Monday 16 November 2020

Christmas Wishes, by Sue Moorcroft

Regular blog readers will know I've been friends with Sue Moorcroft for a while, having met at the Kettering Writers Group in 1999 (the group leader was of a more literary bent, so we genre writers were consigned to the back of the room, where we had great fun).  Since then she's gone from strength to strength, hitting number one in the Kindle Bestseller charts (with The Christmas Promise), becoming a Sunday Times Best Seller and her novel from last year, A Summer To Remember (which I wrote about here) won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2020.  As well as featuring her a lot on blog (to see more, click this link), I'm also pleased to be one of her beta-readers and thoroughly enjoyed her latest novel, Christmas Wishes, now available in paperback and as an e-book.
A sparkling Christmas read from the Sunday Times bestseller – perfect to snuggle up with this winter!

Hannah and Nico are meant to be together.

But fate is keeping them apart…

As soon as Hannah bumps into her brother Rob’s best friend Nico in Stockholm, the two rekindle a fast friendship. But Hannah has a boyfriend – and Nico has two children to look after.

When Hannah loses her beloved shop in Stockholm, though, she is forced to move back to the little village of Middledip – only to find Nico has just moved in too. Under the same snowy sky, can the childhood friends make a romance work – or are there too many obstacles standing in their way?

A heartwarming story of love, friendship, and Christmas magic, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley and Jill Mansell.

With the pandemic still in full swing, Sue Moorcroft and I weren't able to have our regular get-together at The Trading Post (and oh, how I've missed that), but went virtual instead as we discussed her new novel.

MW:     First off, thanks for agreeing to the chat and coming back onto the blog, it’s always a treat to have a chat with you.  So, what can you tell us about the new book?

SM:     Always great to speak to you, too, Mark, even if, sadly, The Trading Post isn’t involved this time. In Christmas Wishes Hannah loses her lovely shop in Stockholm and her fink of a boyfriend becomes her ex, trying to cheat her in the process. Nico, who’s originally Swedish but lives in the UK, has to downshift with two kids to look after, an unsympathetic boss and Nico’s eating disorder aggravated by the stress. Hannah and Nico knew each other as teenagers and both find sanctuary in Middledip village. Their entwined stories takes them between cosy Middledip and snowy Sweden, influenced both by members of their lovely families and less-lovely non-family characters.

MW:    As ever, with your novels, the conflicts that drive the plot feel very real and very contemporary.  With Hannah maneuvered out of her business - and nearly swindled out of her money too - cash or the lack of it becomes a very emotive subject.  What made you choose it?

SM:     My first job out of college - my only full-time day job, to be honest - was in a bank. I worked closely with the lending team and learned how emotive money can be. Normally civilised people can be transformed when money’s at stake and Hannah’s ex, Albin, definitely falls into this category. It’s not even that he’s short of money! Maybe it’s that ‘money is power’ and he enjoys keeping Hannah dangling. I’m always interested by how businesses run, too. Small businesses become personal to their owners and it’s a deep grief when those businesses are lost or threatened.

MW:       Nico is a terrific character, who really gets put through the wringer in this.  What made you choose to have him suffer an eating disorder?

SM:     It’s usually women with eating disorders I read about and the people I know personally who admit to past eating disorders are also women. Then I heard retired Formula 1 star David Coulthard speaking about his bulimia as a teenager and how it was wrapped up in his need to be below a certain weight as an athlete. I felt conscious that I’m as guilty as anyone in assuming eating disorders to be the female preserve and so gave the issue to my hero, not my heroine. Just before the book was published Freddie Flintoff, cricket legend and now Top Gear presenter, came out about his own experiences with bulimia. The surprise with which this moving documentary was greeted made made me glad I’d decided to shine a light on the subject.

MW:    As always with your books, the level of research is exceptional, with a lot of information transferred to the reader without the piece becoming a travelogue.  What was the research process like for this one?

