Liz adores a cup of steaming hot tea now and then, so let’s all go brew a quick cup and sit down together to talk about her new Christmas novella, A Wreath of Snow. Wherever you are, let’s just pretend we’re cozied up by a warm fire, primed for some fun discussion.
I suppose a disclaimer is in order since many of you know I’m blessed to call Liz a dear friend, mentor, advisor, and occasional therapist! The Lord crossed our paths many years ago and I’m forever grateful. Therefore…I’ll try to be objective. (Mischievous grin.)
Seriously, A Wreath of Snow is a rich, enjoyable read. Because it’s a novella, it’s also a quick read. However, I was determined to savor every word knowing what a wordsmith Liz is.
If you’ve read other books by Liz, you’ll be shocked to know this one is also set in Scotland! Ever so slightly enamored with Scotland, Liz takes us back to Christmas Eve in 1894, in the lovely town of Stirling. (As I type, Liz is taking two different groups, a week each, through a lovely tour of her favorite country, Scotland. We ought to be snacking on a scone or Scottish shortbread in her honor.)
Perfectly picturesque, complete with snow falling, we meet several characters. Two of which happen to be taking a train, in the same car, to Edinburgh.
You’ll become acquainted with Margaret Campbell and Gordon Shaw. Liz will prove to you, there are no coincidences in life. The sweet and most gracious Almighty orchestrates several God-incidences throughout A Wreath of Snow. See how many you can find! They are beautiful!
Pretty quickly, the plot derails. (No pun intended ‘til you read it, then total pun intended!) Not as in the plot falls apart, but you’ll be shocked early on. And just when you think, “Oh, now we’re headed in a safe direction…”, be prepared to be stunned again!
Some of Liz’ characters cause you to become quickly attached to them, and some, well, not so much. Relatable for certain. Her excellent descriptions make you say to yourself, “Oh, brother, does he ever sound like so-and-so…” (That’s the unlikeable sort). Then on the flipside, you’ll be saying about some others, “Oh, now they are such a match!”
While set in the 19th century, Liz broaches topics which nearly topple us right here in the 21st century. See if any of these have every tempted you: guilt, running from God, weaving webs of lies, lack of forgiveness, lack of repentance, and dodging attempts for reconciliation? Oh, please guide us Lord and guard us from temptation.
One of the many things I love about this novella is how Liz purposefully includes Biblical truth on these very topics. Scripture speaks to these characters. You find yourself telling them to sit up and pay attention!
A favorite paragraph will give you a taste of A Wreath of Snow: “The tension inside her slowly began to unwind. She heard the minister’s voice but deeper still, another voice, even more tender. I have loved thee with an everlasting love. Tears welled up, threatening to spill onto her lap. Meg knew this voice, these words, their meaning. …But on Christmas morning in a candlelit sanctuary she’d known since childhood, Meg could not refuse him. And did not wish to. With loving kindness I have drawn thee. Her breathing deepened, and a sense of warmth moved through her, despite the frigid temperature.” Aren’t you right there in the next pew, right beside Meg? See how Liz draws you in?
This novella is not just a great read for you during Christmas, it’s a great gift for you to give your friends and family. Big brownie points for you the gift-giver too! Guess I’d better not tell you anymore without giving away the rest of the story. Just trust me, you’ll love it.
Well, let’s chat with Liz for a minute. I’ve thrown her some questions and let’s see how she answers: (By the way, if you’d like to hear Liz speak in person about this lovely novella, mark you calendar to come to our next Branches Book Club meeting, Monday, January 28th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m., at Middletown United Methodist Church. More details on the book club can be found in a separate blog post, “Brand-new Branches Book Club“.)
Let’s talk about the book first, and then you….
While writing the novella, did you find yourself liking one character more than another?
All the characters quickly became very dear to me, even the hard-to-love ones, like Alan. That’s just the nature of writing fiction. It’s not unlike being a mother! Each character has their own back story, their own reasons for doing what they do, and so they win my sympathy early on.
Flawed characters are especially interesting because they have the most capacity for change. In A Wreath of Snow, Gordon was my favorite (shhh! don’t tell the others!). There’s just something about a reformed Bad Boy that really grabs my heart.
