We are just days away from Christmas and what better time to share a Christmas story? Kieran Crowley has written an excellent blog for us to share about his book, The Santa List!
When I visit schools, I’m often asked where writers get their ideas. It’s the third most popular question after ‘Are you rich?’ and ‘Do you know J.K. Rowling?’ (I always answer yes to both). The idea for The Santa List just popped into my head, something that in a decade of writing for children had never previously happened. It started with a simple ‘What if …’ question: What if two children ended up on Santa’s naughty list three days before Christmas? And that turned into – what if, instead of trying to get back in his good books, they stole the naughty list instead? After all, if he doesn’t know who’s been misbehaving, he’ll surely give presents to everyone.
I’m far from being a Grinch or Scrooge when it comes to the festive season, but I’m also not someone who counts down the days on the advent calendar, so I scribbled the idea on a scrap of paper and let it sit in a darkened drawer until I read a book on creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert. She wrote that ideas come to visit you and if you don’t let them in and act upon them, they’ll eventually get tired and wander off to someone else. Being a practical type and not prone to magical thinking, I initially dismissed this as nonsense, but it began to eat away at me. What if she was right? What if the idea visited someone else and they wrote the book instead of me? I couldn’t let that happen (especially since I’d already been too late with my genius Donkey Xote story project) so I set to work.
I needed to remember how I felt about Christmas when I was young. The world outside began to dissolve and soon I was tumbling back in time to the years before the internet, to when I used to argue that Shakin’ Stevens was better than Elvis, back to the days when the remote control was whichever one of my family was close enough to the television to press the chunky plastic button that changed the channel. There were fun moments to remember, like getting presents, eating a selection box for breakfast and turkey curry for lunch for three days straight, and, of course, not having to go to school. But what really lingered were the memories of sitting by the fire, my dad half-asleep in front of the television, a Hitchcock film flickering in black and white while I was caught up in a world of Enid Blyton and The Hobbit and books that had titles like Great Christmas Stories for Boys. I wanted to recreate how I felt in those moments, to give young readers that sense of joy and so I wrote and wrote and soon I was immersed in a world of accidental homemade parachutes, unexpected friendships and sarcastic elves.
Not everyone loves Christmas though, so while my overall aim was to write a story that was fun and exciting, I also wanted to reflect the different attitudes that people have towards this time of year. For the children there was the laser-eyed focus on presents, for super-strict babysitter, Mrs Grough, the intolerance for Christmas advertisements in November and for a lonely old man the wish for everyone to be as miserable as he is. And as I wrote the underlying theme emerged: we’re all so different from each other that it’s almost impossible to always get along, but we maybe we should just accept that and be a little kinder to each other. In the end, writing The Santa List made me feel a lot more festive, so much so that this year I bought my first ever Christmas jumper.
The Santa List by Kieran Crowley is out now, published by Scholastic