Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Christmas at the Gingerbread Café" by Rebecca Raisin

Christmas at the Gingerbread Café
by Rebecca Raisin

Christmas at the Gingerbread Café is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an interview with the author. You can also enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Christmas is the season the Gingerbread Café was made for … but owner Lily couldn’t be feeling less merry if she tried. She’s spent another year dreaming of being whisked away on a sleigh-ride for two, but she’s facing festive season alone – again. And, just to give her another reason to feel anything other than candy-cane perky, a new shop across the road has opened … Not only is it selling baked goods, but the owner, with his seriously charming smile, has every girl in town swooning.
But Lily isn’t about to let her business crumble - the Gingerbread Café is the heart of the community, and she’s going to fight for it! This could be the Christmas that maybe, just maybe, all her dreams – even the someone-to-decorate-the-Christmas-tree-with ones – really do come true!

Amazing Grace blares out from the speakers above me, and I cry, not delicate, pretty tears, but great big heaves that will puff up my eyes, like a blowfish. That song touches me, always has, always will. With one hand jammed well and truly up the turkey’s behind I sing those mellifluous words as if I’m preaching to a choir. Careful, so my tears don’t swamp the damn bird, I grab another handful of aromatic stuffing. My secret recipe: a mix of pork sausage, pecans, cranberries and crumbled corn bread. Punchy flavors that will seep into the flesh and make your heart sing. The song reaches its crescendo, and my tears turn into a fully-fledged blubber-fest. The doorbell jangles and I realize I can’t wipe my face with my messy hands. Frantic, I try and compose myself as best I can.
“Jesus Mother o’ Mary, ain’t no customers comin’ in here with this kinda carry-on! It’s been two years since that damn fool left you. When you gonna move on, my sweet cherry blossom?”
CeeCee. My only employee at the Gingerbread Café, a big, round, southern black woman, who tells it like it is. Older than me by a couple of decades, more like a second mother than anything. Bless her heart.
“Oh, yeah?” I retort. “How are you expecting me to move on? I still love the man.”
“He ain’t no man. A man wouldn’t never cheat on his wife. He’s a boy, playing at being a man.”
“You’re right there.” Still, it’s been two lonely years, and I ache for him. There’s no accounting for what the heart feels. I’m heading towards the pointy end of my twenties. By now, I should be raising babies like all the other girls in town, not baking gingerbread families in lieu of the real thing.
I’m distracted from my heartbreak by CeeCee cackling like a witch. She puts her hands on her hips, which are hidden by the dense parka she wears, and doubles over. While she’s hooting and hollering, I stare, unsure of what’s so damn amusing. “Are you finished?” I ask, arching my eyebrows.
This starts her off again, and she’s leg slapping, cawing, the whole shebang.
“It’s just…” She looks at me, and wipes her weeping eyes. “You look a sight. Your hand shoved so far up the rear of that turkey, like you looking for the meaning of life, your boohooing, this sad old music. Golly.”
“This is your music, CeeCee. Your gospel CD.”
She colors. “I knew that. It’s truly beautiful, beautiful, it is.”
“Thought you might say that.” I grin back. CeeCee’s church is the most important thing in her life, aside from her family, and me.
“Where we up to?” she says, taking off her parka, which is dusted white from snow. Carefully, she shakes the flakes into the sink before hanging her jacket on the coat rack by the fire.
“I’m stuffing these birds, and hoping to God someone’s going to buy them. Where’s the rush? Two and a bit weeks before Christmas we’re usually run off our feet.”
CeeCee wraps an apron around her plump frame. “It’ll happen, Lil. Maybe everyone’s just starting a little later this year, is all.” She shrugs, and goes to the sink to wash her hands.

This beautiful little novella has put me in the mood for a white Christmas! The author paints the world of Lily and Damon so vividly and you can't help being drawn into their story. I loved how strong a character Lily was despite her broken heart and there were some real laugh out loud moments in the rivalry between her and the very gorgeous Damon. The developing romance was sweet and well paced and I'd love to read more about them. Rebecca Raisin is a talented writer who easily pulls a reader into the lives of her characters and story - and holds you there until the book is finished! A highly recommended read.

