Let us tell you something horrifying (or exciting, depending on how you view this) – Christmas is actually just around the corner! Hence, it is time to introduce you to our first Christmas read – Make You Mine This Christmas by Lizzie Huxley-Jones. The book follows Haf who finds herself kissing stranger Christopher under the mistletoe in front of his ex-girlfriend. And when words got around, she suddenly finds herself agreeing to pretend to be Christopher’s girlfriend for Christmas…
Did you have the idea for this book during Christmas?
Not at all, it was springtime! But I had just not long come off a high of watching The Happiest Season, a movie I really love, over the Christmas period. It was the first queer Christmas film I’d ever seen, and it got me thinking about what if I wrote a rompy, chaotic, good-feelings romcom, like so many of the movies and books with a central heterosexual relationship that come out every year? I really wanted to write something escapist.
And was it difficult writing this book when it was not the festive season?
Surprisingly no, and I even ended up working on it during an enormous heatwave in London! I use a lot of sensory cues in my writing – I have playlists for when I start writing and scents associated with the project which help me feel immersed in the story and timeframe, so I just surrounded myself with my favourite Christmas songs, a gingerbread flavour candle and, crucially, the M&S Christmas food catalogue.
Haf made a daring decision to go to stranger Christopher’s house for Christmas. Would you have done the same if you were in her shoes?
Definitely not now because in my mid-30s I’m very happy with my own company and my dog and my charcuterie boards and stash of video games, but maybe in my early 20s when I was a chaos monster with nothing better to do and no money? Haf and I aren’t the same person but that ‘oh well why not’ attitude she has definitely comes from a part of me. But I think her motivation isn’t just altruistic an about helping Christopher save face, as it allows her to run away from the problems in her own life which I think is very relatable! Plus would be quite nice to be fed and watered by someone else for the whole season. Okay, now I’m coming round to it…
If not, how far would you go to help make a friend’s ex feel jealous?
I do love a scheme. I’d probably play Instagram Boyfriend and make sure they had a banging set of photos of them having fun all over social media.
We are often surrounded by food during the Christmas period and there were discussions about Haf’s relationship with food within the book. Why is it important to feature such a conversation between Haf and her roommate?
I’ve been a fat person for much of my life – I can remember being told to go on a diet aged 8, and I had a tricky relationship with food for a long time. And that consciousness around food really does wind its way into so much of your life, especially when you have people around you making comments about their own weight and discomfort around it, especially when they are usually smaller than you, and double especially at holidays based around food. Haf and Ambrose have a comfortable relationship where they can talk about food, and as a fat-and-thin friendship pairing it was important for me to show that, in the same way that Haf is loving and supportive of Ambrose’s transness.
On top of that, I was really conscious that this was a Christmas book with a fat girl on the cover and so I wanted to kind of reach through the page to my fat readers to say hey, I get it, I’ve been there, I’m still here. I wanted them to trust that I wasn’t going to talk about diet culture or calories or anything like that.
Haf is described as neurodivergent and Make You Mine This Christmas has some great, important representations. How did you find integrating that into the plot?
I’m autistic myself and while I didn’t set out specifically to write Haf as neurodivergent, it became quickly apparent as I was writing that she was but that she didn’t know that about herself. So many people’s autism is missed as children and so they end up finding out later in life, like I did, hence my little Author’s Note at the back. As for everyone else, my life is full of disabled, queer and trans people in particular, so writing about them was natural for me. Kit has hypermobile Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome like me because I wanted the object of affection to be disabled, to point out how many of us have relationships and sex and are desired – trite to say, but I really did see her weaving her way with her walking stick as one of the first moments in this book.
Alongside writing romance, I write fantasy novels for children (and adults!) and one of the principles of writing for kids is that everything you write could be the first time they ever come across that topic (wise advice from the great Joan Aiken), and I do bring that over with me to my romance. I want to show readers different kinds of lives and bodies and people and experiences – acting as mirrors for some, windows for others – while also entertaining people (I hope!)