After an unscheduled break from the Monday Merry Meets*, we’re excited to chat with author, Kiley Dunbar. Her books include the delightful Borrow a Bookshop Holiday which made us all want to forget about selling lotions, potions and tea and want to become booksellers instead.
*everyone succumbed to a terrible cold that stole our voices and then the boiler broke. With the Enchanted Emporium’s reputation of hauntings, it took a while to find someone willing to come and fix it.
Monday Merry Meet: Kiley Dunbar
Willow: Welcome Kiley, come through to the back. Can we get you something warming to drink? We have a selection of tea, including our own Festive spice blend, which is Christmas in a cup, coffee or hot chocolate?
Amber: Or something stronger. I can warm up some mulled wine. You may need it. Percy, our Victorian resident ghost, has discovered ‘O’Christmas Tree’ on Spotify and as much as we try, we can’t switch it off. It’s been on a continual loop all day.
Kiley: It’s so nice to meet you all. You too Percy, nice tunes! I’d love a brew please. Festive Spice sounds braw.
Willow: They sang it around the piano upstairs at Christmas, apparently. It’s making him happy. Do you have any special traditions you always do at Christmas, Kiley?
Kiley: I love that! Cuz that’s what Christmas traditions are, aren’t they; recreating happy memories of long ago? I am a Christmas obsessive and love everything about the season. I put my tree in the window, all sparkly, in mid-November this year because I needed a dose of winter cheer. I love re-reading A Christmas Carol every year, and I always cut my Christmas cake early so I can eat it with my breakfast cuppa all through December. And I love travelling at Christmas, so I’ll book a snowy getaway very close to the big day itself! This year’s no different. I’m meeting my best friend in Edinburgh for a wee potter around the Christmas markets.
Willow: That sounds amazing. We reread a Christmas Carol too and have many different editions on the enchanted bookshelf.
Amber: I’d love to decorate mid-November too, but Willow is a grinch and makes us wait until December.
Rosa: Your current release revisits one of my favourite places, The Borrow A Bookshop in Clove Lore, Devon. What made you set a Christmas story there? How important is location for you?
Clove Lore is based (loosely) on Clovelly in Devon, which is a beautiful, magical place. It means a lot to me because that’s where my fella took me the week we met, so I associate it with those early feelings of falling stupidly in love. And it is picturesque, let me tell you. The perfect spot for a romance series. Even if I do send the residents of Clove Lore a massive Christmas flood in this book!
Rosa: I love romance novels especially at Christmas. They provide an ideal escape from the mayhem. How important do you think a happy ever after ending is in fiction?
I think the reason we love romances with happy ever after endings is the same reason we love Christmas. Both offer us a sense that things can be better, that humanity isn’t spoiled and awful after all, and that with a big enough dose of love, community and kindness, we can all be happy.
We are hopeful creatures, deep down, and ultimately we long to be happy. Romance novels give us that positive feeling that anything’s possible.
Willow: It is your 7th novel. What has your publication journey been like? Is being a writer how you expected it to be?
I know! Seven books! It still amazes me. In 2018, I was facing redundancy, turning forty and terrified. I knew I had a shot at changing my life and writing the books I’ve always wanted to (but felt I never could), so I started typing! I’m still so grateful to Hera Books for picking me up when I was down. Writing for a living is such a lot of work, two books a year usually, and little time for rest, but I love it. It’s all I want to do for the rest of my life.
Willow: We have many would-be writers popping in. Do you have any advice for them?
Yes, just do it. Write whenever you feel able. Get the words down. Make writer friends and share your writing. Get feedback (but only from people whose opinion you actually want!) and don’t give up. Don’t censor yourself, either. Write your story for your future fans, not for those around you. And just enjoy it. It’s supposed to be fun. If it isn’t, are you writing the book you actually want to?
Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Kiley: I would love A Good Night’s Sleep candle, please. Often I’m up late into the night worrying about what the future holds. I’m a parent carer and when I try to picture what life will be like for my little family when I’m not around to do the caring, I crumble. So any magic you have for me in that regard, I’ll gladly welcome it!
