Holiday Romances. Oy.
This past year I’ve been writing a series of stories with Jewish holiday themes. In fact, to my knowledge, I am the author of the only m/m Passover and Rosh Hashanah holiday erotic romance novels. Nothing says Passover like reading a sensuous novel while you munch that tasty matzo, eh? The series is called Tarnished Souls. Although the characters wander in and out of each other’s stories, each novel tells a different love story so that they can be read in any order.
They couldn’t, however, have been written in any order. I’d never written a holiday story before I started the Tarnished Souls series, so how was I to know that the calendar was a narrative minefield? It started innocently enough. In Learning from Isaac, my characters go home for Passover. It also contains references to the Passover theme of freedom from bondage. Coincidentally, the timing was perfect for it to be published in the spring. Easy Peasey.
And then the clock started ticking.
Internal timing wasn’t terribly awkward for my Rosh Hashanah story, Fields of Gold. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a fall holiday so as long as the story ended in October everything was fine. External timing – my editorial deadlines– were a bit trickier and I almost didn’t make them. But I powered through because I love the theme of the fall holidays. They’re all about forgiveness, repentance and making peace with the people in our lives. Rich fodder for a story teller.
Everything got more complicated with my Hanukkah story, Sacred Hearts, which comes out this week. In addition to a tight editorial schedule, the internal time problem with writing a Hanukkah story is that Jewish holidays move around in the calendar. Some years Hanukkah starts in early December (next year it will actually begin right after Thanksgiving!) and other years it overlaps with Christmas. It’s pretty difficult to write a Hanukkah story that ignores Christmas, especially if you set it in Mexico. So the first thing I had to do was figure out how Christmas and Hanukkah timed out in the story. Eventually I decided to go with this year’s dates so that I could mark a calendar and plot the scenes. Then I had these time anchors – the first night of Hanukkah (12/8) and Christmas (12/25). I’d already written a first draft in which Christmas events seemed to happen in January, so I had to wrestle the story back onto the timeline. It made me wonder if I wanted to play this particular game of twister again. But the thematic feast of the winter holidays, which I interpret as the return of light after a long darkness, made me fall in love with the story. I hope you do too.
So what do I hate about writing holiday stories? Time. It’s a killer. I’m sure anyone stressed out by the race from Thanksgiving to Christmas can sympathize with that.
What do I love about holiday stories? Any holiday tradition, whether religious or secular, is an idea treasure trove. Hundreds or thousands of years of emotional gold and garbage are encapsulated in each and every holiday. As a writer, tapping into that vein of meaning offers me an enormous amount.
What’s your favorite holiday and what does it mean to you?
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