Wendy Perriam tells us what Christmas means to her and her characters

Dear Father Christmas, what I’d really like for Christmas is some joy …..

9780709093862No, not the anguished plea of an unhappy child, but a letter from 55-year-old Ken, posted in the big red mail-box in Santa’s Grotto at his local shopping centre. Ken, the protagonist of the second story in my new short-story collection, Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers, is struck by the rarity of joy in his life, almost non-existent since his childhood. Yet the story ends on Christmas Day with him in euphoric mood, relishing the best Christmas dinner he’s ever experienced to date.

The short-story form itself could be described as joyous, in that it is so much less laborious than novel-writing. All these 15 new stories came easily and effortlessly, prompted by some small incident or even an offhand remark – the dismissive “Just yourself?”, for instance, with which I was greeted by the snooty manager when entering a restaurant on my own. Before I’d even glanced at the menu, a story took shape in my mind: unmarried, childless Ellen, receiving the same grudging welcome – and on her 40th birthday, of all days – feels unloved, unwanted and an all-too-obvious failure. Yet, by the end of the story, she, too, is considerably more upbeat and even has a ring on her finger!

Yet Christmas can be a challenging and lonely time for those without families or loved ones. The widowed, childless Primrose in my story, Lost, dreads what she sees as the “long, benighted days of the so-called Festive Season” and has to draw up a plan to make Christmas Day more endurable: a nice boiled egg for breakfast, a short walk to the Common, then back for the Queen’s Speech, a couple of mince pies, and an evening watching television – hardly very exciting, but at least it fills the empty hours.

And in Magical Numbers, young bride-to-be Lynne lands up in hospital in mid-December, with a badly broken leg, and faces the prospect of a pain-ridden, immobile Christmas in a ward full of elderly invalids. However, in her case, her spirits are high, because something magical has just occurred in that very hospital bed: “serendipitously, and in the nick of time, she has managed to “escape an onerous life-sentence”.

I personally detest Christmas, with its fake good cheer, the increasingly crowded shops and increasingly irritable shoppers, and the obligation to spend, spend, spend, cook, cook, cook, and tirelessly celebrate this season of hype and hysteria. I may sound like a Scrooge, but when Christmas catalogues begin arriving as early as July, one gets heartily sick of glitter, baubles, reindeer, robins, recorded carols in the supermarkets, and all the razzle-dazzle rest of it, by the time Christmas Day actually arrives.

However, on 14 January, when Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers, is officially published, I’ll be truly celebrating – not just the new book, but the fact that the days are getting longer, the mornings lighter, the first snowdrops are in bloom, and Christmas is over for another 345 days!

Bad Mothers Brilliant lovers will be published on 14 January. Pre-order your copy here.

Christmas Favourites from Robert Hale Ltd

Wondering what to buy your nearest and dearest this holiday season? Wonder no more. We at Robert Hale Ltd have got something for everyone – from gripping ebooks for the technologically advanced to the ultimate Bat-bible for comic book fans and everything in between.

For fans of classic British literature, check out Maggie Lane’s Understanding Austen. Lane, acclaimed author of many Jane Austen books, turns her attention to the fascinating nuances of Austen’s language and the way it embodies her most profound beliefs about human conduct and character. Jane Austen Award nominee Amanda Grange shines a light on the life of Sense and Sensibility’s Colonel Brandon in Colonel Brandon’s Diary, offering fans of Austen’s work a chance to explore her world a little further.

If you know people more inclined to pick up a comic book than an Austen novel, however, we have the ultimate Bat-bible, Holy Franchise Batman! by Gary Collinson to entertain any bat-fans, even the more knowledgeable ones. The book follows the many manifestations of Bruce Wayne/Batman over the years from TV to cinema and is filled with fascinating Bat-facts.

If your loved ones shy away from books altogether, preferring to pick up their Kindle or Kobo and delve into an ebook, our ebook range includes everything from westerns to crime and romance. We have Robert Goddard’s first ever book Past Caring, the brilliant Inspector Box crime series by Norman Russell or the Helen Forrester series: Three Women of Liverpool, Liverpool Daisy and The Latchkey Kid. Both Aunt Letitia by Dominic Luke and Elizabeth Jackson’s Language of Thieves have zoomed up the Amazon rankings recently or you could try Peter Tickler’s Blood in Oxford series: Blood in Grandpont, Blood on the Cowley Road and Blood on the Marsh.

Don’t forget to check back with us for our Christmas ebook catalogue… coming soon!

If you fancy giving the men in your life something to laugh about this holiday season, check out Wearing Combovers and 49 Other Things That the Modern Man Shouldn’t Do, a book suitable for men both young and old that is packed with witty, laugh-out-loud observations on the human condition. Ranging from ‘Don’t be a Bond fantasist’ to ‘Don’t leave a high-five hanging’, this book is a hilarious addition to any man’s Christmas stocking.

If, however, your man is much more of an exercise/fitness fan and likes to keep in shape, our comprehensive guide Marathon Training by Nikalas Cook is sure to get them to the finishing line safely. In 28 weeks, you can go from complete non-runner, through your first 5k, 10k, half-marathon and finally to success in the full 26.2 miles of the marathon.

For those friends and relatives who love nothing more than to curl up this winter with a great piece of fiction, we have plenty to choose from. Delve into any of the compelling historical fiction tales by the late E.V. Thompson, including his final book, The Bonds of Earth. Alternatively, enjoy Wendy Perriam’s amusing writing edge either in Broken Places as librarian Eric struggles to move forward in his life or with I’m on the Train!, Perriam’s book of entertaining short stories.

Whatever you end up buying or reading this holiday season, enjoy yourself! Happy Christmas and season’s greetings from all at Robert Hale Ltd.