Hi Claire and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Sleigh Bells in the Snow!
Hi! I’m so happy to be here today!
Tell us about the book with this fun little challenge using the title of the book:
Sleigh Bells in the Snow is an enemies to friends to love story, with a lot of conflict and a whole lot of Christmas joy. The heroine, Scarlett Ray, owns a home décor shop in her adopted home of Christmas Town Maine. But she isn’t feeling much holiday spirit. Her to-do list is overwhelming and it’s tough to navigate the first Christmas since her parents’ divorce. Then she learns that her landlord is planning to tear down the beautiful, historic building where she lives and works!
The hero, Chase Bailey hates to remove such a great looking building, but it’s falling apart and beyond repair. Plus, he needs to turn a profit so he can support his mother during her illness and start a trust fund for his autistic brother. His decision seems simple until Chase meets his quirky, fiery tenant. Scarlett swears she’ll challenge him every step of the way to save the old building she loves.
Chase and Scarlett gear up for a fight, but the battle lines get blurry when they find themselves working on the same volunteer project. And when they start to see the good in each other. It’s hard to stay enemies when anger becomes friendship, and friendship feels a lot like love.
What’s your favorite line(s) from the book?:
“I heard that you had a fit at The Tea Pot,” Maddy said. “It’s all over town. They’re calling it The Tempest at The Tea Pot. I think they even named a coffee drink after you.”
Oh great. Scarlett had managed to avoid getting caught in the Christmas Town gossip network all of these years. And now her one slip-up was so epic, it had its own name? And a signature beverage?
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
Scarlett Ray owns a home decor shop and an interior design business. She’s very focused on making her shop a success, She is like many of us, I think, in that she gives too much of herself in an effort to be there for others, but then finds she is worn out and can barely get it all done.
Chase is a driven real estate developer who grew up quite poor. This experience has kept him very focused on earning enough money to support his mother and brother. I don’t think he’s given a lot of thought to anything else, which makes him pretty awkward when he has to deal with emotions and attraction.
I think Chase is attracted to Scarlett first, because she is so different than anyone he’s met, and she is so strong. He might not like her but he cannot stop thinking about her! Scarlett puts Chase so far into the evil landlord category from the very beginning, that it takes her a while to realize that he’s handsome and kind and a good person. But as she starts seeing the different sides of him she is drawn to his kindness, his good deeds and the way he tries to take care of everyone around him. And he’s pretty handsome, too!
When you sat down to start this book, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What were you most excited about?
My biggest challenge was writing in someone else’s world. This is the fifth year there have been stories in Christmas Town, but my first time being a part of it. I had to study and get to know the town before I could even start writing! And the past Christmas Town stories have been wonderful, so I felt a lot of pressure to come up with something that would measure up.
I quickly became very excited about my story because there is so much chemistry between the heroine, Scarlett, and the hero, Chase. They are opposites, and on opposite sides of a big conflict, and sparks were flying every which way! I didn’t quite know at first, how they could possibly fall in love. But they sure did!
What, in your mind, makes this book stand out?
Sleigh Bells in the Snow is one of twelve books in the 12 Days of Heartwarming Christmas sweet romance series. The series premise is pretty unique! All the books are all set in the fictional town of Christmas Town, Maine, which is sort of a character in and of itself. And all the stories center around the restoration of the town’s carousel, and a Christmas Eve wedding that follows.
I think this series really stands out because the stories weave in and out of each other, and they all end at the same, Christmas Eve wedding.
And my book stands out because there are some very strong and uplifting messages about Christmas and finding happiness even when life is difficult. Readers really take an emotional journey with Chase and Scarlett, and their families, to get them to their happily ever after.
The First Kiss…
He lifted his arm and she spun under, laughing, and he couldn’t resist anymore. He pulled her close again and brought his mouth down to brush hers, just lightly. Just barely.
They both stopped, and he thought for an instant that he’d made a huge mistake. That he’d ruined everything.
But she didn’t slap him. She didn’t even push him away. Instead, slowly, like a Christmas miracle, she slid her hands up around his neck, went up on tiptoes and kissed him back, her mouth soft and seeking.
After thinking about her so much, he didn’t have to think anymore. What a relief to set aside, at least for tonight, all the reasons that they shouldn’t do this.
So much easier to wind his hands into her hair, as he’d wanted to do since he saw her long, ropey curls. How much easier to press his mouth to hers, to let the longing he’d been feeling become touch and taste and a need so great that it seemed like he’d never be able to bring her close enough to his heart.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
I think The Tempest at The Tea Pot would be a great seen for an audition. She’s furious and he’s embarrassed and as a result, kind of a jerk, and everything goes from bad to worse. Here is a snippet.
And here it was. The thing he really didn’t want to say in the middle of The Tea Pot. “What’s there right now is a building too far gone to repair. A total wreck. I’m surprised you’ve stayed there as long as you have.”
“It’s not a wreck! It’s beautiful. With all kinds of character.” She paused, her eyes getting bigger, as if his words were sinking in. “Wait… too far gone? What do you mean?”
He didn’t want to say it here, in this public-relations nightmare scene. He should have gotten out ahead of this story. Let the town know what a mess the building was, and what a bad deal he’d gotten, before he evicted her.
But he’d been distracted lately. And now a complicated issue was reduced to simple, incomplete gossip that would be around Christmas Town in minutes. And he was going to look like the villain of this story.
