Love in Winter Wonderland is a heartwarming story set at Christmas. Written by Abiola Bello, she writes for us, telling us more about the story and her characters.
Black love and Christmas. They don’t seem to go hand in hand. I’m not sure why as I’m Black, I love love and I love Christmas yet finding that content in a book is pretty non-existent. One of the reasons I wrote Love In Winter Wonderland was to fill in that gap. To see myself, my friends, my family in those pages that celebrate us at the most wonderful time of the year. Seeing my books recommended with other Christmas books by die-hard romance readers that typically only feature white people has been brilliant. It shows that we do have a place there.
I’ve been writing since I was 8 years old and my go to is fantasy. I’m all about the superhero’s but I do love reading and watching a rom-com. Give me a JLo movie and I’ll watch it – the cheesier the better! Writing a love story was easier than I thought it would be. I instantly knew what type of story I wanted – representation, community, Hackney, creatives, the token bitchy hot girl, a party you wished you was invited to (what is a YA book without a party?). I remember my agent telling me that I need to create a male protagonist that people will fall in love with and I thought how do I do that?
That was something I had to really sit on because let’s face it, guys in real life are complex, confusing and sometime weird! How was I meant to not show Trey in that light? There are two YA male characters that I’ve definitely wanted to be real. Carter from Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney and Jack from Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven. But why? What was it about them? I realised it’s because they were so well rounded and perfect in a not so perfect way. So my task was to make Trey like that. Trey can be snappy and insecure but he’s sweet and loving and really sees people. He sees Ariel despite her sometimes being in the background. When my publishers said OMG I want to meet Trey IRL, I knew I had done a good job!
With Ariel I wanted her to have this weight journey because it was something that I could relate to. From being a professional dancer to stopping then having to figure out how the hell a gym works, I’ve definitely had weight that has fluctuated throughout the years. I went from small and lean to curvy in a few years and I had to adjust to my new body. Ariel has lost weight over the summer but she struggles to adjust to her new body. It doesn’t help when people still comment about her body in a negative way just because she doesn’t look like them. Some readers have asked me how big is Ariel and to be honest Ariel is as big as you want her to be. What might be big for my body may not be for you as I’m coming from a dancers mindset. Ariel represents a beautiful thick, curvy girl. I think so many girls go through a weight journey especially with all the nonsense on social media. They can be super hot but they can’t see it for themselves.
Ariel’s also going through grief. I had actually written that before I went through it myself but I wanted to show that grief isn’t linear. Ariel has moments where she physically can feel it and then other times she can celebrate a memory. Anyone that has experienced loss can really relate to that.
Even though the book has elements of race, I didn’t want it to be a race related book. Sometimes it can feel like as Black writers that’s all we can bring to the table but Love In Winter Wonderland shows us in a light that we need to be shown in more. Owning our own business, falling in love, Christmas and all that joy that comes from that, true friendship and family. At the end of the day we deserve swoony stories too.
Love in Winter Wonderland is published by Simon & Schuster and is available now.
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.