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Holly Martin on Christmases at Lilac Cottage

Writing.ie | Magazine | Women’s Fiction
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I’m very excited that Christmas at Lilac Cottage is out in paperback this year. I’ve always dreamed of seeing my books on shelves of bookshops with a glittery cover and walking into WHSmiths this week and seeing Christmas at Lilac Cottage sparkling from the bookshelves has been a dream come true. Christmas at Lilac Cottage is the first book set in White Cliff Bay, a small coastal town on the borders of Devon and Cornwall. With its beautiful coastal views and small town life where everyone knows your business it was the perfect place to set a Christmassy story where the town’s people all pull together to help each other out especially when the snow falls. There are two other books in the series, Snowflakes on Silver Cove, which is set in the same week as Lilac Cottage and Summer at Rose Island. All of them can be read as standalone stories and can be read in any order and they each follow a different couple that live in the town of White Cliff Bay.

In Christmas at Lilac Cottage, Penny Meadows is renting out her annexe in the hope of making some friends. When Henry Travis and his daughter arrives she has no idea her life is about to change forever. With Christmas celebrations in the town well under way and the busiest time of the year for Penny’s ice carving business, will she allow love to melt her frozen heart?

The inspiration for the setting of these stories came from a visit to Cornwall and Devon in the lead up to Christmas. Mostly you only ever see seaside towns in fiction during the summer but all the places I visited were getting ready for their own Christmas celebrations and traditions and I wanted to convey that in my story. I was absolutely charmed by the relaxed, slowed down pace of life in these small coastal towns, the friendliness of the people, the little quirks of the towns and I wanted to bring all that cute, quaint small town attitudes with larger than life characters to life in my stories.

Many of the ideas for my stories come from something as simple as an overheard conversation, somewhere I’ve visited, a photo I’ve seen, an article in the news and that was where the idea for my first book The Guestbook came from. I was working away from home and had to stay in a B&B for the night. The B&B had an old fashioned guestbook for people to put comments in, and although many of the comments were things as simple as ‘Lovely stay’ or ‘Great breakfast’ some were detailed accounts of what they had done and where they had been. It was a lovely little snapshot of these people’s lives and I wanted to recreate that in a story. I wanted The Guestbook to not only tell the story of the people that stayed there but also the main story of the landlady Annie through her interactions with the guests too.

I had been writing for about five years when The Guestbook was picked up by a publisher. Like many authors I had written to many agents and publishers to try to get my books published but although I was getting a lot of positive feedback the answer was still always no. I was told I needed to write something different, something completely unique which was where the idea of The Guestbook came from, telling a story only through messages in a guestbook of a seaside holiday cottage. But after writing it, the feedback from the publishers was that they loved it but it was too different. At this point I felt like giving up, no matter what I tried, I couldn’t catch a break.

As a last ditch attempt, I entered a short story into the Sunlounger competition. If I won, my story would be published in an anthology alongside some of the biggest names in romance. It was several months later when the winner was announced. I had almost given up all hope but then I was announced as the winner. This was a huge moment for me. Finally people saw potential in my work and believed in me and my writing. This gave me the incentive not to give up and to keep trying.

A few months later I entered The Guestbook into a competition to win a publishing deal with Carina and Harlequin and I won. The editorial team fell in love with the story and it was published the following Valentine’s Day. I’ve moved publishers since then and I’m now with Bookouture in digital and with Bonnier Zaffre in print. My Christmas books out this year will be my thirteenth and fourteenth books to be published. It was a long and often heartbreaking journey but I got there in the end.

Getting published is about finding the right person at the right time with the right story. Just because one publisher turns it down, doesn’t mean that another publisher won’t love it. If I could give some advice for any writers trying to get published it would be to listen to any feedback that the publishers give you and act on it. Don’t be afraid to write something different but stick to writing what you love and finally never ever give up.

(c) Holly Martin

About Christmas at Lilac Cottage

Welcome to the charming seaside town of White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air…
Penny Meadows loves her home – a cosy cottage decorated with pretty twinkling fairy lights and stunning views over the town of White Cliff Bay. She also loves her job as an ice-carver, creating breathtaking sculptures. Yet her personal life seems frozen.

When Henry and daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage to rent the annex, Penny is determined to make them feel welcome. But while Daisy is friendly, Henry seems guarded.

As Penny gets to know Henry, she realises there is more to him than meets the eye. And the connection between them is too strong to ignore …

While the spirit of the season sprinkles its magic over the seaside town and preparations for the ice sculpting competition and Christmas eve ball are in full swing, can Penny melt the ice and allow love in her heart? And will this finally be the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of?

Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously heartwarming novel down…pick up your copy online here!

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