Christmas is the last thing on Cole Barrett's mind this year. He's barely hanging on trying to care for his two grieving children since his ex-wife died in a tragic accident. For the reclusive Cole, this is no time for gift-giving and celebration—and certainly not for a sunny-natured optimist to blow into his screwed-up life.
Physician Devin Shaw has long researched the curative powers of Lake Haven's mineral waters. Unfortunately, the hot springs are on Barrett property, forcing Devin to strike a bargain with the ranch's attractively gruff owner: she'll give Cole's children a magical Christmas, and Cole will allow her patients access to the springs. But can she work her holiday magic to heal the Barrett family's battered hearts—and her own?
I love Christmas books and Evergreen Springs is a holiday book with all four H's. Heartbreak, Healing, Happiness, and Hope. I loved every moment of this wonderful story and I am delighted to welcome RaeAnne to my blog. I bet you know who she is, but I'll recap anyway.
Q: I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when you found you’d made your first sale.
What an amazing time that was! It was actually 20 years ago this month, five years after I started my first book. I had finished two complete manuscripts and after numerous rejections, I finally had a glimmer of hope when an editor at Bantam Loveswept requested revisions on one book then asked to see anything else I had. I sent her the second book along with the revisions she requested. About a month later, I was home from work one afternoon with my five year old daughter, who was having a play date with two neighbor girls, when the phone rang. It was the Loveswept editor, with the news that she was offering me a contract for BOTH manuscripts. I managed to keep it together while I thanked her and verbally accepted the offer, then I literally had to sit down on the floor of my kitchen because my knees wouldn't support me while I called my husband to tell him – all while my daughter and her friends were running around squealing and the dog was barking up a storm. That night we drove 60 miles to go to dinner at our favorite place (Red Lobster, which still makes me laugh when I think of it). I remember sitting in that restaurant and thinking that my entire life was about to change. It certainly did!
Q: What was your most exciting moment as a writer. (I know that's a hard one because you were a journalist first. so let's make that a two parter.)
What was your most exciting moment as a journalist?
I was doing a story about a hot air balloon festival in Park City, UT and went up on a balloon, which for a moment or two went out of control. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time!
As a romance writer?
I have had so many exciting moments as a writer. Even after fifty books, I still get such a thrill each time I open a box containing my author copies of a new book. I also LOVE meeting fans who have been touched by my books. The first time I hit the New York Times definitely stands out as an exciting moment, though it was really surreal. My mom died unexpectedly in late September 2013 and my father was put on Hospice two weeks later. He died Nov 1 of that year – a Saturday – five weeks after my mom, and I found out the following Wednesday that my book CHRISTMAS IN SNOWFLAKE CANYON hit the NYT. When I heard the news, I burst into tears because my parents weren't there to see it, but it somehow felt like one last gift from them.
What a terrible and wonderful time. My heart goes out to you.
Q: Have there been any books, romance or other genres, that have greatly influenced you as a writer? What are they?
I have so many favorite books and authors, it's hard to nail them down to a few. I've been reading romance novels since I was about twelve years old and it's still my favorite genre. When I was young I adored Madeline Brent, Phyllis Whitney and Elizabeth Peters. I have always loved Regencies: Georgette Heyer and Clare Darcy were my favorites in that genre, then Carla Kelly and Mary Balogh. I am finding new favorites all the time.
Q: I am fairly sure you love Christmas. Evergreen Springs is the latest in your band of Christmas stories that include Snow Angel Cove A Christmas In Snowflake Canyon, The Cowboy’s Christmas Miracle and many more. So two part question:
Q: Artificial tree or fresh cut?
(Love the scene when Cole take Devin and the kids to cut a tree. Also love that each of the kids gets their own tree.)
For most of our married life we had a real tree. It was a lovely tradition, going to a great local fresh tree stand to pick out our favorite. Then we moved into a new house where we finally had room to store an artificial tree during the off-season and we've gone that route ever since. I kind of love not having to worry about watering it every day … and I can put it up as early as I want without having to stress about it drying out! I'm totally lazy, if you want the truth. I leave the tree pieces together year-round with the lights on and tuck it into a corner of my storeroom with a bag over it to keep down the dust. I love the convenience of it but do miss the live-tree tradition (and the luscious smell. The pine scent warmers I cheat with now just don't quite measure up).
You tempt me to go to artificial. But I don't have a place to store it. The dry-out is always with me.
Q: What are your favorite Christmas traditions?
We have many. When my kids were young, I would wrap up twenty-four of our favorite children's Christmas books and they would get to unwrap a different one each night of December leading up to Christmas Eve, then we would read it together. It was always so fun trying to guess which one they would open. We also love driving around looking at Christmas lights and each year we pick one really obscure, random item to look for in others' decorations. Our own little Christmas quest. Maybe a snowman with a red vest or a life-size Nativity. One year it was a turtle and, believe it or not, we actually found a lit-up turtle in someone's yard!
I am adopting both of these traditions as of this year!! How wonderful. Thank you.
(You mentioned a Christmas book - TV show in Evergreen Springs I never heard of. Did you make it up? If not, I want it.)
I invented it, actually. I love coming up with children's book ideas but I've never actually written one. I need to! My three favorite kids books:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss. This never gets old, no matter how many times I've read it.
Red Ranger Came Calling, by Berke Breathed. Funny and sweet and bizarre, all at once. It makes me tear up every time!
Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells by Barbara Park. Any of the Junie B. books are fabulous.
I have the first two, but I've never read Junie B. New treat in store.
Q: Any chance of getting the recipe for the wonderful hot chocolate Cole loves? I am a chocolate lover and I love recipes. I’ll swap for paleo no cook fudge, if you’re feeling healthy. Or double fudge brownie cake if you are not. I also have Kristan Higgins’ Gram’s Chocolate Cake on my recipe page on the blog.)
Luxurious Hot Chocolate
4 cups of milk (whole is best)
8 ounces of high-quality chocolate … I like Guittard semisweet chips. White chocolate works too for a different taste.
3 teaspoons of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (pure, not imitation)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Finely chop the chocolate. Even if using chocolate chips, the smaller the pieces, the better it will dissolve in liquid. On low heat in a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a low boil, whisking occasionally to keep from scorching. Add the vanilla, powdered sugar, salt and chocolate and whisk vigorously until the chocolate has melted. Heat for another 4 minutes, constantly stirring. Serve with a dollop of real whipped cream.
You can add lots of things to this recipe: Mint, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick. Whatever your preference. Just add herbs or spices to the milk while simmering. After it boils, remove from heat and let the milk steep for 10 minutes then strain off your add-ins and return to simmer before adding the chocolate and other ingredients.
I can't wait to try this. I would make it now, but I don't have any milk.
Thank you so much for answering these questions.
You're very welcome!
I have a copy of Evergreen Springs to give away to one lucky reader.
Be good to yourself, my friends.