Melody Carson is an award-winning author of inspirational romance with more than 200 books and 6.5 million copies sold.
She certainly knows what she’s doing. Included in that backlist is a goodly number of Christmas novellas.
Hi there. I’m your host, Jenny Wheeler and to celebrate the season we featuring authors who’ve made Christmas books one of their specialties like Melody.
Her latest book for Christmas is called A Quilt For Christmas, and it’s out now.
Melody talks about starting on Christmas stories twenty-three years ago. She’s written one practically every year since, creating stories for people who may not expect a fabulous family time in the festive season, as well as about her project to develop more of her books into screenplays.
This week’s free Giveaway
This week’s giveaway is my little Christmas gift to you. Three holiday novellas, Tangled Destiny, Hope Redeemed, and Captive Heart.
The link to the free download is here: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/1z2rd1zjlx
Two of the three have Christmas themes to put you in a festive mood. That’s a Book Bundle in the Of Gold & Blood historical mystery series
Download link: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/1z2rd1zjlx
Details for that link and for other things that we’ve discussed in this show can be found on the website show notes for this episode, at www.thejoysofbingereading.com reading.
And remember if you like what you hear, then rate us or leave a review of the show so others hear about us too.
Links for this episode:
Links for info in this episode
Rosamunde Pilcher: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosamunde_Pilcher
Maeve Binchy: https://maevebinchy.com/
Pure Flix.com (one company making Melody’s TV teen series)
Melody Carlson: Mulligan Sisters series: https://www.goodreads.com/series/193395-the-mulligan-sisters
Westward To Home series: https://www.goodreads.com/series/161531-westward-to-home
Hallmark movie from Melody book: All Summer Long: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10720816/
Brian Bird: When Calls The Heart: https://www.hallmarkchannel.com/when-calls-the-heart
Brain Bird and Michael Landon: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0083349/?ref_=tt_ov_wr
Marlena de Blasi: 1000 days in Venice and 1000 Days in Tuscany: Says Melody, “I’d love to meet this woman!”
For Melody’s binge watching: Classic Reel Channel: https://www.classicmoviereel.com/
Where to find Melody Carlson online
Introducing author Melody Carlson
But now, here’s Melody. Hello there, Melody and welcome to the show. It’s great to have you with us.
Melody Carlson: Thank you for having me.
Jenny Wheeler: You are an award-winning author of inspirational romance and quite a number of other genres, which we’ll get to. I’m really impressed you’ve got 200 books published 6.5 million in sales. That’s mind boggling.
How, does it feel to have got that far with it all?
Melody Carlson: It kind of boggles my mind too, and I try not to think too hard about it.
Jenny Wheeler: It’s a remarkable achievement. Now, included in that as we’ve mentioned, is a good number of other genres, and particularly Christmas novellas, which you’ve made a specialty of, and we’re planning to run this show in early December. So, we’re focusing on the Christmas novels to start with, and then moving on to some of the other books.
This year’s Christmas story is titled A Quilt for Christmas. Tell us about the appeal of Christmas stories for readers.
Melody Carlson: I think Christmas is a time when people have high expectations and there’s hard things going on. You want to make it all ‘holly and jolly’ and it’s not always like that.
A pioneer in Christmas novellas
So when I started doing my Christmas novellas, I tried to make it real and have people with things that aren’t all perfectly wonderful, but that wind up happy and I think it’s an encouragement when people are approaching the Christmas season, because it’s a look at life and I yet I hope it gives people hope.
Jenny Wheeler: Yes, and the women in A Quilt for Christmas, they have various reasons for feeling alone at this family time. And on your website you say that you like writing true to life fiction, so that fits very much into that pattern, doesn’t it?
Melody Carlson: Yeah. I feel like we can learn through storytelling. Not that I Want to teach people anything, but I think we can grow and experience and make our real life maybe a little bit richer because we’ve been inspired by something.
Jenny Wheeler: Now A Quilt for Christmas, features, as you might imagine, a patchwork circle. Patchwork brings together a group of women with different hurts and gaps in their lives. Tell us a little bit about that story.