SM: My British-Swedish friend, author Christina Courtenay, said, ‘If you ever want to set a winter book in Sweden we could go together and stay with Mum.’ So that’s what we did. We talked about what my areas of interest would be and she put the whole trip together, including lining up people for me to talk to about ice hockey, people who’d emigrated to Sweden, an upmarket area of Stockholm called Östermalm and Swedish education. She booked everything except for the hotel in Stockholm. I did that and booked the wrong one. As well as being bilingual and better at making bookings, she’s knowledgeable about history so was the perfect tour guide. Her mum took us to an ice hockey match and furthered my education on the game, too. On non-Swedish subjects, much of my preliminary research is now kindly conducted by my brother Trevor. I email him a list of topics I need to know about or questions I need answering and he provides me with the reading matter or answers. It saves me a lot of time! I also consulted someone at a fostering agency and an HR expert (who also happens to be my niece, author Ella Allbright/Nikki Moore) and a nursery nurse (also my niece, Ashley Panter).

MW:    Fostering plays a key part, did you learn anything surprising during your research of it?

SM:     I suppose I thought that fostered children were always placed by the state when it was impossible for their parent/s to look after them. What I hadn’t appreciated is the number of less formal arrangements there are where family members and friends step in. They take the initiative in a time of need and then social agencies get involved to make sure it’s a viable situation. When I first conceived the idea that Nico and his ex-wife, Loren, would have had created Josie between them but Nico would also later look after Maria, Loren’s child by another man, I worried the situation would seem unlikely. I hadn’t realised Nico could be considered ‘kin’ to Maria even though she was born after his marriage to her mother was over. Kids being neglected grab headlines but I’m glad I was able to write about the other side, the wonderful people who step in out of the goodness of their hearts when a child is in trouble.

MW:    As a longtime reader of your work - and I know others are too - what can you tell me about the Middledip Bibles? You refer to them in the acknowledgements and dedication of Christmas Wishes. They’re something to do with your brother, too, aren’t they?

SM:     My first book set in Middledip was published in 2010 (Starting Over) so Christmas Wishes is ten years later and I began to lose a sense of continuity for recurring characters, although each book stands alone. I’d need to know how long Gabe had lived in the village or when Carola’s husband left her and have to flip through books trying to find the information. Trevor undertook the mammoth task of rereading all the novels set or partially set in Middledip and constructing a vast spreadsheet so I can now see at a glance when Tess and Ratty had a baby or Carola met Owen. He did a similar thing with places, such as the pub or shop, but there are fewer of those. We refer to these spreadsheets as ‘The Middledip Bibles’.
NB There’s a page for my Middledip books on my website here and a map to show where everybody lives.
NB2 Not all of my books are set in Middledip, or visit it, and details of all my writing can be found here.

MW:    As always, having now read Christmas Wishes and I'm keen for more, so what’s next for you?

SM:     I’m editing Under the Italian Sun, presently scheduled for publication in May 2021. It’s set in Umbria, Italy, as One Summer in Italy is - Montelibertà. I’m not sure where the idea came from but I wanted to write about someone who became aware that there was another person with a name that seemed linked with hers. Although she’s British, my heroine’s name is Zia-Lucia Costa Chalmers and she’s been told an Italian lady called Lucia Costa was kind to her, but she’s never known who she is. When Zia-Lucia discovers two birth and death certificates for her mother Victoria Chalmers, each bearing different dates, she looks for answers. Her starting point is searching for Lucia Costa. And does she find her? Yes, she does …

Thanks for inviting me for this virtual chat, Mark. Let’s hope real meet-ups are not too far in the future!

Sue Moorcroft is an international bestselling author and has reached the #1 spot on Kindle UK. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Published by HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by other publishers around the world.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire at the age of ten. An avid reader, she also loves Formula 1, travel, family and friends, dance exercise and yoga.


  1. Thanks for inviting me onto your wonderful blog once again, Mark. As always, it's a real pleasure to chat - even virtually. :-)

    1. You're very welcome, there's always space for you here! 👍