When the pandemic wreaked havoc last year, it didn’t pause to celebrate the holidays. Families were impacted in many ways, with COVID-19 limiting travel, shopping, and gatherings around the globe.
That’s why four author friends and I joined forces to put a little “jingle-jangle joy” back into this Christmas season.
Our goal: to offer a positive, affordable escape and spark a little happiness for our readers.
The result: A novella collection, IT’S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS.
First things first
From the start, we wanted to bring together a team of authors who were kindhearted, hard-working, and passionate about writing for the fun of it.
The five of us had already been collaborating through Her Novel Collective and had developed healthy friendships as a group. Once the idea for this project was tossed into the air, we each came on board and next steps began to develop very quickly.
Teamwork is Key
Of the five writers involved, USA TODAY bestselling author Lynne Gentry had made the leap from her successful career as a traditionally published novelist to working exclusively in the self-publishing arena. As a result, she’d gained tremendous experience with advertising and marketing in the digital space.
We relied on Lynne to guide us through everything from price points to launch strategies to marketing plans, and her knowledge proved invaluable from the start.
“I enjoyed working on this collaborative project and found it to be a stress-free, creative release,” says Gentry. “It’s given us a social network with like-minded peers while also resulting in a collection we can all feel good about sharing with readers.”
Cross-genre author Kelli Stuart also brought self-publishing experience to the table, having kept one foot in the traditional market while releasing her own independent titles. With a list of well-proven resources, she led us to our talented formatter and cover designer Roseanna White and our gifted copyeditor Bethany Hockenbury. We couldn’t have been more pleased with those partnerships, and we all formed new professional relationships as a result.
Our “numbers guru” (and the only one of us who doesn’t think math is a four-letter word), author Allison Pittman became our accountant, managing the backstage details and keeping us all on track financially. (Thank heavens!)
In addition to our roles as authors, Janyre Tromp and I both work as editors, so we tackled the developmental and substantive line edits before Hockenbury took over for copyedits and proofreading.
“It was an honor to work with these amazing writers, both as a fellow author and an editor,” says Tromp, whose role as editor with Kregel Publications also equipped her with the skills to steer us through the production stages of this project.
With reluctance, I also took on the title of Ms. Bossy Pants to keep the project moving forward at every turn. Sigh … somebody must do it. In this role, I scheduled meetings, offered gentle reminders, and did a lot of cheerleading to maintain momentum for the team. (I tried not to be too bossy.)
Like magic, everything fell into place seamlessly, and we were all excited when novelist Susie Finkbeiner offered to write the foreword.
A uniting theme
We did overcome one major challenge at the onset: we each have established readerships across different genres.
Most collections focus on a very specific niche—small town romance, medical suspense, urban thrillers, etc. But we each bring such diverse views and interests to the page, we wanted to see what could happen if the theme allowed us room to play.
After brainstorming holiday traditions, we settled on the topic of film. “There are few things more unifying and joyous than cherished Christmas movies,” Stuart says.
Pittman agrees: “We've all become used to the Hallmark Christmas movies taking over the season, but the art of the Christmas-themed drama has been around since long before the greeting card company dominated our small screens. It's a Wonderful Life and Remember the Night hearken back to classic Hollywood films.”
Gentry also felt sentimental ties to old films. “It finally feels like Christmas when some of my favorite movies start to play,” she says. “Watching classics like Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas always launches me into the holiday spirit with hope and a smile.”
Stuart sums it up, saying, “Amidst the continued uncertainty of the world, we’re all looking for comforting, healthy ways to escape. Nothing works better than a film or story.”
Pulling it all together
Once we settled on classic holiday films, we each took that spark and let it lead us anywhere it wanted to take us. The result? An eclectic collection that includes everything from a Nutcracker inspired fairytale to a charming romance set in a Michigan castle to three heartwarming stories that take place right here in the south (can I get a hallelujah?!).
While I’d intended to stem my novella from It’s a Wonderful Life, the muse steered me toward the most unexpected of choices—National Lampoon’s Family Vacation! My 30,000-word novella doesn’t parallel the classic John Hughes’ film and it isn’t an adaptation, but it does explore similar themes by focusing on a quirky family with all sorts of differences and modern-day complexities. Then we see what happens when they dare to come together for the holidays.
The spirit of Christmas
“I love the variety in the collection and hope readers will enjoy exploring stories that may be different from what they typically read,” Tromp says.
“Yes,” echoes Pittman. “We hope we’ve succeeded at delivering something for everyone.’
Regardless of faith, age, or story preferences, we want readers to find a little holiday happiness between these pages, and we hope this book leads to a WONDERFUL Christmas for all.
Julie Cantrell is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author whose work can be found at: www.juliecantrell.com. Connect with all five authors (and more) at HER NOVEL COLLECTIVE