Interview With the Author
Hi Rebecca, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Christmas at the Gingerbread Café.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Oh, there’s so many! I find it hard to single out any one writer because I like different technical things about so many. For example I like the magical way Joanne Harris writes, her use of metaphor is beautiful. Kristan Higgins writes characters who are so realistic, reading one of her books is like chatting with an old friend. I read all sorts of genres, and am inspired by so many writers.
What age group do you recommend your book for?
It’s one of those books that would suit any age. From late teens upwards. The main charter Lil is late twenties but her best friend and mother figure, CeeCee is much older. And of course there’s swoon worthy Damon who’ll appeal to anyone!
What sparked the idea for this book?
I saw a submission call for Christmas-themed stories and an idea sprang to mind. At midnight of course! I pictured the characters immediately, and the small town they lived in. The opening scene played out in my mind in such a detailed way that I immediately typed notes into my phone, and couldn’t wait to get up the next day to begin writing it. That night I dreamed about Christmas food, and decided that the story would be set in a café. So with the backdrop of food, the next thing was the relationships in the story. Lil, the main character, turns to CeeCee a no-nonsense Southern woman who tells it like it is, for advice, and I must admit I miss them now I’m finished.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
It was kind of both in this story. I wanted to write about Christmas and I heard CeeCee loud and clear! I pictured the first scene, and it flowed from there.  
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The end! I didn’t want to finish it, but you never know what’s around the corner!
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope you fall in love with the characters and that they seem like real people to you. Hopefully it’ll have you dreaming of the snowy town of Ashford, a white Christmas and lots of delectable food!
It's certainly very different to Perth! How long did it take you to write this book?
Including edits and copy edits, a couple of months.
What is your writing routine?
I drop my kids off at school then get stuck into it for a few hours before reality comes and taps me on the back and I have to do other things. Like work. Sigh!
How did you get your book published?
I submitted it to Carina UK (Harlequin) after seeing their calls for Christmas stories, and they contacted me a few days later! It was surreal, and very exciting!
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Read a lot. Write daily if you can. Even if it’s only ten minutes at a time. I heard or read somewhere that writing is like a muscle, the more you use it the better it gets. And I think that’s true. Enter short story competitions, and start small! It’s so easy to lose your way in an 80,000 word novel. Try short stories first. Or novellas. Shorter work is back in vogue with the advent of ereaders, so it’s easier to find a place for it now.
Great advice, Rebecca. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
We eat! We love cooking, and trying lots of interesting new recipes. We spend lots of time at the beach in summer, and of course, I love reading.
What does your family think of your writing?
They’re very proud of me. My mum always said I’d be a writer, and like they say, mum’s are always right. My partner does get tired of me constantly talking about fictional people though!
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I have a twin sister and we used to get up to lots of mischief. Now I have twins. I think that’s called payback.
Did you enjoy school?
Loved it, especially English.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
I adored it. Spent all my pocket money on books and could usually wrangle more out of mum if I tried hard enough!
Sounds like me! What was your favorite book as a child?
Melissa’s Ghost by Michael Dugan.
Who were your favorite authors as a child?
I loved the Baby-Sitters Club books by Anne M. Martin, and the Sweet Valley High books by Francine Pascal. I used to read them in a day!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I wrote off and on throughout high school, very average angst-y poems, until five years ago another writer suggested I try creative writing, and I fell in love with it.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
I think the fact I was read to as a child, and that my love of books was encouraged, definitely helped. I aim to do the same with my children. What’s more fun than reading?
You got that right! Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Christmas at the Gingerbread Café is the third book I signed but actually the first to come out, so I have heard from readers, and I almost fall over when I get messages telling me what they liked about it, and asking about what is next. The majority have asked if there is a sequel because they want more! It’s incredible that people take the time to write to you. And yes, there is something happening on that front …
So, what can we look forward to from you in the future?
There will be more books! Novella length and novel length. If you like Christmas at the Gingerbread Café, you’ll love the next book!
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Rebecca. I hope you have a great Christmas!
Thank you for having me here J

About the Author
Rebecca Raisin is a true bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in various short story anthologies, and in fiction magazines, and is now focusing on writing romance. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous men who have brains as well as brawn, is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships, and most importantly, believe in true love.
Rebecca lives in Perth, Australia.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for your chance to win one of five ebook copies of Christmas at the Gingerbread Café.