a historical novella for an anthology EsKape Press is putting together for next spring.
In a previous life, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary school students by day and changed diapers at night. Now she teaches college students part time and changes diapers only when she’s taking care of grandkids. She loves to do anything that doesn’t involve exercise. Right now her favorite activities, other than writing, include scrapbooking, sewing, and making music. She and her husband live in southwest Michigan, near their five children and nine grandchildren.
Here’s an excerpt Patricia shared with us:
Back at the house, he stared at the food on the counter. He had a pound of ground beef. The easiest thing to do would be to make hamburgers. He split the meat into four equal parts and threw them into the frying pan on the stove. He turned the heat up to high, figuring that would make the meat cook faster.
“Can I be in the Christmas pageant at church? Mrs. Feenstra said practices are gonna start next Wednesday.”
“Okay. I suppose that would be all right. When is the program?”
“It’s on the Sunday before Christmas. They’re going to have practices every Sunday after Sunday School, and on Wednesday nights, too. My friend Jennie told me during Sunday School.”
“Oh. Okay.” Jennie’s family, the VandenBergs, were friendly people and he’d come to trust them enough to let Angie go to church with them. It had been a challenge, establishing himself in the tight-knit community. He’d learned that the area had been settled by Dutch immigrants in the last century, which accounted for the predominance of family names starting with the last five letters of the alphabet.
“I think I might need a costume or something.”
“A costume?” How would he manage that?
“Yeah. Last year Jennie was an angel and her mom made her a costume. Will you make me a costume?”
“Um, probably not, but maybe we can pay someone to make one for you.”
“Okay. Jennie’s mom sews really cool stuff. She made Jennie’s Halloween costume. She was a princess and she had a really pretty dress.”
“Did my mommy know how to sew?”
“I don’t think so, sweetie.”
She didn’t have to. That’s what servants were paid to do. “Uh, she just usually bought the stuff she needed.”
“Oh, yeah. Grandma Billingston does that, too.”
“Billingsworth. Grandma Billingsworth. Nana.”
“Right. Nana. She doesn’t like me to call her Grandma. Daddy, what’s that smell?”
Smell? Oh, shoot, the hamburgers! He grabbed a spatula and pried the patties off the smoking frying pan. He’d have to scrape off a thick layer of black crust from that side. Better pay attention on the second side, or they wouldn’t have dinner.
I really need help with this cooking thing.
If you’re in the market for a Christmas read, check out Christmas Wishes!