Abiola Bello on writing Only for the Holidays outside of Christmas

And how she spends her Christmas.


Previously, we have had the honour of inviting Abiola Bello to chat about her wintery read, Love in Wonderland. We are excited to announce that she is back to chat about her newest book, Only for the Holidays. Featuring city girl Tia who is dreading the festive period and country boy Quincy who is helping his family run the town’s Winter Ball, Only for the Holidays is the perfect light read as we step into the holiday season.

Congratulations on your second book! How is this book different from your debut novel in terms of the writing process?

Thank you! I found writing Only for the Holidays lots of fun. The words just seemed to flow and maybe because I had already done a dual narrative romance it all seemed to come together much easier. If anything I wrote too much and we had to cut about 20K words. When I wrote Love In Winter Wonderland I was still in the raw grief stages so I wasn’t very present during that process so it was nice to get another chance to write a Christmas book.

Was it difficult writing this book when it was not the festive season? What did you watch or read to keep you inspired?

It’s surprisingly not hard to get into the festive spirit! With Love In Winter Wonderland I listened to lots of Christmas music especially O Holy Night by Mariah Carey to get into the vibe but this time round I mainly listened to love songs. One in particular was Trillions by Alicia Keys and Brent Faiyaz which helped with all the swoony scenes with Quincy and Tia. The main thing I did do was spend the day in the countryside, went to a vineyard, a stables – and I kept a very safe distance from the horses.

Only for Holidays alternates between Tia and Quincy’s perspectives, who have very different personalities. How did you ensure you wrote very separate voices?

Because they have such different personalities it was pretty easy. Quincy is just a nice, easy going guy who has a pretty straightforward life but he’s found himself in an unfortunate situation. But with Quincy this is out of character for him where as Tia’s life has been a bit more shaky so she’s more on edge about things. Tia is also very similar to me lol in terms of her displeasure of the countryside, horses, ice-skating etc. All of that was not hard to write!

And you mentioned you are a city girl. How did you manage to get Quincy’s tone so right?

I know a few really nice guys so Quincy is all of them wrapped into one. And everyone I know that lives in the countryside just loves it so much! They also have a more relaxed nature about them that us city people don’t tend to have.

We are often surrounded by food during the Christmas period and you mentioned some Nigerian food such as jollof rice and egusi stew, but also mentioned carbonara and Nandos. Why did you decide to not just focus on Nigerian cuisine in the book?

I was brought up on Nigerian food and British and everything else. Tia’s mum Tope is first gen British-Nigerian so she’s basically me and I don’t just eat Nigerian food. Also Quincy is not Nigerian. Plus I eat Nandos way too much. At Christmas with my family we fuse Nigerian and British cuisine which I think every ethnic person does. For me that is Christmas so you can see why Tia was so annoyed to be missing out on that this Christmas!

Speaking of Black representation, in general, how did you decide what kind of representations to include?

I’m all about diversity so I don’t think too deep about what should be represented – everyone should be represented. My main characters are always going to be Black as that representation is not just what’s personal to me, it’s also what’s needed.

And finally, what can we expect from you next? Another Christmas story or something different?

I have some fun books coming out but I have finished writing my third YA rom-com – not Christmas! It’s actually set in summer and it kinds of reminds me of the 90s rom-coms I used to watch like She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate About You. I won’t lie though it felt very weird not writing about Christmas so maybe I have more Christmas love up my sleeve.

Only For The Holidays by Abiola Bello is out 12th October 2023 (Simon & Schuster).
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