Willow: One candle we sell invokes memories of your perfect day when lit. Where would it take you?
Kiley: It would take me back to Lapland in Christmas 2019 when I was writing Christmas at Frozen Falls (also set in Finnish Lapland). We were so happy there; it was snowy, black sky heaven! Ah, take me back!
Rosa: It sounds magical. Lapland is on mine and my son, Alejo’s dream places to visit.
Willow: The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
Kiley: Spooky experiences or hauntings? Not so much, but I do often feel like my life is following in a particular groove already set out for me, if that makes sense. Like when I met my partner, I recognised him, like I was waiting for him. I had the same feeling with my babies, too. The feeling strongly steers me away from things I don’t think are right for me. It’s always there and I trust it. All of my books are about characters learning to trust that inner voice too, steering them away from paths where they’ve taken a wrong turning.
Willow: Listening to our inner selves is very important.
Rosa: If Willow or Amber could blend you a potion to give you a special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?
Kiley: I’d like a calm potion! Do you have such a thing? Let my mind rest easy for twenty-four hours. I know that’s not a big special ability, but I think I’d be a brighter, bolder person after a while away from worry!
Willow: That’s a potion which could be brewed. Leave it with us. It’d be useful during the next few weeks. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
Kiley: There’s a book I swear by when writing about the ritual year. It’s called Stations of The Sun by Ronald Hutton. I use it all the time for finding details about old customs and beliefs linked to nature and its cycles. It inspired the Harvest Home ceilidh in my Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, for example. I just know you would love it!
Amber: Never mind the enchanted bookshelf. I need a copy of this.
Rosa: What would you add to my Box of Romance?
Kiley: It’s a book I am sure you already have – The Book Boyfriend by Jeanna Louise Skinner. It’s super romantic, has wonderful diversity of representation around realistic bodies and mental health, and it’s set in a magical book shop! What’s not to adore about that?
Amber: I’ve heard great things about that book and we’re chatting to her soon hopefully. Great choice.
Willow: And lastly, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
Kiley: In spring 2023 I’m bringing you Something New at the Borrow a Bookshop, and I can tell you I’ve just signed a new three book contract with Canelo Hera for you two more Borrow a Bookshop stories as well as a very Christmassy standalone set in an extremely charming Cotswold village where one woman is trying to save her Christmas gingerbread grotto. That’s about all I can say about that, other than I can’t wait to share them all with you!
Willow, Amber and Rosa: We look forward to reading them. Thanks so much for visiting. Have a lovely Christmas.
Kiley: Thanks so much for having me. And Percy, I’ve loved having you DJ’ing ‘O’Christmas Tree’! It’ll be stuck in my head all month long. I hope you have a beautiful festive season at the Emporium, stay warm and cosy, all of you.
Kiley is Scottish and lives in England with her husband, two kids and Amos the Bedlington Terrier. She writes around her work at a University in the North of England where she lectures in English Literature and creative writing.
With just two weeks until Christmas, everything in Clove Lore should be perfect. But the latest holidaymaker to the Borrow a Bookshop is feeling far from festive…
Icelandic ex-bookseller Magnús Sturluson might be surrounded by love stories in the Bookshop, but he’s nursing a sadness that not even fiction can fix.
When Alexandra Robinson finds herself stranded in Clove Lore, she finds a safe place to hide from heartbreak. After all, all that’s waiting for her at home is a cheater boyfriend and the memories of her parents. As Alex finds herself embraced by the quirky village community, she finds her tough exterior thawing – and as she grows closer to Magnús, she finds an equally soft heart under his gruff shell.
It seems that Clove Lore is working it’s magic once again – until a great flood on Christmas Eve brings devastation in its wake. It’s up to Magnús and Alex to batten down the hatches and help bring the village back together again, while also introducing the locals to the Icelandic tradition of the jólabókaflóð – Yule book flood – where families and friends gather on Christmas Eve to exchange books and read together.
But can Magnús and Alex truly rescue the ruins of the village, and salvage their Christmas spirit? Or is there another complication lurking even closer than they thought?
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