December 10, 2009

Review & Q&A: Secrets of a Christmas Box by Steven Hornby

Steven, welcome to Reading With Monie and thank you for taking the time to share your answers with us.

  1. Where did the idea of Secrets of a Christmas Box come from?

A: I first thought of the idea about the Christmas fantasy when I was on holiday in the south island of New Zealand, Queenstown to be precise. I was sat down outside a cafe near the lake, drinking a coffee on a cold June evening (as it was mid winter there), and noticed some Christmas tree lights wrapped around a bare tree, shining brightly.

I thought it strange but beautiful, there being Christmas lights out in the middle of the year, and began thinking of each one of the lights as characters.
One thing led to another, and soon I realized I had a whole tree full of characters available to me, those usually hanging from most Christmas trees. The story was also an ideal opportunity to answer some childhood questions I never got fully answered. For example: Why are there so many pine needles laying around under the tree in the morning when you come down stairs or in rooms no one has been in? And who rips the small holes in the Christmas presents under the tree? It was fun to try to create a story that also answered those questions.

  1. Since you initially planned the book as a screenplay do you have any plans to turn the book into a movie?

A: For the moment I'm focusing on creating an audience for the book. The idea of making it into a movie is certainly there. I have received a lot of feedback already suggesting the story for a CG (Computer Generated) Feature film, so who knows.

  1. Do you have any plans to extend the books into a series after the sequel?

A: I haven't thought too much about extending it into a series, after the sequel. I've been playing with the idea of writing the prequel, which explains so much more about Tree-Lord's origin. However this could be explained in the sequel too, so I'll see where that takes me first.

  1. What's the biggest obstacle you face when writing and how do you overcome it?

A: I sometimes get carried away with the story and details, so I have to be conscious of it and step back from my writing every few pages to make sure I'm leaving enough to the reader's imagination. I hope I've succeeded in doing that with 'Secrets of a Christmas Box'.

  1. Do you have someone you share your work with as you go along or do you wait to the end to reveal it?

A: I have to share my work as I go along, with my family and a few very close friends. Not only does it give me a fresh perspective on what I am writing, it also allows me to step back and look at the whole story, where I can check for plot holes and inconsistencies.

  1. Do you have any special writing quirks?

Yes, I'm afraid I do have a few which I really try to stay conscious of. I tend to use 'as' much more often than I should. For a while, I also wrote rather passively. It may have been a phase... Hmmm, or not!

  1. What’s your best reader fan story?

I had a wonderful time recently visiting a foster care facility over in Pasadena, CA. I had several groups of children to read a section of the book to and answer questions for. It was a real joy and pleasure to hang out with them.

  1. What character from your books would you say is your favorite and why?

Wow! Now that is a hard question to answer. To be honest, I don't think I do have an out-and-out favorite. How many times have you heard that answer. Sorry! Larry (The Glass Snowman) in 'Secrets of a Christmas Box', is obviously up there. He has such a big heart and grows so much through the challenges he faces on the adventure. If I really did have to choose one, it would probably have to be Tinsel (Larry's companion, like a pet dog). I based the character on my own Jack Russell 'Spike', who is unquestionably loyal, has a huge personality and thinks he's the size of a horse.

My Review:

When you were little did you ever wonder if the fridge light stayed on when the door was closed and as a result had your face glued to the crack to see if it ever turned off as you slowly closed the door? If you did then this book is for you and if you didn’t then it’s still a fun imaginative story.

When the house snuggles down for the evening the world of the Tree Dwellers comes to life. This year however they are short a few dwellers. When Larry the snowman realizes his brother is one of the missing he enlists his girlfriend Debbie, his pet Tinsel and a new comer, Splint in a search of the tree. Realizing that his brother was truly missing they come of with a plan. They are going against the rules by leaving the tree to go in search of The Christmas Box, their home during the long sleep. But the house is full of treachery around every corner and not just from the family cat.

I loved the premise behind The Christmas Box (me being one to stand in front of the fridge for minutes at a time LOL) but the delivery was a little harsh. Some of the incidents and descriptions surprised me as this book was geared towards children aged 9 to 12. I thought the story would be a light a happy adventure but it was filled with danger at almost every turn and it threw me out of my comfort zone. I can’t really recommend this to a younger audience and the story is too immature to appeal to many adults so I’m stuck who it’s recommended for but I thought the unique premise saved the overall rating of the book.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.

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Ladytink_534 said...

I was contacted about reviewing this but I'm really hestitant. I really do have a feeling that since it's geared for a younger audience it would irritate me and I'd hate to agree to interview something I'm not sure I'd like.

I did enjoy your interview though!

bermudaonion said...

Great interview - your questions are fantastic! It's interesting that this was planned as a screenplay first.