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A Book for Christmas


I think I can safely say that we all love a romantic novel, especially one that is set in a rather grand house at Christmas. There are lots of Christmas-set stories on the bookshops’ shelves right now, but how can I not mention this one to you, written by a dear friend who just happens to be an excellent novelist and who has written a heart-warming story set not only in a beautiful house but also one set on a promontory overlooking the sea here in Torbay?

I am about half-way through this novel, devouring each page with as much relish as I do a rich fruit cake; indeed, once I’ve done my work this morning (I’ve still the Christmas cake to bake, still have cards to write and presents to wrap and post) I will settle down on the sofa this afternoon and read yet more chapters of this book.

Linda Mitchelmore in her home here in Torbay

And so I thought it might be interesting for you to hear what Linda herself has to say about her writing and about this book in particular:

What inspired you to write this novel? Was it characters that sprung to mind or location?  Or even both?

Most of my books have been set in summer and my first novel for HarperCollins – SUMMER AT 23 THE STRAND – was, as the title tells us, set in summer. They then asked for a Christmas book. As a short story writer I’m used to writing ‘out of season’ as it were so while the UK baked in summer 2018 I was thinking all things snow. The Strand House of the title was the leaping off point for me – based on the very large, and beautiful, Devon home of a friend. That house is deep in the countryside and I merely relocated it in my mind to the seaside. I then thought about what Christmas could be like in a house like that, but also the fact not everyone has family to share Christmas with, so off I went on a flight of fancy.

Although set in Torbay, can readers who are clever actually find Strand House or it is purely imaginary?

No, readers won’t find Strand House as I’ve already explained. Those who know the area well might be able to work out that I’ve plonked Strand House down on what is a piece of wild and common land …. and that’s all I’m saying!

An area of the coastline not far from where the fictional Strand House has been built

When writing your novels, do you plot them carefully, or do you allow them to grow organically?  Do you have an ending in mind and then find that the characters dictate a different ending?

I’m what’s known in the trade as a ‘seat-of-the-pants’ writer. Plot I do not! I start with a problem for my main character – as all novels must – and in this book the underlying problem for Lissy is that she knows she needs to change her life but hasn’t yet worked out how. She is also lonely at Christmas, so loneliness is also a theme running through this book. When she generously invites three friends who will also be alone at Christmas to share Christmas with her in the house she has been left by her late godmother, everything changes for them all. But those characters told their own stories as the book went along.

Have you written since you were a child or perhaps you started writing as an adult?  

I can remember, when I was at junior school, making books by stitching pieces of paper together and drawing a cover and then filling the pages with my rather large and loopy writing. But I never had any burning ambition to become a writer. Losing my hearing through viral damage was the catalyst to that. When music, TV, radio, cinema, theatre, and group activities became no-go areas for me I retreated into magazines and books. And then I thought I’d have a go at writing a short story and sold the first one I ever wrote which was more than encouraging. My late aunt then gave me the money to do a postal writing course and, well, I’ve never looked back. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good and all that.

What were your favourite books as a child?  And your favourite authors? 

Anything that gripped me, pulled me in with the first sentence, was my favourite. I was given a lot of books as Sunday School prizes and if I had to choose one above all others it would be BROWNIE by Amy Le Feuvre.

And your favourite writer as an adult? 

I’ve read just about everything by American Writer, Elizabeth Berg.  I like that she writes about ordinary people in an ordinary setting and yet manages to make me want to be in their world. I’d say her writing has been the biggest influence on my own.

What would be your number one writing tip for aspiring writers?

Stop talking about the book that everyone says we have in us and just get on and write one!

Under the pier

Thank you, Linda, for answering my questions, and I hope readers of my blog will investigate your Christmas novel and also your previous novels, both contemporary and historical.

Christmas at Strand House (and with my tea and cake in my sitting room! )

Until next time.

About Margaret

Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. I saw the book on your Instagram page yesterday, Margaret. Thought it looked good, so I bought it for Kindle for just $2.99. Not sure if I’ll work it in this Christmas season yet, but I hope to. And then to read this post with an interview of the author was very interesting! Enjoy your weekend!

  2. Looks. Like my perfect Christmas book ,Torquay , Christmas ,Romance , its on the way to me .

  3. I haven’t read any of Linda’s books yet but the picture of her on the sofa and your picture of book, tea and cake makes me want to go and put my feet up too! I hope you have a lovely weekend whatever you’re doing.