Melody Carlson: Well, it begins with Vera, who’s displaced because her children are grown She’s got grandchildren and she’s widowed recently and she lives in a big old house. Her daughter convinces her to relocate to this other town, and she moves into a condo.
Forgotten at Christmas?
She’s never lived in a condo apartment before, a flat, as you would say, and it’s not really her thing. But then her daughter moves away, because her daughter and her husband, they get job changes and boom, they’re gone.
And now Vera’s stuck in condo and she doesn’t have her old Victorian house that she used to decorate for Christmas.
She doesn’t have her neighbors, she doesn’t have her quilting friends. And then this little girl knocks on her door and needs help because her mom is sick. And that jettisons it all off.
Jenny Wheeler: And that’s such a common story, isn’t it? You could see that repeated over and over across the land where people make well-intentioned decisions about accommodating their aging parents. And then for whatever reason, life gets in the way and people are left high and dry and marooned.
Melody Carlson: Right. I know of people that this has happened to and it’s a frustrating thing and I guess it’s that thing I’m trying to make lemonade out of lemons and, and make the best of it because for Vero there was no going back. She got pulled into making the best of it, which I think is fun.
This little girl, Fiona, they’re a family that’s from Ireland and they’re displaced too, and having some hard times and three children. And anyway, this little girl’s just precocious, a smart old soul. A four-year-old going on 40 and she gets things going.
The wisdom of children
Jenny Wheeler: That’s gorgeous. How many of these Christmas stories have you written, in roundish figures doesn’t have to be absolutely exact.
Melody Carlson: I know it’s more than 20 I always write them in the summertime and I really don’t even know. I think it maybe is 23, the 23rd one I finished, but I don’t know. A lot.
Jenny Wheeler: And how did you get started in them?
Melody Carlson: Well, it was a fluke. Nobody even really knew what a Christmas novella was at the time. An editor I really liked challenged me about writing a smaller story for Christmas. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t work. I wrote one that was called, Angels in the Snow.
I don’t think I even have that one on my bookshelf right now, and it was a hard story that gets better. I love it. It’s one of my favorite stories and it took off.
And so then it’s like, okay, let’s do another one and another one.
And it’s been like, what, 23 years, I think, since we very first started it.
Jenny Wheeler: And would there be people who only read Christmas stories in your selection, but don’t read anything else?
Melody Carlson: Oh, not at all. It’s a story that in some ways it could be any time of the year, but, because it’s about people and relationships and facing something difficult and then hopefully it gets better it got general appeal
Amazing popularity in Christmas stories
Jenny Wheeler: But the whole Christmas market, it has just gone boom in recent years, hasn’t it? I mean, both Christmas stories and Christmas romances.
Melody Carlson: Right. When I did the first one, bookstores were like, whoa, where do we put this one? And, now there’s a plethora of them. They’re all over the place. It’s good, but there’s more competition going on. But it shows that people like them.
Jenny Wheeler: And is Christmas a special time for you personally?
Melody Carlson: You know, it’s funny cuz I guess my life is like my stories. I grew up with a divorced mom and no father in the house and she was a working mother.
Wur home environment was a little cold and sterile in a way. And it was the sixties. But we had a grandmother who lived about three hours away and she had this old Victorian house and she loved to decorate, she loved to cook, she loved her family.
We would all flock down there. And those were just the best Christmases ever. I’ve bittersweet memories of Christmas, which is a lot like life.
And then ironically, I married a man whose birthday is Christmas Day, so we’ve had to, create our own traditions.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s gorgeous. And have you had a family yourself? I’m wondering because of your obvious tenderness towards the little girl in this story.
Writing in a remarkable range of genres
Melody Carlson: Yes. We had two sons that now they’re grown they’re old, middle-aged men now. I also taught preschool for a few years, and I always taught four-year-olds.
