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It’s Always Christmas. An Interview with Author Barbara Escher

Author Barbara-Escher
Christmas enthusiast and author Barbara Escher talks with Rick Lite of Stress Free Book Marketing about her love for the holidays and her new book The Girl Who Found Christmas.
RL: Tell me about your latest book and why you wrote it?
BE: It has bothered me for some time that many children’s Christmas books are entirely spiritual or awash in Santa and toys. I think children deserve to enjoy both the spiritual Christmas and the magic and beauty of the season. I don’t like the commercial Christmas any more than anyone else, but these days more than ever, kids deserve some magic. Offering that to children was my first goal for my book, The Girl Who Found Christmas: An Advent Calendar Storybook.
My second goal can be found in the word “Howard.” Throughout my book, my six-year-old heroine talks to God in her own words. In fact, she calls God “Howard,” as in “Howard be Thy name.” There was a time when she could not say “Hallowed,” and eventually, Howard just stuck. I wanted to encourage children to talk to God in their own words, without rules or formal prayers. And “Howard” worked for me.
Author Barbara-Escher
RL: What kind of challenges did you come up against while you were writing?
BE: My biggest challenge was matching the book’s language with its audience. Because I wrote for businesses for many years, it was difficult to tell a story for six year old’s without using language intended for adults (or at least much older children!).
This problem was solved when I finished the book and hired an editor who helped me match the language with the audience. Whew! I would have been in big trouble trying to offer a story intended for six year old’s to an adult audience!
RL: How long did it take you to write this book?
BE: Well, it took years. I was working full time when I started writing, and the first draft was so sweet and saccharine it made my back teeth ache.So I put it down for a while (a LONG while). When I picked it up again, the first thing I had to do was turn my “perfect” heroine into a real girl. Someone who was funny, playful, smart – but not sweet! That took even more time. And so I picked it up and put it down, and every draft was a little better. I learned more about writing, I read about writing, and stopped assuming that writing for adults was the same as writing for children. All in all, it took a long time, but it was worth every minute.
RL: Where do you get the information or ideas for your book from?
BE: The idea for “The Girl Who Found Christmas” grew out of my children’s love for their Advent Calendar. Every night in December, they would finish their dinner as quickly as they could swallow so that they could walk across the room to the Advent Calendar which was hanging on a door. They could be counted onevery yearto have a fuss about whether it was better to go first (since first is always a good thing) or second (which would entitle them to the Christmas Eve door). In those days, each door in the Advent Calendar revealed a picture or a verse. In later years, Advent Calendars included a small chocolate each day. But I always thought about the fact that the pictures and the verses and the chocolate didn’t last very long. And I decided that, if an Advent Calendar was so well loved, it would be nice to make each day’s reward last longer than a piece of chocolate. In fact, the length of a bedtime story seemed just right.
RL: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
BE: That I really could do it. It took me a long time to believe it.
RL: What advice would you give other authors who are just starting out?
BE: Trust yourself. And read “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott.
RL: Do you have any friends who are authors and have they helped you in any way?
BE: Yes. One friend is a novelist, and my daughter is a novelist. They have given me advice that is often wise, funny, and helpful. My friend told me to get my heroine out of the house and let her be occasionally just a little less perfect.
RL:What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
BE: A great editor!
RL: What was your hardest scene to write?
BE: I wrote a scene in which my six-year-old heroine was very worried that her kitty was lost for good. I was concerned that children would be distressed by that scene, but my editor said, “Barbara! Remember Bambi? Walt Disney killed off Bambi’s mother!” That was the end of my worrying.
RL: What does literary success look like to you?
BE:That my book becomes a true Christmas treasure, something that parents read to their children year after year.
RL: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
BE:I wanted to teach and tell stories.
RL: What would you like readers to know about you?
BE:That I never gave up. Like most people, there have been some hard times in my life, but I never gave up. And if you want to be a writer, it’s essential that you never give up.
RL: If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what would that be and would you have listened?
BE:Trust your ability to write. Don’t put it off and worry about failure. Just do it.
RL: What is the best thing you have done in your life so far?
BE: Raise two great kids.
RL: If you could choose one superpower, what would it be? What would you do with that superpower?
BE: The ability to be a truly great and successful writer. I want a cape with a giant “W”!
RL: If you could meet anyone from history, who would you want to meet and why?
BE: Winston Churchill. I am a person who loves words, and Churchill sustained and supported a nation through incredible trials by the strength of his personality and the brilliance of his words. The first time I visited England, my first stop was the statue of Winston Churchill in London. I was humbled by his talent and wanted to honor him as best I could. I visited the deepest tube station in London one day and scrunched my eyes up, picturing mothers lying on the concrete, cuddling their children, as bombs dropped above their heads. They had no way of knowing if they would have homes to go back to in the morning, and Churchill provided a steady, forceful presence for good. I’m not sure how they would have made it without him. I love his words.

Barbara Escher grew up in Philadelphia and loved seeing her city come alive with light and sparkle and color as Christmas approached each year. She read every book she could get her hands on, including Christmas favorites like The Night Before Christmas. 

She never lost that childhood love for Christmas, and today she often looks back on special Christmas memories, like much loved books she received as Christmas gifts.  She also remembers years she spent teaching and creating stories. First for every kid on her block. And later for a classroom and her own children. And she especially remembers how much her children loved their Advent Calendar and looked forward to it every year!

One day Barbara decided that she wanted to share a story that had been in her head for a long time. That story book became The Girl Who Found Christmas. It was important to her as she wrote the story that kids have both the traditional Christmas and the spiritual one. In her words the magic and the manger!

Today, Barbara lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband and Hope, their funny Havanese dog. She still loves Christmas and delights in decorating her Christmas tree with ornaments made by her children long ago. When Barbara isn’t writing, she spends time dipping her toes in the waves at the Gulf beaches and spending time with her children, grandchildren and grand pets (three dogs, three cats, and a turtle named Michelangelo).  

For more information about Barbara Escher and The Girl Who Found Christmas, visit her website.

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