I post this today for those who celebrate Christmas, and who have a little leisure at this busy time – which may be a very select few! But I hope it will be of interest at other times of the year as well.
Back in the depths of last December, I got a lovely little gift-box of a book, Whitstead Christmastide.
More than just a collection of stories on a theme, this is a collaboration between editors and authors to create a small English village, complete with a map and people whose paths cross and intertwine. The book was good for my soul, and warmed and cheered the long winter nights.
The collaboration continues with Whitstead Harvestide (which I quite enjoyed this past this autumn), and Whitstead Summertide, which I’m hoping will come out next summer.
I was intrigued with how this creation came about, and had many questions. So I asked my good friend Laura Selinsky, who has stories residing in all three volumes.
Gemma: How did you find out about Whitstead Christmastide?
Laura: The Whitstead Christmastide idea was proposed by Abigail Falanga, a wonderful speculative fiction author whom I “met” via social media. We share associations with Realmmakers, an organization for Christian speculative fiction authors, and have both written for Havok Publishing, which produces daily flash. Abigail, who became Whitstead’s first editor, suggested developing a Christmas anthology of short stories set in an English village in Dickens’ era. I immediately offered to write a Christmas Carol-inspired piece for Whitstead. I’m a high school British Literature teacher, so that’s a world I enter comfortably.
Gemma: How did you go about becoming one of its authors?
Laura: Waving my arms and shouting “Pick me!” on Facebook was my foremost method of getting into the initial anthology, which is independently published. The project attracted an interesting mix of aspiring prepublication authors and accomplished ones. I volunteered my Christmas Carol for consideration before the first Whitstead book had a title, and I followed up consistently with every hint that the anthology would become a reality. My diligence doesn’t mean that the editors couldn’t have decided to reject my stories. Jane Yolan has 400 books published, but she still gets rejections!
Gemma: How did the collaboration work? For example, how was the map decided on? Did you communicate with other authors, or only the editors?
Laura: The Whitstead collaboration has run largely through a Facebook Group that allows us to share characters and ideas with both the editors and the other authors. That’s where the map developed and where people share information about stories. We also answer each other’s questions about the era, both its social and writing practices. You never know what obscure information you may need for a story or who may have the answers you need. I recently answered questions about the trees in Victorian cemeteries, information I had acquired while preparing to teach Dracula for the umpteenth time.
Gemma: Your stories largely center around Whitwillow Farm. Where is that on the map?
Laura: The map has been -uhm- flexible, as authors and plot lines came and went. Whitwillow Farm has theoretically been at number 26 in Books 1, 2 & 3. Last week, I saw the map for Book 3. On the newest map, my farm remains at number 26 between two other country farms. Keeping Whitwillow Farm outside of the village has been crucial to the plot of all three of my stories.
Gemma: How was the writing, submission, and collaboration different for the second and third books?
Laura: As an author, I felt less terror that my work would be rejected once Book 1 went to print. For Book 3, my rejection terror level has subsided from “hysterical” to “moderate.” One very positive feature of writing a series has been the increase in collaboration and encouragement as the books have continued. In Whitstead Harvestide and the upcoming Whitstead Summertide, I made reference to a character having been lured away by a fossegrim, a Norwegian fiddle-playing demon that is the focus of another author’s stories. The fossegrim is only in my stories with the other author’s permission.
Gemma: Can the books be read in any order?
Laura: Certainly, the Whitstead stories can be read in any order. Our anthologies are planned for stand-alone speculative fiction stories. I wrote characters and subplots that connect from book to book, but reading all three books or reading them in publication order is not essential. When I drafted the third story, my critique group graciously read for consistency and development of character between it and the two previous stories. So if someone read my Whitwillow Farm stories in publication order, they won’t be disappointed.
Gemma: I have read the first two in order, and was delighted to see how many of the stories and characters progressed. (Some stories in the second anthology are independent of the tales in the first book, but still integrally woven into Whitstead.)
Laura: If you are interested in our adventures in Whitstead, my author page links to the first two Whitstead books, and a link for Whitstead Summertide will appear on that page when the book is released! https://www.amazon.com/author/laura-nelson-selinsky
Gemma: thank you for taking part in my blog and answering my questions, Laura!
Readers: if you are looking for some warm-hearted Christmas reading, or perhaps a very last-minute gift, I recommend Whitstead Christmastide. The e-book is available instantly on Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and you can find Whitstead Harvestide both places as well.
If you’d like to read a bit more from Laura on my blog, here are a couple guest blogs, (one also Christmasy), and a different interview with her.
Wishing a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and a happy, healthy mid-winter to all.