Thursday, October 20, 2011

~The Christmas Village ~ by Melissa Ann Goodwin

“When Jamie Reynolds comes to his grandparents' Vermont home for Christmas, he just wants things to go back to the way they were before his dad disappeared. Time and again he is drawn to Grandma's miniature Christmas Village, where he imagines that life is perfect. Late one night, the village comes to life before Jamie's eyes, and his fantasy of escaping into it becomes very real indeed.

He discovers that the village is called Canterbury, where the year is 1932. Jamie becomes fast friends with Kelly and Christopher Pennysworth, and is taken in by Ida, who runs the local boarding house. But he also makes a dangerous enemy of the mysterious and menacing Jim Gordon, whose return to town is nothing but trouble.

As Jamie desperately races against time to find his way back home, he is suddenly faced with a terrifying choice: to go ahead with his plan to leave, or to stay and help his friends, at the risk of never going home again.” 

I wept with joy as I read this book because it took me to another place and time. A time of sweet childhood memories!

With ten publications to her credit, including Guideposts, Angels on Earth, and Hopscotch for Girls, she also claims 10th place in the 2010 Writer’s Digest Annual Poetry Contest for her poem named Poppies.

I was so pleased when Melissa said she would give me an interview, so please sit back and enjoy!  

What I know of your creativity and talent after reading “The Christmas Village” Melissa is that you are a success, for sure. So, I believe your readers would love to know more about you. Please tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.


1.       When did you start writing and why?

As a kid, I loved to read – I read constantly, anything and everything from Winnie the Pooh and Nancy Drew to Shakespeare and Greek and Norse mythology. Somewhere around age ten I realized that I wanted to write books as good as the ones I loved. My whole life, I have constantly been “writing” inside my head, but I didn’t dedicate myself to really writing until I was in my mid-forties. All that time in between age 10 and age 45, I put other things first – school, jobs, relationships. I used to be hard on myself for waiting so long to do what I was meant to do. But now I realize that it was better for me to come to it later in life. I think that I needed a very long gestation period, because the minute I devoted myself to writing, my work was published. It’s like it took forever, and then it happened overnight.

2.       How did you know you were ready to write a novel?

I never really know that I’m ready for anything! And it’s no different with this. It’s more that I had a story idea, and I just started writing it. I don’t seem to do well with short stories, because I always feel like there’s more to the story and it has to end too soon. So, any potential story that calls to me to be written is probably going to be a full-fledged novel, because I need the closure!

3.       Did you know that you would be published one day?

I always believed this, yes. Even during all the years when I wasn’t writing and I berated myself for not writing, deep down, I truly believed I would be published someday.

4.       Is there anything else you would like to share about your writing journey?

The main thing that I think I can share is the idea that it’s never too late to become the writer you wanted to be, and that everything that you believe has kept you from it along the way – everything you considered a detour - in some way will contribute to your success. When I worked as an executive for a large company, I thought I had gone about as far off track from my true calling as one could possibly go. Yet, there was much that I learned from that experience, much growth that I was forced to experience, that has helped me in my writing career. I was forced to lose my shyness. I learned to speak in front of large groups, I learned about marketing, and I gained confidence from knowing that if I could be good at these things that I didn’t even like, I could probably be really good at something I loved.

5.       Where do you find inspiration to write?

I am inspired by the real lives of ordinary people trying to find their way in the world. There are so many experiences and feelings that we all share as human beings - love, loss, joy, sorrow, disappointment, success. I am drawn to stories that center on the shared experiences of life.

6.       Do you have a favorite place to write and what does it look like?

It’s a big old comfy wing-backed chair that was my grandmother’s. It’s very solid and has beautiful carved legs. It’s in the living room. I did write The Christmas Village sitting at a desk, but that was before I got my laptop. Now it’s the chair, and only the chair.

7.       How organized are you when you begin a new project, whether it’s a short story or a novel? Do you outline everything or are you a “panster”?

Okay, I had to think about “pantser” for a minute! But yes, that’s what I am with my writing. I’m actually very organized, but with writing, I just have an idea and some characters and I start. I don’t outline at the beginning, because I’ve learned that what I think will happen in my story is never what actually does! So I like to just start and let the story tell me where it wants to go without constraint. However, once I am into it a little way, I do stop and sketch out where I think it’s going and how long it will take to get there. But it’s still a flexible thing, because I know that the unexpected will happen. For me, the most fun part of writing is when these surprises come out of me, and I have no idea where they came from.

8.     Where do the names for your characters come from? 

A number of the names in The Christmas Village come from my life growing up in Andover, Massachusetts, where I had a ridiculously happy childhood. Specifically, Ida, the woman who runs the boarding house, is named after the mother of my childhood best friend. She was always very kind to me. The grandmother is named Esther, and that was my grandmother’s name. In some cases, though, it’s just that I like a certain name. That’s the case with the lead character, Jamie – I just like the name.

