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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

December 2, 2013

It’s that sentimental time of year, when everyone is looking at the bright side … well, almost everyone. Writers, being contrarians by nature, like to look at things a little differently. I know at least one writer who, even at Christmas, likes a bit of dark with all that light and she very kindly agreed to share her views with readers of this blog.  So, my friends … drum roll, please … meet Karen McCullough.

It’s my favorite time of year!  I love, love, love the Christmas season. I enjoy pretty much everything about it: music, decorations, baking, tree & mantelshopping, even the cold weather. And I love Christmas stories.

Like the season itself, they tend to be sweet, even schlocky, and I’m not usually someone who goes for schlock. While I do love happy, or at least hopeful, endings, I’m more drawn to darker stories with troubled characters and tough situations. I find a happy ending more satisfying if the characters have had to go through hell to get to it.

Guardian_200In truth, I generally prefer even my Christmas stories to have a bit of darkness – a damaged character finding healing or the climax of a difficult journey coinciding with the holidays. My absolute all-time favorite Christmas story is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Characters don’t come much more nasty than Scrooge at the beginning of the story. Doesn’t it make his transformation all that much more moving, though?

Still, I’ll read almost anything that has a Christmas theme.

I’ve tried to figure out why I’m willing to read sweet romances, tales with kids and pets, bunnies and teddy bears (okay, elves and reindeer, anyway) at this time of year, when the rest of the year I tend to avoid those kinds of books. Why does a Christmas theme trump everything else?

I suspect it has to do with the season itself and the emotions it inspires in those of us who celebrate it. Christmas is a time when people are more cognizant of others and their needs. It’s a season that celebrates generosity and encourages giving. Giving to those we love, especially family, but extending a spirit of generosity to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.

So many Christmas stories center on characters learning to open their eyes and hearts to see and appreciate those around them, or on people coming to understand what their priorities should be, or just gaining a better understand of why it really is better to give than to receive.

And I like even those stories darker because the journey is longer, harder, and yet ultimately more satisfying when the distance from darkness to light is farther.

Not surprisingly, years ago, when I was assigned to write the vampire story to be part of an anthology of paranormal Christmas stories, I Vampire_200wanted the journey to be a hard, even desperate one. I think I succeeded. And a few years ago, after the anthology went out of print, I was able to retrieve the rights to the story, and now A Vampire’s Christmas Carol is available in most ebook formats.

Blurb: Can Christmas Eve get any more fun? On her way to her family’s home, Carol Prescott’s car slides into a ditch in a deserted area with no cell phone signal. The only available shelter is already occupied…by a vampire. To Michael Carpenter, Carol is the bait of a trap.

In an effort to hold onto his soul, Michael has resisted the urge to drink human blood for almost a century. Now he hovers between human and vampire. If he doesn’t drink from a human before the night ends, he’ll die. He’s desperately thirsty, but Michael has seen the soulless monsters vampires are and he prefers death. Carol is pure temptation to him, the Christmas present from hell…or is it from heaven?



About Karen McCullough

Karen McCullough is a web designer by profession, and the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres as well. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, four grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.

Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog
Thank you, Karen, for stopping by Birth of a Novel.
10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2013 10:46 AM

    HI Sandy – Thanks for letting me visit and expound on my ideas about Christmas stories!

  2. December 2, 2013 2:03 PM

    I agree with Karen. The longer and harder the character has to work to change during the story, the better read it is for me. So, even though it’s the Christmas season, I like to see my characters a little (or a lot) damaged at the beginning and change as the spirit of Christmas takes hold! Have a wonderful Christmas to both Sandra and Karen.

    • December 2, 2013 2:57 PM

      I agree, Fran. Seeing the struggle makes the victory much more satisfying. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas too.

  3. December 2, 2013 9:53 PM

    Having a hard time commenting. Let me try again. I was saying I wish someone would write a good literary Christmas story. I’m sick of the formula stories. I guess I’ve read too much.


    • December 3, 2013 7:58 AM

      Debi, the reason you had a problem commenting is that the first time anyone leaves a comment, it has to be approved. Any future comments should go through without a hitch. Thanks for persisting.

      I know exactly what you mean about “a good literary Christmas story”. It’s hard to step outside the sentimental box we’ve built around Christmas. Thanks again for stopping by. I appreciate it and I’m sure Karen does.

  4. December 3, 2013 10:48 AM

    What a great interview! Fun to read another side of Karen.

  5. December 6, 2013 5:50 PM

    My philosophy is, treat your characters the way you’d never want to be treated. So yes, I like a lot of darkness in my tales. The more the struggle, the more satisfying an ending. For some reason, though, none of my stories revolve around Christmas.
    Barbara of the Balloons

    • December 6, 2013 8:31 PM

      Sort of a reverse Golden Rule. I agree, Balloon Lady, watching the characters overcome obstacles is a huge part of what makes reading fun.

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