Romantic Novelists' Association

A Concert For Christmas By Helen Hawkins

15 December 2023

We are delighted that you could join us to talk about your new release. Could you tell us a little more about it? I’m thrilled to be on the RNA blog – what an exciting start to December! My debut novel, A Concert for Christmas, is a festive contemporary romance set in the fictional Cotswold market town of Cranswell. Sophie Lawson is a primary school teacher and is leading the town choir in their annual Christmas concert, but when their musical director leaves in a hurry, he’s replaced by handsome but infuriating Liam Hawthorn. But without giving any more away, it isn’t the first time Sophie and Liam have met. A Concert for Christmas is a classic enemies to lovers romance with all the warmth and hope of the festive season.

What was the inspiration behind your book? What prompted you to tell this story? Without giving too much away, my inspiration for A Concert for Christmas was an awful date that my best friend went on several years ago. She was part of the online dating scene for a while and instead of buying her something more traditional like flowers, one of her dates appeared with a bunch of helium balloons, which she then had to take on the date with her. She was giving them out to whoever would take them off her for days afterwards!

How long did the book take to write? How much re-writing do you normally do? A Concert for Christmas has been in the works since November 2019. It was the product of my very first NaNoWriMo and, following an encouraging tweet from Milly Johnson about how to extend a short word count, I signed up for a Curtis Brown Creative course to edit and rewrite your manuscript. Once through that process, I spent about 18 months querying publishers and agents. I usually try to get a first draft down quickly – I’d procrastinate forever if I edited as I went. Once I’ve written a first draft I have to leave it for a good month or so before I go back to it for a rewrite and I usually do this 3-4 times depending on the state of the first draft!

What is your writing day like? I’m a full time teacher and mum, so writing for me is something I have to squeeze in around everything else that life throws at me. I was lucky in some ways that the lockdowns during covid offered me time that I’d never had before, which is how I managed to finish my first book. These days, I try to do at least an hour of something that will further my writing career each day. But I also try not to feel too bad about it if I don’t manage to fit it in.

When did you realise you wanted to be an author? I’m sure that most authors will say that they’ve wanted to be authors forever. I didn’t realise I was one of them until I found my Year 6 leaver’s book where my teacher, Mrs Perkins, had written ‘I can’t wait to hear about when you win the Nobel prize for literature.’ I’m not sure I’ll ever quite get to those lofty heights, but writing has clearly been important to me for a long time, even if I didn’t realise it myself! Since then, I’ve always dabbled with writing. My Facebook memories often remind me of posts with various word counts or writing wins, but it’s only in the last four or five years that I’ve been able to take things seriously and finally finish anything worthy of real life readers.

What was your journey to publication? I think my journey to publication was one of being in the right place at the right time! I entered the I Am In Print Romance Novel competition in 2022 and came sixth with an honourable mention. There was no prize, but I was thrilled to have been named out of such a strong field. That honourable mention meant that my manuscript reached Saskia Leach from the Kate Nash Literary Agency and the rest, as they say, is history.

If you could give your younger writing self any advice, what would it be? As a full time teacher and mum of a five year old, I would definitely tell my younger self to stop procrastinating! It’s so frustrating to think about how many summer holidays and half term holidays I wasted where I had no responsibilities and could have been writing. Now, I have tiny pockets of time and sometimes struggle to get everything done that I need to! In some ways, the lack of time these days forces me to use it more wisely, but I do think back to the spare time I used to have and how I could have used it so much better!

Can you tell us what you are working on now? I’ve spent a lot of this month working on the copy edits and proofs for my second novel A Match to Remember, which is going to published by Allison and Busby early next year. At the same time (and I have no idea how!) I’ve just completed NaNoWriMo. It’s a second Christmas story set in the Cotswold town of Cranswell, this time focusing on a county nativity competition. And despite planning it meticulously, it’s taken an unexpected turn, with some characters from A Concert for Christmas making an unplanned reappearance. It’s not got a home yet, but I’m hopeful that once I’ve polished it up in the new year, it might find one.

About the Author

Author Helen Hawkins, brunette, straight hair, head on hand, patterned blue dressHelen is a writer, editor and English teacher. Her first attempt at novel writing was shortlisted for the Penguin Michael Joseph Christmas Love Story Competition and highly commended in the I AM In Print Romance Competition. When she’s not writing, Helen can be found editing, singing, and dancing with her local operatic society, or running around with her daughter and partner at their home in Oxfordshire.


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