Romantic Novelists' Association

The Ex-mas Holidays By Zoe Allison

10 November 2023

We are delighted that you could join us to talk about your new release. Could you tell us a little more about it? Thank you for having me! The Ex-Mas Holidays is a Christmas enemies-to-lovers rom com set in the Scottish Highlands. The heroine, Maya, is traveling home for Christmas after losing her job, boyfriend, and flat. She stops at her friend’s festive party on the way where she discovers there’s a hot naked butler serving drinks. But when he turns around, she realises it’s her ex, Sam!

Maya ends up working alongside Sam at the ski resort where they first met as instructors (his naked butler gig is a secret side hustle to make some money to help a friend). Sparks fly and they begin to discover that their break up wasn’t all it seemed…

What was the inspiration behind your book? What prompted you to tell this story? I found it interesting that friends and family remember stories from the past in different ways to me and the idea of a couple having very different interpretations of their break up and each thinking the other was the one that got away intrigued me. I was also inspired by the time a friend hired a male stripper for another friend’s 18th birthday and he came dressed a gorilla, but when he took his mask off, I discovered he was my mum’s friend’s son!

How did you decide on the names for your characters and the setting for your book? My heroine is mixed race and of a similar descent to me (she is half middle eastern and half white) so I wanted to choose her a name which straddled both cultures and I chose the name Maya from a list I googled. For Sam, I can’t remember where I got his first name from, but his surname (Holland) I stole from the actor Tom Holland! I do seem to remember seeing a photo of a good-looking bearded man called Sam on social media somewhere, and that was probably why I chose his first name. In terms of the setting, I was keen to write a series about a group of friends in the Scottish Highlands and a snowy, Christmas ski book seemed a good place to start for the first one!

How long did the book take to write? How much re-writing do you normally do? The initial version only took about 6 weeks because I was on a sabbatical from my day job at the time. But then, after beta reader feedback, I realised there was a lot wrong with it—in particular the characters not being well developed enough but also the story and conflict were too weak and so I re wrote the whole thing. Altogether I think it must have taken about 6 months. That was the most re writing I’ve done for a book. Normally I do a very rough first draft and then flesh out from there.

What is your writing day like? I don’t really have a day to write unfortunately, because of my day job as a doctor. So it’s little snatches here and there at evenings and weekends. Though sometimes I get a writing day if I can manage to sneak in a random annual leave day! I have a lovely writing room created out of our old cluttered, stuffy study which my fabulous husband helped me clear out and decorated for me, and now it’s a gorgeous, airy, writing haven where I go to write when I get a minute.

Without giving too much away, what was the hardest part of the book to write? The hardest part was going back to the drawing board to re write it—a very painful decision and process. But it was well worth it because the characters became much more 3D and also the genre changed a little from contemporary romance to rom com, because of Maya’s sense of humour. The result was a book which shone so much brighter than before and resonated even more with me.

What kind of research did you do before beginning the book? I didn’t do any specific research beforehand, but during writing I went on a visit to the Highlands. We live in Edinburgh so not too far away and I’ve been before, but I wanted to remind myself of the feel of the general area, plus the ski area at Glencoe because I have set my book in an imaginary ski town.

About the Author

Author Zoe Allison brown hair, glasses, red shirtI live in Scotland with my husband, two children, and massive notebook collection—having been brought up in a mixed-race family in Yorkshire.

Growing up, I always enjoyed stories about falling in love. But rather than daydreaming of being rescued by a knight in shining armour, I used to imagine myself fighting dragons alongside him, battling supervillains as heroic allies, or teaming up to dive into perilous waters and save the day. 

My favourite subject outside of science was English language and I enjoyed infusing humour into my coursework. I was delighted to discover that my writing had made the teachers laugh heartily as they partook of their much-needed caffeine fix in the staff room.

As an adult, I went off to medical school and became a doctor. However as time passed, I began to crave a creative outlet to counter the soul-sapping burnout that my career inflicted upon me, and also to achieve the happy endings that are so often lacking in the real world. I wanted to create heroines who represent me and my values, as well as heroes who truly love women—men who find their true loves inspiring, want to connect with them as soulmates, and fully open themselves to their partners on an emotional level. So, I decided that the logical way forward was to pen my own romances. I then opted to add my sense of humour into the mix and hey presto! I became a rom com author.

A Zoe Allison novel promises a heroine who is not only her hero’s equal in ability and intellect, but whose hero equals her in emotional intelligence. Her characters overcome conflict infused with spine tingling sexual tension to forge a deep connection as soul mates as well as lovers, and ultimately, they both rescue each other emotionally. Even if they might begin their journey as enemies…

To Buy The Ex-Mas Holidays