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Jan. There may yet be more photos of tea and cake or, rather, coffee and chocolate stollen! Linda is a lovely person, and she started her novel-writing career by writing an historical trilogy set here in Devon at the turn of the 19th/20th century, which I really enjoyed. This novel is a contemporary novel and a lovely Christmas read. I hope you have a lovely weekend, too. Right now I’m just taking a comfort break from watching the old Michael Caine film from 1965, The Ipcress File. My goodness, over 50 years ago and I remember going to see it with my husband when it was first out in cinemas! I enjoyed it then and I’m enjoying it now – it’s on Pause as I write this.

  4. A recommendation by yourself is good enough for me. I have just downloaded the book onto my iPad via the Kindle app. I don’t read much on Kindle unless travelling but its ok now and then. Given that it is set in such a lovely area, I shall imagine the setting with fond memories of lovely holidays!

  5. A Kindle is useful for travelling as it means several books can be downloaded. However, I far prefer paper. I can’t Kindle read in bedazzled the blue light keeps me awake and I don’t need any help with that!

    • Margaret Powling

      I don’t think I will be getting a Kindle any time soon, Eloise – the one reason I would’ve bought one is to read in bed but now you say that the bedazzed blue light keeps you awake, that’s sufficient information for me not to buy one.

  6. A Kindle isn’t for me either, it couldn’t ever replace the sheer enjoyment of a real book in my hand, the pleasure of the paper pages, the sight of a stack of books waiting to be read. It would just be words on a screen. If it means being behind the times and old fashioned to want the real thing then so be it!

    • Margaret Powling

      A big Yes to all that, Jan! We are book lovers, are we not? I think a Kindle might be useful if we went on holiday and I wanted something to read while out and about, but really, a paperback is very little weight in my bag or in the car. Like you, I just love books.

  7. Maybe I’m alone here, but I don’t love a romantic novel. I enjoy mystery novels as well as novels with relationships being the “theme”. Not so much on the romantic, though. I’m not one for Hallmark Christmas shows either. I work with a couple women who absolutely love those – even though they’re mainly all the same. Not for me – as I find them too sappy. Just my two cents. I love your little Christmas tree, by the way – I failed to comment on your post about it.

    • Margaret Powling

      No, you are most certainly not aloe, Jeannine. I read this as it’s been written by a dear friend and I admit romantic novels aren’t really the bread and butter of my reading. However, this story touches on some deeper themes (I don’t want to go into details as that would spoil the story for those who are considering buying this book) so it’s not all wine and roses. I also enjoy mystery novels,and crime novels (not the hard boiled kind, but detective fiction); a lot of my reading is non-fiction, especially social history and, of course, style and decor books. What are the Hallmark Christmas shows? I’ve not heard of those?
      Thank you for kind comment re our little Christmas tree – I’m still saying “Good morning!” and “Good night!” to it each day!

  8. I’m in agreement with some of the comments in that I prefer to read a ‘real’ book rather than a kindle version. I love the feel, the smell of books and turning a page – I’m happy to sound like a dinosaur ha ha. I enjoy going back and forth to our local libraries which are all like treasure troves to me. Libraries aren’t just bookshelves to me – I love seeing the staff helping people, the people standing at shelves as they search for something to take home, the children’s artwork on display. I know it sounds odd, sniffing at using a kindle, as I use my iPad everyday in one form or another for emails, internet banking, following my favourite blogs, etc but reading a book is – well – special. I’m quite content to be illogical in my reasoning ha ha.

    I love how your posts and the many comments can often make me think about things I might not otherwise 🙂


    • Margaret Powling

      No, you are certainly not a dinosaur, Lara, because you don’t use a kindle. I think a lot of technology is helpful, I love using my PC but I don’t covet an iPad or laptop. Indeed, my computer man says a laptop wouldn’t be able to cope with the amount of stuff I have stored on my PC! We take from technology what we want/need, I think. I still haven’t got a smart phone but I expect I shall have to get one sometime when my almost-ten-year-old phone dies.
      I am delighted that my posts and the comments make you think of things you would not otherwise have thought of … it’s great that we can bounce ideas off each other, right across the globe! Long may this continue. And yes, libraries are indeed wonderful places.

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