Hi Sarah and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, One More For Christmas!
It’s so good to be back, thank you!
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
Successful career woman Gayle is estranged from her two adult daughters, but an accident in the office leaves her questioning the choices she made in her life and she decides Christmas is the perfect time to heal the rift. Her daughters are less enthusiastic! There have been big changes in their lives since they last saw their mother, and they don’t want her spoiling Christmas. It’s a fun, festive, family story with twists and turns, romance and a glorious Scottish setting.
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
Samantha is horrified when she discovers her mother intends to join them for Christmas – they haven’t seen each other for five years.
“I’m still trying to handle the fact that our mother wants to ruin Christmas. What were her exact words? ‘I’m sure you can handle one more for Christmas’. If I’m having one more of anything for Christmas, it’s going to be a big strong drink.”
What inspired this book?
This book is about family, but it’s also about choices. When I was planning this book I had already decided to write about an estranged family who are forced together for Christmas. At the same time I read an article about a woman who regretted some of the decisions she’d made and it started me thinking about how we make choices, and what happens if we look back over time and question those decisions. Part of Gayle’s journey is accepting choices that were made in the past (usually for a good reason!) and moving on.
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
With this book the characters came to me very quickly, almost fully formed. They all have strong personalities, but I was surprised by Samantha, the older daughter. When I started writing her she didn’t seem at all romantic but in the end the romance in this story is one of my favourites.
What was your favorite scene to write?
It was the scene early in the book where Samantha decides to end her current relationship because she just doesn’t feel the right way about him. She’s asked her assistant to get Kyle on the phone and it’s not a conversation she is looking forward to………
She put the vodka down on her desk. It wasn’t the solution. She did not need it. She’d call Kyle, and then she’d treat herself to a double-shot espresso from the Italian coffee shop down the road before she headed to the airport.
She was nervous, and she had her mother to blame for that.
Gayle Mitchell had drummed into both her children that any relationship was the death of ambition and goals—an anchor dragging you to the bottom of the rough seas of life. Every time Samantha ended a relationship it made her doubly uncomfortable, because part of her felt as if she was pleasing her mother. Was that why she’d stayed with Kyle for so long? Because breaking up with him felt like something her mother would approve of?
Her phone lit up and she took a deep breath. The best way to handle this was to dive right in.
‘Hi, there. Firstly, I am so sorry about last night. I was buried in work and to be honest I didn’t even look up from my desk until midnight—’ She wasn’t going to say she hadn’t even realised she’d missed their date until Charlotte had told her, ‘Anyway, I apologise. But it did start me thinking.’
She heard an indrawn breath and ploughed on.
‘Before you speak, let me finish. Please. I have to be honest. The truth is, this isn’t working for me. I mean, you’re great company, and we always have interesting conversation and a good time, but we’re not exactly setting the world on fire, are we? We have these sedate dinners, or evenings at the theatre, where we behave like a middle-aged couple and you occasionally hold my hand on the way home. It’s all very civilised and restrained, and that’s probably my fault because we both know I’m not great at showing emotion. But I want to. You have no idea how much I want to be great at that. I want to feel stuff. But when you and I are together I just don’t feel it—and that’s my fault not yours. I’ve developed this outer self and sometimes I find it hard to connect to my inner self -’ wild Samantha.
She was probably saying far too much, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself.
‘Maybe we don’t have the right chemistry, or maybe I’m never going to feel anything because I can’t let go of this controlled person I’ve become.’ Thank you for that, Mother. ‘But I owe it to myself to at least hold out for more. I’m not expecting a storm of passion, but a light breeze would be nice. And you deserve that, too. We both deserve better than this bland, neutral, polite relationship. I think we should acknowledge that something is missing.’
She stared through the window at the swirling snowflakes, wondering how it was possible to feel lonely in a city that was home to hundreds of thousands of people. But among all those people how did you find that one person who was going to change your world? Honesty. That had to be a good start.
‘You don’t really know me, Kyle, and that’s my fault not yours. I – I’m not the person you think I am. I mean I am, but I’m also so much more. The real me wants to have a love affair so all-consuming that I forget to go to work—instead of forgetting the man and the date because I’m at work. I want to sneak off in my lunch break and buy sexy lingerie, instead of eating at my desk and taking calls. I want to drink champagne naked in bed, not seated in a theatre bar surrounded by strangers. I want to have wild, desperate sex without caring when or where and I definitely don’t want to think about work at the same time. I – I want to see stars when I’m kissed.’
Had she just said that aloud? Had she really just said that?
It was all very well resolving to be more open and honest, but it had left her feeling exposed and uncomfortable. She might as well have paraded down Newbury Street naked. Thank goodness she was ending it and wouldn’t have to face him again. This was what happened when she let wild Samantha take control. That version of her needed to stay locked away inside where she could cause minimum damage.
Dying of embarrassment, she forced out a few more words. ‘So what I’m saying is, it’s over. And I don’t think this will be too much of a shock to you. I know there are many things about me that annoy you—not least the fact that my sister is so important to me and we speak every day. But that is never going to change, and neither is the whole passion thing, so I think we should both just accept the way things are and agree, amicably, that it’s been fun but it’s time to end it.’
