In our new column Bookworm Beat, read about some of our favorite books written by women and nonbinary authors...
"There will always be something terribly romantic about London at Christmas."
There have been fewer truer statements, and this one really adds to the charm of Josie Silver's novel One Day in December. The book begins with a young man named Jack and woman named Laurie locking eyes at a bus stop but not being able to get to one another in time. A year goes by without locating the other, that is until Laurie meets her roommate's new boyfriend and realizes it is Jack. Over the course of the next ten years Laurie and Jack will discover new ways to navigate one another in their lives, never quite able to forget the cold, magical night they first met.
Josie discussed the publication of the novel with The Rational Creature, as well as the winding road she went on to get to the publication process. Find out a little about all of the romance plus find out where she is working on next.
How did you get started writing?
I always knew I wanted to write romance, but it was only when my youngest son went to nursery that I really had the time to seriously try. I entered the Mills & Boon annual writing competition back in 2009 and placed second, and that really started me off on the path to publication. Not with Mills and Boon, in the end though — they have quite strict parameters and my writing tends towards more of an ensemble cast.
I posted the early chapters of my first full novel on a HarperCollins forum for aspiring writers, and from there they asked me for the manuscript. It was an exciting moment — an editor wanted to read my work. Things blossomed from there; I wrote five romantic comedy novels for Avon UK under the pseudonym Kat French, and I also self-published books, too. I was thrilled to be asked to write for Penguin. One Day in December is quite different to anything I’ve ever written before, so it made sense to publish under a different name, hence the move to Josie Silver.
Your American debut is the novel One Day in December. What inspired you to write the book, and particularly to focus on telling it during the winter holidays?
When my editor and I first started to talk about the idea, we thought about how all of the beloved Christmas movies (The Holiday, Love Actually, etc.) make people feel; pure magical escapism that you can return to time and again. I wanted to try to capture some of that magic into the story, and of course there will always be something terribly romantic about London at Christmas. We see Laurie make her New Year Resolutions each year, and that became a natural framework for the story.
The plot of the novel covers a decade's worth of time. Did you have any challenges working on this broad timeline?
In some ways it was quite luxurious to have the sprawl of a decade to work with, but it wasn’t without its challenges; every scene had to work extra hard to move the story along without it ever feeling as if it jumped too far ahead. The characters change and grow up over the years too; they age from early twenties to early thirties, a defining period for most people. They fall in and out of love, get married, have children… all of the things that every day people do. One of the most difficult things about a longer time span is deciding what to include and what to leave to the reader’s imagination.
Laurie and Jack, the characters at the heart of the novel, fall for each other upon making eye contact. Do you believe in love at first sight?
Yes, I think I do! I certainly believe that you can connect with someone instantly, and that it’s a rare and lovely thing that should be acted upon immediately! Even if it didn't amount to a lifetime love, it's better to know than always wonder.
Photo Credit: Justine Stoddart
The other relationship in focus is that of Laurie and Sarah, best friends who are have almost opposite demeanors. What did you enjoy in writing about their relationship?
You’re right, they are very different women. I think they bring out the best in each other. I’m fortunate to have a handful of brilliant women in my life who are a rich source of inspiration to me, especially when we all get together! Female friendship and sisterhood always features strongly my books, it’s as important and enriching as romantic love; more so for many people.
Another theme of the novel, in addition to love, is evolution and loss. Why do you feel it is important, even in a light-hearted love story, to touch on these serious topics?
I choose to write books that reflect real life, warts and all; it’s not always roses around the door, in fact at times it can be completely heartbreaking. If a story is going to be truly relatable for readers, it needs to encompass the whole spectrum of emotion, from elation to grief. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it needs to be a harrowing read though; it’s possible to find light and humor in most situations if you really look.
What do you hope to see going forward in the world of women's fiction and for women writers?
This feels like a great time to be a woman writing fiction. There’s a real movement towards bold, empowering female characters and storylines — long may that continue to be the case.
Are there any books or projects that you are working on in the future?
Yes. I’m currently working on my next book, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird. It’s about a bereaved young woman who miraculously gets the chance to live two lives; one with the husband she’s lost, the other where she starts to fall for someone new. It’s proving an emotional story to write, and will hopefully be an uplifting read for 2019.