“There are many things to consider. The building is in terrible shape. It’s not safe for you to live there or have your shop there anymore.”
“But you could fix it,” Scarlett said slowly. “And I could find a temporary location and then move back in.”
“It’s not fixable.” Chase resisted the urge to loosen his tie. It was hot in here, hot under all this pressure, but he couldn’t let that show.
“Not fixable? You mean you’re going to tear it down?”
There was a collective outraged gasp from their audience.
If your hero had a sexy-times play list, what song(s) would have to be on it?
It’s not a super sexy song, but Keith Urban’s song Parallel Line was on a lot while I wrote this story. It reminds me of Chase, because he has to make himself so vulnerable to get through to Scarlett, and to get her to see who he really is.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
One of the early reviewers said that Sleigh Bells in the Snow is “… a story about the spirit of Christmas, about trust, about overcoming the fear of loss, about community spirit, and above all, about finding true love where you least expect it.” I feel like I can’t say it any better than she did (thank you, Yvonne!) because that is exactly how I felt when I finished writing it. I don’t always know what the end message of a story will be while I’m writing. But when I finished the first draft of this story I knew I had a book about faith on my hands. And a message that even when life isn’t perfect, we can still find joy around us.
What are you currently working on? What are your up-coming releases?
I am writing a three-book series for Harlequin’s Heartwarming line that takes place in my fictional Northern California town of Shelter Creek. There are ranchers who are trying to make ends meet, biologists who are trying to protect wildlife, and a book club called The Book Biddies who just might find a way to bring everyone together. The first book will be out in July, 2019. It’s a big, emotional story with a lot of heart and some humor too!
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Since we all need pumpkin spice lattes… a $10 Starbucks Giftcard and some cute fall leaf stickers!
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Sleigh Bells in the Snow is about the Christmas spirit, and how we can create that magical Christmas feeling around us even when life isn’t going quite the way we’d like it to. What kinds of things put you in the Christmas spirit? Is it the songs? The decorations? The shopping? Time with family and friends? Please share what you love about the holiday season!
Excerpt from Sleigh Bells in the Snow:
The members of the Christmas Town historical commission were assembled around a huge table when Scarlett burst through the council chamber door on Monday afternoon. She wasn’t late, but she was barely on time, thanks to one of Lisa’s wedding décor panic attacks. Scarlett had hopefully talked her down from a last-minute change in her color scheme.
“Oh, look who you brought!” Heddy Pearson jumped out of her seat at the sight of Holly. Scarlett had dressed her for the meeting in a green and red pinstriped sweater that Carrie insisted was doggy business casual.
Heddy knelt beside the snuffling corgi and read the note Carrie had pinned to Holly’s sweater. “Please don’t tear down my home. Oh, how sweet, she’s campaigning.”
Nancy Emerson, a nurse at the Christmas County Hospital, peeked out from behind the giant binder propped on the table, titled Historical Commission Policies and Procedures. “Commission members must remain neutral, Heddy.”
“I’m neutral,” Heddy said, scratching Holly in just the right spot behind the ears, inspiring small snorts of pleasure from the blissed-out doggy. “Just because I like dogs doesn’t mean I have to recuse myself.”
Chase Bailey rose and indicated the seat next to him. “Thank you for coming, Scarlett.”
As if he’d invited her. Sheesh. “Oh, you’re welcome. I figured I’d attend, since I requested this meeting in the first place.”
He gave her a long look she couldn’t possibly decipher, as she wasn’t in the habit of reading the minds of rich, selfish real estate magnates. But yes, Maddy’s friend Taylor was right. He was… hot. If you liked chiseled cheekbones, dark brown, shiny hair, and broad shoulders.
Fortunately, Scarlett couldn’t care less about how Scrooge Bailey looked. She dragged her eyes away, to show him just that, and pulled a file folder from her tote bag. There was nothing in it, just some typing paper, but Carrie had said it would make Scarlett look more official.
“And you brought… a dog?” Chase looked from Holly to Scarlett as if he’d never seen a corgi in a Christmas sweater before.
“This is Holly. Don’t worry. She doesn’t bite people she likes.”
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Scarlett Ray owns a home décor shop full of Christmas cheer, but she isn’t feeling much holiday spirit. Her to-do list is overwhelming and it’s tough to navigate the first Christmas since her parents’ divorce. Then she learns that her landlord is planning to tear down the beautiful, historic building where she lives and works!
Chase Bailey hates to remove such a great looking building, but it’s falling apart and beyond repair. Plus, he needs to turn a profit so he can start a trust fund for his autistic brother. His decision seems simple until Chase meets his quirky, fiery tenant. Scarlett swears she’ll challenge him every step of the way to save the old building she loves.
Chase and Scarlett gear up for a fight, but the battle lines get blurry when they find themselves working on the same volunteer project. It’s hard to stay enemies when anger becomes friendship, and friendship feels a lot like love.
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Meet the Author:
Claire McEwen is an award-winning, contemporary romance author whose strong heroes and heroines take big, emotional journeys to find their happily-ever-afters. She lives by the ocean in Northern California with her family and a scruffy, mischievous terrier. When not dreaming up new stories she enjoys gardening, discovering flea-market treasures and walking on the beach. A life-long bookworm, she always has her kindle close by!
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