Where in the world do you find all your epigraphs, much less fitting ones for your novels?
I spend a crazy amount of time reading through books and searching online for just the right literary quote to capture the heart of my book, as well as the heart of each chapter. Whenever possible, I use quotes from the time period in which I’m writing or from an earlier era—so, nothing from the 20th Century—and if that pithy quote was spoken by a Scot, so much the better!
Will you write a sequel to A Wreath of Snow?
I would love to do that, if I can just figure out how to squeeze another project into my writing schedule. I had no intention of continuing the story when I wrote it, but after I turned in the manuscript, the characters kept talking in my head. When that happens, I know there is more story to be told.
I’ve already chosen a title and epigraph, and have begun plotting. We shall see how God leads!
Tell us WHY & HOW you came to adore Scotland and a little about your new Scottish blog.
Oh, Scotland. It’s a beautiful country with the friendliest people I’ve ever met. The history, the literature, the culture, the language, and the music all fascinate me, and have for two decades or more. But the reason I write about Scotland is all about God! This interview on YouTube reveals just how that happened:
My new website, MyScottishHeart.com, is a gathering place for anyone who enjoys my novels or adores Scotland as much as I do. It’s filled with photos from my 15 trips there, and fun things I’ve learned over the years.
Here are all the places online where you can find out more about my Scottish historical fiction and the misty isle that I love:
Tell us something most people wouldn’t ordinarily know about you.
Tee-hee. I think everything people might care to know about me is either in one of my books or online somewhere! Still, they may not know I won a Most Improved Bowler trophy in the 1970s!
What do you like to do for fun, when you’re not on a deadline (even tho’ you are always on a deadline!!!)?
I love watching movies, at home or at the cinema. I love getting lost in a nice, thick historical novel. I love having lunch with friends. I love going for walks with my sweet husband. And I love traveling to new places.
How do you juggle writing, traveling, speaking, family?
Not very well, actually! The key for me is to immerse myself wholly in each moment. Rather than fretting about what I should be doing elsewhere, I embrace the now and look for ways to serve God where I am at any given hour.
How will you and your family celebrate Christmas this year?
Our traditions are simple, even silly, but we love them. Trimming the tree is a family affair, with a particular holiday CD to put us in the mood, chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, and our grown daughter running through the house with the tree skirt tied around her neck like a caped superhero—something she’s done since she was three.
Christmas morning begins with stockings, then breakfast, then gifts are opened one at a time, amid much laughing and hugging. Christmas dinner comes next, with a traditional Kentucky menu: honey ham, corn pudding, green beans, flaky biscuits, cooked apples, and an assortment of pies for dessert. By evening the house is quiet again and we’re curled up on the couch, grateful not for our gifts, but for one another, and for the One whose birth changed everything.
Do you have an all-time favorite book? Author?
For nonfiction, that would be Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. For fiction, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.
If you were to give a book to someone for a gift (besides one of your own), what would it be?
See above! ;>) Actually, I choose books for friends and family with great care, hoping to give them hours of reading pleasure. Books are the BEST gift, I think.
You know my favorite book of yours is Embrace Grace because I find articulating God’s grace very difficult. You seem to have loads of grace beautifully woven into each of your books. Can you talk about that a bit?
Bless you for your kind words about a real book of my heart. I’ll be leading a study of Embrace Grace on my Bible Study Blog in January and February 2013. So looking forward to walking through the pages with my readers! Pop on http://www.LizCurtisHiggs.com/blog/ to join us.
Grace is at the heart of everything I write. Because God has freely given us this precious gift, I’m compelled to share it with others—on the platform, in my books, online. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
If I may say in closing, Elizabeth, you are an abundant grace-giver. Bless you for sharing yourself and your heart for God on this blog!
Thanks again, Liz, for taking the time to do the interview! I pray you’re having a BLAST in Scotland!
‘Til next time…
(This December blog post is obviously going to be dedicated to sweet Lizzie. She’s had an unbelievable, milestone year: 2012 marks her 30th year as a Christian and the printing of her 30th book!!!!! Please join me in offering a grand standing ovation to our dear Liz Curtis Higgs! Bravo! Please keep writing & may God continue to bless you abundantly.)