There. She’d done it. She’d said it. In fact she’d said far too much.
Samantha closed her eyes and breathed slowly to try and slow her racing heart. She hadn’t realised her feelings were quite so close to the surface.
Kyle still hadn’t responded, which she took to be a sign that he was shocked by her frankness. She was shocked, too. Drinking champagne in bed, naked? Where had that come from?
She gave him a few moments to respond and then gave up waiting. ‘This is… I’m starting to feel a little awkward…’ Understatement of the century. ‘Say something. Anything.’
There was only silence on the end of the phone.
Samantha felt a rush of exasperation, but also a growing sense of conviction that she’d done the right thing by breaking up with him. She’d spilled every one of her emotions all over him. She’d been honest and open, the way all those relationship books said you should be, and what had she got in return? Not warmth and understanding, but silence.
‘Kyle? What do you think?’
‘What do I think?’
The voice on the end of the phone was deep, rough and entirely unfamiliar.
‘I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else. We’ve never had dinner, boring or otherwise, and we’ve also never had sex, so I wouldn’t know about the chemistry, but drinking champagne naked in bed sounds like a pretty good date to me. And I have no idea who Kyle is, but clearly he’s a guy who needs to get his act together. Because you’re right—no one wants or needs a bland, neutral, polite relationship.’
Samantha sat without moving. Without breathing.
Charlotte was supposed to be calling two people for her: Kyle, and Brodie McKintyre, the guy who owned the lodge in the Scottish Highlands.
If she hadn’t been speaking to Kyle, then that could only mean…
Without saying another word, she reached for the vodka and downed it in one.
What was the most difficult scene to write?
The early scene where Gayle has the accident that makes her rethink her life. At that point in the story we know little about her other than the fact she’s tough and much admired as a businesswoman. I had to find a way to show the reader that there was a lot going on inside her, and that she wasn’t the woman she seemed to be. Here’s a taste……
Maybe she could have done more.
Maybe it wasn’t too late to rebuild what had been knocked down.
But she had to be the one to make the first move.
‘My daughter.’ Her lips formed the words. ‘Call…my daughter.’
She saw Cole’s face pale. ‘She’s conscious, but she has a serious head injury. She’s confused. She has amnesia.’
The EMT frowned. ‘Why would you say that?’
‘Because GM doesn’t have a daughter.’
Gayle thought about the baby they’d put into her arms. The way it had felt to be entirely responsible for the well-being of a tiny, helpless infant, knowing what lay ahead. How hard life could be. If it hadn’t been for the child she might have laid down and given up, but motherhood had driven her on. How could she give up when she had her daughter to protect? She’d wanted to swaddle her in steel and surround her with an electric fence to keep the bad at bay.
‘Gayle, do you know what day it is?’
Yes, she knew what day it was. It was the day she’d started questioning everything she’d believed was right. The day she’d realised that regret could hurt more than a bruised head and crushed ribs. How could she have got everything so wrong?
She tried again. ‘Call my eldest daughter.’
What if she died before she had a chance to fix things?
‘Eldest…?’ Cole looked nervous. ‘She doesn’t have one daughter, let alone more. Ms Mitchell—Gayle—how many fingers am I holding up? Can you tell me?’
Right at that moment she wanted to hold up her own finger. Her middle one.
‘Call my daughter.’
‘She isn’t confused. Gayle Mitchell has two daughters,’ Rochelle said. ‘I did a deep dive into her background before the interview. My research suggests they’re estranged.’
Estranged? No, that wasn’t right. True, they hadn’t seen each other for a while. Maybe a few years. All right, perhaps it was nearly five years… Gayle couldn’t remember. But she did remember their last encounter. When she thought about it—which she tried not to—she felt affronted and hurt.
None of it had been her fault. She’d been doing her best for them—which was all she’d ever done. She’d worked hard at being the best mother possible. She’d made sure she’d equipped her children to deal with the real world and experienced a mother’s frustration when her girls had made bad choices. She’d discovered the anguish of having all of the anxiety but none of the control. She’d done her best. It wasn’t her fault that they preferred the fairy tale to the reality. It wasn’t her fault that they were unable to appreciate how well she’d prepared them for adulthood.
Yes, relations between them were tense, but they weren’t estranged. That was a truly horrible word. A word with razor-sharp edges.
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
This book definitely showcases my writing style – it has humour, emotion and a sizzling romance as well as exploring other relationships, like mother/daughter, sister/sister. I had so much fun writing it, and I hope readers will love it too.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
My aim is always to entertain. I want to draw the reader into the world I’ve created, and I hope they will laugh while they turn the pages and feel uplifted when they close the book.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’ve just started my Christmas book for 2021. It’s in its early stages but I’m very excited about the story. My next release will be The Summer Seekers, which is out next spring. It’s a book I’ve been planning for years but it never felt like the right time to write it, until recently! It’s a multigenerational story about an 80 year old, Kathleen, who decides to take a road trip across the US – route 66. She needs someone to drive her and teams up with Martha, a 25 year old who is escaping life at home. Despite the differences in age and experience, they become friends on the journey and of course there’s romance along the way. The message is that it’s never too late for adventure!
