Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
On October 3rd I shared my review of ‘The Christmas Calendar Girls’ and tweeted the link to my blog post. The author, Samantha Tonge, kindly thanked me on Twitter. Being cheeky, I asked her if she would mind answering my questions – and she said, “Yes!” So here are her responses – I’ll add more about the book and Samantha after them. Thank you, Sam – you’re amazing!
Where did you get the inspiration for the book/series?
I heard about a living advent calendar a couple of years ago and it fascinated me. I researched online and discovered it was “a thing” in Europe – businesses would club together, taking it in turns each night in December to host evenings to raise money for charity. Then I discovered that suburban communities in England ran them too. I thought what a wonderful idea it was and this year could hold off no longer from writing a story based on one.
What is your writing process?
I get up early, do a cycle ride and am usually at my desk by 7.30am. I catch up on social media until 10-11 when I stop for breakfast. Then sometimes lunch isn’t until 3pm! I carry on after that until 6. I try to take a break during the day, though, either by going shopping or meeting a friend for coffee. I am lucky to be able to write full-time. As for the process of actually writing the novel, it changes every time. Sometimes a plot inspires it. Or a theme. Or a title even! I write a synopsis, discuss it with my agent and then get writing. I don’t plan in great detail and just let the characters take me where they want to.
Do you write using pen and paper or on a computer?
No. I did when I first started writing in 2005 and found it VERY odd changing to writing on screen. But now I couldn’t go back. The ability to delete and copy and paste is brilliant.
Who is your favourite character out of your stories and why?
I am very fond of Cara – she is a stay-at-home parent who involves herself fully in the community and is warm-hearted and generous, someone who likes to see the positive in people. I find her qualities inspiring.
If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?
I think I would like to be Kit because I can relate to him. He’s gone through the mill in recent years which took him on a journey of discovery, and through that process he has really got to know himself and what is important in life. I’ve had personal challenges myself recently and can really relate to this. And he’s six foot five. At five foot three I would love a bit more height!
How and why did you choose the names for your main characters?
The main characters are Fern, her best friends Cara and Davina, and her love interest Kit.
For Fern I wanted a name that sounded innocent and fresh, something from nature – as Fern is an honest person with no hidden side to her.
Cara has Irish ancestors and her name means friend. I wanted this because she is such a loyal, goodhearted friend, baking and crafting and volunteering, a person who will do anything for anyone.
I thought Davina sounded classy! She is a very smart, well-off accountant.
And for the lead man, Kit – inspired by gorgeous Jason Momoa! – I wanted a name that sounded a little different, a little rugged, and sexy!
Thank you, once again, Samantha Tonge, for answering my questions. I can’t imagine getting up so early, exercising, working and not having breakfast until 10 or 11 o’clock. I suspect you’ll often be very ready for that break in the afternoon.Congratulations on working so well to overcome your personal challenges – hope you keep on overcoming them in future as well as keep on writing such brilliant books 🙂
I participated in the blog tour for this book on October 3rd but am going to repost information about it, including my review, as well as about Samantha here, too, to save you going back to read it!
About the book
This Christmas fall in love with the town of Chesterwood…
Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, so with Chesterwood food bank under risk of closure Fern knows just what to do to save it. She’s going to get the town to create a living advent calendar.
Fern, and her best friends, call for help from the local community to bring this calendar to life. When Kit, the new man in town, offers his assistance Fern’s heart can’t help but skip a beat (or two).
As they grow ever closer, Fern must admit that Kit’s breaking down the barriers she built after the death of her husband. But his past is holding him back and Fern doesn’t know how to reach him. No matter how hard she tries.
In this town, Kit’s not the only one with secrets. Domestic goddess Cara is behaving oddly, burning meals in the oven and clothes whilst ironing, and Davina’s perfect children are causing trouble at school leaving her son, Jasper, desperately unhappy.
Can the Christmas Calendar Girls find a way to bring the community together in time to save the food bank, while still supporting their families and each other? Can Fern find love again with Kit?
This is a story about kindness and letting go of the past. It’s about looking out for your neighbours and about making every day feel like Christmas.
This is a heartwarming story about a community coming together at Christmas to help each other and others. It has a plethora of believable, great characters with three friends and their families at the heart of this story.
Fern moved to Chesterwood after the untimely death of her beloved husband, hoping to help her and their young daughter, to make a fresh start. Fern is a journalist and has met many people in the area through her job and others whilst taking her daughter to school. She did an article about the homeless in the area and the food bank which helps them and others who are in dire straits. She is shocked to discover it is going to close unless additional funding can be found and so comes up with the idea of organising a living advent calendar to help raise money for this worthwhile cause. With the help of two other mothers who are her best friends, these three Calendar girls strive to raise the much needed funding.
This is a fabulous story about a community working together for a common goal. It involves people getting to know each other, having fun, facing problems together and making a difference. There are other threads running through the story concerning fresh starts, how people may become homeless, why people use food banks, the impact of jealousy, how people hide their anxieties and the problems associated with overcoming addiction. These are all skilfully interwoven into a fantastic festive read which even has a lovely romance, too! I really enjoyed reading this and have absolutely no hesitation in highly recommending this book. I requested and was gifted a copy of this book via NetGalley and this is my honest review after choosing to read it and not wanting to put it down until I’d finished it.
Google Play: https://bit.ly/2Z8YiTO
About the Author
Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.
When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines.
She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award