I follow Harpeth Road Press on Twitter because they're a new publisher of romance and women's fiction and I like to keep up with things like this. Through following them, I saw when they signed Emma Lynden for her debut romance, The Holiday Plan. I started following Emma also, and let me tell you, she posts some of the most gorgeous, uplifting, and cozy things! Her book just came out in January 2022 and I treated myself to a copy because it sounded like a delight, the cover is so pretty, and I've been following her journey this long, might as well see the finished product!
The book is so cute, I immediately knew I wanted to interview her. Check out my review, or scroll down to the interview.
My review of the The Holiday Plan by Emma Lynden:
I thoroughly enjoyed this charming, heartwarming, sweet romance by debut author, Emma Lynden. A big Shakespeare fan myself, I loved that the main character is named Verona. I also loved that she's a romance author. Following a broken heart, she books herself a solo stay in a castle in the snowy mountains. She's hoping to get her mojo back and write a great book, but she's extremely disappointed to discover she's smack in the middle of a huge retreat for singles looking for love. Troy Turner is the king of happy ever after and the relationship coach leading the festivities. Naturally, he's also fairly irresistible, although Verona does her best to resist.
While this is a fairy tale sweet romance, full of red and pink hearts, frosting, sprinkles, carriage rides, and pristine snowy mountain views, it's also a story of family and healing from loss. In sort, it's got all the feel-good sparkle of a good romance, but it also has depth.
I'll be looking forward to Emma Lynden's next book!
SJ: The setting is so lush in this book, did you model it off a real place or is it just a gorgeous product of your imagination?
EL: I wish it was a real place! Bits and pieces of the setting were based off of various, charming spots I’d seen on ski trips and vacations over the years. If there was one place that was on my mind the most when writing about Courtington Castle specifically, it would have to be the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, which I was lucky enough to visit in person, and which, outside and in, looks and feels just like a grand castle.
SJ: The names in this book hold a lot of meaning for the characters, such as Verona being named for the location of Romeo & Juliet and Luz being a source of light in her light. Did you name all of your characters specifically for their meanings?
EL: As far as naming my characters, Verona and Luz were the two that were very intentional for the exact reasons you mentioned. I was also deliberate about the names of my settings. Courtington Castle is a not-so-subtle nod to “courtship” and the book’s big matchmaking event. And calling the town Camelot Creek was a cute way of winding in the thread of kings, queens, and gallant knights in shining armor that’s prominently woven throughout the plot.
SJ: Are you a meticulous plotter or more of a pantser?
EL: By nature, I’m definitely more of a pantser in my drafting. I tend to take a flash of inspiration and run with it when I write. However, over the course of the editing process for The Holiday Plan, I learned the virtues of more meticulously plotting a story from start to finish.
SJ: What was your first spark for this story? Character name? The setting? A title?
EL: The very first spark for this story was actually a real-life moment. Chapter One of the book begins with an author receiving a disappointing rejection letter for her latest romance novel manuscript right on Valentine’s Day – and that’s exactly what happened to me. I remember sitting there, reading that email, marveling at the incredible irony of the timing, to have a love story rejected on a holiday all about love and romance. Needless to say, it wasn’t the sweetest way to celebrate. But that coincidence inspired the jumping-off point for a brand-new plot: an unexpected and utterly unromantic Valentine’s… and the rest of the story flowed from there!
SJ: You managed to have the sweetest scenes and decadent settings without it coming across as too saccharine or sappy. Was that a conscious effort or just how you write?
EL: I’m really delighted to hear that! I suppose a little bit of both. When reading, I prefer stories that are sweet without being too sappy, so I certainly kept that in mind when penning my own. I think a lot of credit also goes to the kind of books I gravitated towards growing up. Those childhood favorites were brimming with so much sweetness and delicious, poetic description without any of it ever feeling too over-the-top. The way those authors struck such an exquisite balance in their craft was always something that impressed me, and it went on to inform and inspire how I write.
SJ: If you could spend the day with one character from this book, who would you choose and what would you do?
EL: Oh, that’s a great question – so hard to choose! I’m going to have to go with my hero. Who wouldn’t want to spend the day with a dashing dating coach like Troy Turner?! And I would definitely do The Holiday Plan vacation experience: start the day with a decadent brunch buffet, do some fun wintery activities in between, and wrap it all up with a fancy, black-tie ball.
SJ: You captured the winter ambiance so beautifully in this book. Are a fan of winter yourself?
EL: I believe there’s so much beauty to be found in every season – and, even with its freezing temperatures and barren branches, winter is no exception! Sparkling snowfalls, glittering icicles and pine trees strung with twinkling lights outside. Hot cocoa, candlelight, and curling up by a crackling fire inside. Whether you’re taking a sleigh ride right through the snowy landscape or staring out at it from frosted window panes, mug of tea in hand, there’s something truly magical about a winter wonderland.
SJ: I love that this is a winter romance set at Valentine’s Day rather than Christmas. What made you decide to go with this often overlooked time of year?
EL: It was precisely because I hadn’t seen Valentine’s Day explored in novels nearly as often as Christmas that I decided to delve into all things red, pink, and romance-related within the plot of this book. It’s a holiday that allowed me to incorporate that same wintery warmth and coziness of Christmastime but also play with a very different aesthetic – lots of roses and heart shapes throughout the pages of this one! And, unsurprisingly, it ended up being the most beautiful backdrop for a love story.
SJ: Who are some of your favorite romance authors?
EL: Debbie Macomber’s books hit all the cozy, heartwarming notes I love, and Sophie Kinsella is a master of telling captivating, romantic stories that are richly layered with both depth and humor.
SJ: It takes a matter of hours to read a book, but so much longer to write. How long did it take you from first draft to completed book?
EL: It took me about four months to write the first draft. But between polishing it up, the submission process, the publishing process and the editorial stages therein, it was well over two years from that first draft to the finished book you’re holding in your hands!
SJ: I love the title, The Holiday Plan! Was that the original title of the book or did it change along the way?
EL: The original title that I had given the book was A Valentine’s Vacation. During publishing, it went through a few different title changes until The Holiday Plan was finally landed on as the perfect one.
Thank you so much, Emma!
Treat yourself to a lovely mental escape to the snowy castle where Verona and Troy meet too!
And here's the cover again because it's so beautiful!