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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Inventing Your Own Novel Setting

This is a guest post by Melissa McClone.

Christmas at the Castle is the tenth Christmas-themed romance novel I’ve written, but it’s my first holiday story set outside the United States. I created Alistonia in my book The Cinderella Princess, but that country was nothing more than a name suggested by one of my readers on my Facebook page. So when I decided to use Alistonia as the setting for my Christmas book, I had a little work to do.

First, I needed to figure out where the country was on the map. I finally picked the eastern slope of the Alps. That sounded like a place that would be Christmassy and have snow. I also needed to determine what kind of Christmas traditions the characters and countries might have. I didn’t just want to carry over what is familiar to me, so I researched European Christmas traditions.

My favorite thing I discovered, and something I want to experience in person someday, is the Christmas Market. These street markets happen throughout Europe during Advent/December. They’ve been around for a long time with a history of a forerunner event dating back to the late thirteenth century.

The pictures of various Christmas Markets in Europe appealed to all five of my senses. I could feel the chill in the air and snowflakes against my face see the holiday decorations lights, hear the entertainment and laughter, smell the hot mulled wine (Glühwein), and taste all the yummy bake goods for sale at the various stalls.

It sounded like the perfect place to not only go Christmas shopping, but I knew the capitol city of Alistonia needed to have a Christmas Market and I wanted to set a scene in my book there.

Here’s how I describe the Christmas Market in my story:

She stopped. Her lips parted, and she gasped. “What is this place?”
“Our Christmas Market. Every town in Alistonia has one.”
Rows of booths had been set up on the closed-off street. Portable shops were decorated for the holidays with lights and garland. Some sold food. Others offered gift items. Several displayed holiday decorations, including Christmas trees.
Excitement shone in her eyes. She rubbed her gloves together. “This is amazing.”
Gill thought she might like this. “Where would you like to start?”
“Let’s begin on one end so we don’t miss anything. I have a feeling I’ll be able to finish all my Christmas shopping tonight.”
“You sound happy.”
“I am.” Her shoulders wiggled. “Thanks to you.”
He extended his arm. “Shall we, milady?”
Beaming, she hooked her arm around his. “Let the shopping commence.”
Booth after booth, they explored, examined items, and tasted food like the town’s famous Christmas cookies. She purchased several handmade Christmas tree ornaments as well as knitted items. Her looks of awe made him feel like a super hero. This was one of his favorite holiday traditions, but seeing the market and his hometown through Kat’s fresh eyes made him savor things he’d forgotten and taken for granted.
I’ve since learned that some towns in the US do have similar Christmas Markets. I found this list that lists several of the German style Christmas Markets happening in 2016 by state in case you’re interested visiting one!


Melissa is giving away this amazing prize pack (within the US), make sure you enter below!

$10 Amazon gift card
Thirty-One Gifts Zipper Pouch
Autographed paperback copy of The Cinderella Princess
Christmas at the Castle Bottle top keychain
Recipe Card

Melissa McClone’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University led her to a job with a major airline where she travelled the globe and met her husband. But analyzing jet engine performance couldn’t compete with her love of writing happily ever afters. Her first full-time writing endeavor was her first sale when she was pregnant with her first child! Since then, she has published over twenty-five romance novels with Harlequin and been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA award. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually driving her minivan to/from her children’s swim and soccer practices, 4-H meetings and dog shows. She also supports deployed service members through Soldiers’ Angels and fosters cats through a local non-kill rescue shelter. Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three school-aged children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds and cats who think they rule the house.