9.      When did you know your book was ready for publication?

There came a point when I just couldn’t find anything else that I wanted to change. That’s when I knew it was ready to send to agents. I was fortunate to find an agent, but she showed me that the work still wasn’t done. We went through line-editing, and I was amazed at how many small changes we made.

10.    What was the one thing that made you take this project all the way from the beginning to the end without giving up? And what advice would you give a writer aspiring to be an author?

For some reason, with The Christmas Village, I never doubted that I would finish. I think it was partly because I knew how the story would start, and I knew how I wanted it to end, so I figured that if I stayed with it, I’d eventually be able to get from here to there. But also, it’s that I felt that it was finally time to “land the plane” so to speak – time to do what I was supposed to do in this life. I had set a goal that I would have published a book by the time I was 55. I turn 56 later this month, so I just made it under the wire.

As far as advice to aspiring authors goes, there are two things that come to mind. First, to be a good writer, you must be a voracious reader. It’s almost like osmosis – when you read and read and read, it gets into your bones and your blood and your brain matter. You come to innately understand how to put words together in a way that flows, how to pace the plot, how to write realistic dialogue. Second, get comfortable with the idea that your first draft may not be very good. Just write some stuff and don’t get too uptight about it. Then go back and make it better. Then go back and make it better again. And again. And again.


You asked me to share a little about our upcoming RV adventure, and I’m happy to do so. It turns out that my husband has a bit of wanderlust, something I didn’t know when I married him 27 years ago. I, on the other hand, am a confirmed homebody. If there had been a high school yearbook award called, "Most Likely Never to Move Off the Street She Grew Up On,” I would have voted for me to win it. Nevertheless, I am now rather gung-ho for this adventure, because there are so many places I want to see. Turns out I’ve become more adventurous with age.

Next spring, we will head to the east coast and then up to Nova Scotia and Quebec. For me, some of the best aspects of this journey are that we will spend more time at the ocean, and we’ll be able to visit with friends and family all along the way. In the fall, it’s likely that we will head west to Arizona and then maybe down into Texas and Florida in the winter. In the second year, I want to go to the national parks in the northwest and down through California.

I’m looking forward to having more time for writing and I think I’ll be able to set up book signings along our path. My husband is an artist, and he looks forward to doing a lot of plein aire painting.

Melissa, thank you for sharing your story with us. You are such an inspiration  to us all!

Check out the trailer of this wonderful book on her blog at

Visit with Melissa Goodwin at

A native New Englander, Melissa Ann Goodwin now makes her home in Sante Fe, New Mexico with her husband Richard J. Goodwin.

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  1. Hi Cindy, thanks again for hosting me on this wonderful blog. I enjoyed answering your thoughtful questions, and I learned a new word: "pantsing." I'll use it often and as inappropriately as possible!

  2. Oh Melissa, you are so welcome! I am really proud to feature you and your wonderful novel. I'm buying this one to read to my grandchildren at Christmas. And, knowing how much I enjoyed it the first time, I have a feeling it may become a Holiday tradition for us.:-)

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Your words make my heart sing, because that's the reaction I was hoping for!

  4. Great questions and great answers and it certainly gives the writing community a great jumping off point to get down to business - write-write-write-read-read-read and get published.

  5. L-O-V-E-D this interview! and I'm going to take your advice, Melissa and read more. I guess I have been afraid that reading too much would interfere with the story in my own head. But I believe you're right, reading can help me step up my game. I think I'll start with your book, thank you.
    And thank you Cynthia, those were great questions, but I still don't know what panster means :)

  6. Thank you, RV Painter J. Richard Secor! Melissa makes it sound so easy, doesn't she? Well, we all know it takes so much discipline and creativity and from what I understand you have tons of creativity and discipline yourself. Do you have a site with your work posted?

    Deb, I'm happy you loved the interview.:-) Wait until you read the book. I can't say enough about how this book made me feel. It put a whole knew perspective on the Holidays coming up. We tend to lose site with all the hustle and bustle. We need more books "The Christmas Village."

    Oh, LOL, and "panster" means you sit down, butt in chair and right from the seat of your pants. You let the story evolve and take you where IT wants to go, without drawing up an outline. That's what I do, and I'm sure that's why it takes me so very long to finish.

    Melissa, Your book makes my heart sing:-)

  7. I loved reading about your inspiration and the writing journey!

  8. Deb and Stephsco - thanks so much for the kind words.

  9. Cindy, just wanted to share that the Kindle e-book version just became available on Amazon. Hugs,

  10. That is SO great, Melissa! There are so many ways to find (and own) this wonderful Christmas book. This is just awesome!:-)