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: A print copy of One More For Christmas – US only.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: What is your favourite Christmas tradition?
Excerpt from One More For Christmas:
This is the scene where Gayle is in hospital after her accident, and she is visited by her daughters Samantha and Ella – it’s the first time she has seen them for five years
Samantha looked at her, wary. ‘You asked to see us. Was there a reason?’
She was injured. They were her daughters. Her only family. Wasn’t that enough?
No, no it wasn’t.
‘I wanted to apologize.’ Up until that moment she hadn’t realised that was what she wanted, but she knew it now. She would do whatever it took to fix this situation. And it was true she was sorry for the way things had turned out, even if she wasn’t exactly sorry for the way she’d raised them. They didn’t know the truth, of course. She hadn’t shared that. She’d told them all they needed to know and not a single word more. The rest she’d tucked away inside her, like crumbs under a carpet. What mattered here wasn’t the past, but the future. Today was all about putting the first stitch in the serious tear in the relationship. ‘I wanted to say I was sorry for what happened last time we were together. I’m sorry I upset you.’ Gayle desperately wanted a drink of water to moisten her dry throat. She reached for it but Ella was there first, her hands round the cup holding it steady so Gayle could drink.
‘There.’ Ella’s voice was gentle. ‘I presume you are allowed to drink?’
Gayle nodded and sipped, encouraged by her daughter’s instinctive move to help her. Maybe there was hope.
Samantha by contrast was tense. Wary.
Gayle knew that if there was to be any chance of reconciliation, it had to be through Ella.
‘Tell me about your teaching.’
Ella froze. ‘Oh. Well,’ her gaze flickered to her sister, ‘I love teaching.’
Too late Gayle remembered that she’d promised Samantha that she wouldn’t mention Ella’s job. But she was being encouraging and positive, so surely that made it all right?
‘I’m glad you found something that works for you. But the most important thing is that you stuck at something. That’s good, too.’
Samantha’s eyes narrowed. ‘Mom –‘
‘All I’m saying is that I’m sure there have been times when it has been tough. Teaching can be stressful, I’m sure, but here she is, still teaching.’ What had Samantha said? That Ella didn’t feel her mother was proud? ‘I’m proud of you.’ She used the exact words. Said them loud and clear. ‘Proud that you found something you love and stuck with it.’
Ella slid a finger around the neck of her dress.
Gayle could see a sheen of sweat on her brow, but still Ella kept her gloves on.
This was painful for everyone. So stiff and unnatural.
Gathering together in this sterile hospital room wasn’t anyone’s idea of a fun reunion. This place might heal people, but it didn’t heal relationships. It didn’t fix families.
What should she do? What could she do? The only way to convince them of how badly she wanted to fix things was to show them. Prove she was genuine and committed in her intention to heal the rift. And to do that she needed time. How was she going to engineer that?
What excuse could she make for a family gathering that lasted longer than a courtesy hospital visit?
Out of nowhere she thought about that young journalist, Rochelle. What had she said?
‘I just love a big family gathering. Massive tree. Gifts in front of the fire’.
At the time, Gayle had been typically evasive in her answer knowing that on Christmas Day she’d be doing what she did every other day of the year. Working. Her girls had always hated that about her. Surrounded by friends whose families had yielded to commercial pressures and expectations, they’d begged her for gifts, for a tree, for a trip to the ice rink, for fairy lights and a snow globe. She’d said no to all of it of course, because Christmas was a particularly difficult time of year for her. She handled it by working, her goal to block it out and make it seem like any other day. She didn’t stare wistfully through other people’s windows. She didn’t allow herself to feel envious or sad, and she definitely didn’t look back. Instead she made a point of focusing on her own life. Working at least had a purpose, which was more than could be said for a snow globe.
But her girls had always loved the time of year and yearned for a kind of magical Christmas they’d somehow invented in their heads.
And suddenly she knew. What better excuse was there for a family gathering than Christmas?
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
For sisters Samantha and Ella Mitchell, Christmas is their most precious time of the year. But this year, they’ll be buying presents for the most unexpected guest of all—their mother. It’s been five years since they last saw each other. But when their mom calls out of the blue, Samantha and Ella cautiously agree to spend Christmas all together in the beautiful Scottish Highlands…
Gayle Mitchell is at the top of her career, but her success has come at a price—her relationship with her daughters. Her tough-love approach to parenting was designed to make them stronger, but instead managed to push them away…until a brush with her own mortality forces Gayle to make amends.
As the snowflakes fall on their first family celebration in years, the Mitchell women must learn that sometimes facing up to the past is all you need to heal your heart…
Meet the Author:
Sarah Morgan is a USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of romance and women’s fiction. She has sold over 18 million copies of her books and her work has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist.
Sarah lives near London, England with her family and when she isn’t writing or reading, she likes to spend time outdoors hiking or riding her mountain bike.
Join Sarah’s mailing list at sarahmorgan.com for all book news. For more insight into her writing life follow her on Facebook at facebook/AuthorSarahMorgan and on Instagram at @sarahmorganwrites Contact Sarah at email@example.com
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | GoodReads |