I love four-year-olds. I think that is such a precious age. And in fact, my editor, who doesn’t have children even challenged me on well, the four-year-old in the story, would she really talk like that?
And I go, yes. Not all of them, of course, but there are a few that are like that. And they’re amazing. The way they think. They’re just so free, and yet they’re clever.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s amazing. That’s wonderful. You write a very wide range of stories. When I went and had a look on your website, you’ve done teen fiction, you’ve done historicals, including a World War II series about the Mulligan Sisters that you are still producing today, and we’ll get on and talk about that a little bit later.
And Westerns well as romantic suspense. Whereabouts did you begin when you started out with this great output? What did you write first?
Melody Carlson: The very first thing I wrote because, I didn’t know what I was doing was it was a teen book that ended up being a series, it was my first series and it was set right after World War II, but my heart was really set on contemporary women’s fiction. I’d read people like Rosamund Pilcher and, Maeve Binchy and I loved what they did and I aspired to do something like that.
But I’ve been all over the boards. You’re right, I’ve even done a World War I. historical series. So it’s all over the place and a lot of books for teens.
Starting with the teen market
I’m not doing so much teens anymore. I’ve got probably a hundred teen books and I don’t know how many series and actually one of my most popular series for teens is optioned for TV
We’re hoping we’ll get to see that.
Jenny Wheeler: Gosh, and what’s that one about?
Melody Carlson: It’s called Diary of the Teenage Girl. and it is this everyday gritty life of a teenager.
The series I did had sixteen books, so I ended up having four different characters, but they were all intertwined with each other.
As one got older, the next one would come along and the first one, her name’s Caitlin and she’s this all-American teenage girl, but she’s got some challenges and it’ll be fun to see what they do with that.
Pure Flix is the company that wants to do it. And I have some other things that are optioned and been movies and about to become movies too. I love that part of it too.
Jenny Wheeler: And with that teen one that’s going to tv, what years were they teenagers? Did they have mobile phones and all that stuff.
Melody Carlson: No, not so much. Those are things that they’ll have to change. When I wrote the first one, I think it was about 2000. Mobile phones were around, but they weren’t real common, especially with teenagers. We’ll have to address that in the TV series.
First teen novel now a TV series
Jenny Wheeler: I noticed that you’ve just published, I think it’s this month you’re publishing Book Four in the Mulligan Sisters series.
I might add that we are recording this in September. In September, you brought out Book Four in your World War II, Mulligan Sisters series.
And I was interested because World War ii, of course, is enjoying huge popularity at the moment, but your’s is a little bit different because it’s set in San Francisco after Pearl Harbor.
Tell us a little bit about that angle on it.
Melody Carlson: Right. San Francisco is my hometown, my birth town, and I’ve had a fondness for it, but I also grew up with a lot of really strong women who’d played various roles or had had husbands that were in the war and there were pictures all around my grandma’s house.
It was an interesting mysterious era to me and the women were interesting to me because I’d hear their side of the stories. Cuz men don’t talk that much about what happened and, and I always felt like now telling the women’s stories during the war would be really fun.
I created this family, the Mulligans, and they’re all daughters except the brother who gets killed in Pearl Harbor at the beginning and that ignites these four young women of various ages and they all get involved in different ways. And actually, my website is probably a little out of date.
My son runs it for me and we get distracted, but it, it’s been out for a little while. The Mulligans
That was the inspiration behind it.
World War II in San Francisco
Jenny Wheeler: Great. So how do you cover the war aspect of it? There aren’t any actual bombs falling, are there?
Melody Carlson: Not really. I mean, you hear about it because you hear it through the sisters, one has a husband that’s over there and he ends up getting wounded and comes back home with P T S D and some problems.
And another one is engaged to a doctor who’s over there. Now I’m even getting mixed up with a World War I series because there’s some similarities there, but you hear through letters and the stories, but it’s the story of the home front because, they had rationing and these people, they ran a grocery store.
That was something that was true to my family and heritage that my grandpa ran a grocery store during the war and there were people, who would try to cheat on their ration coupons and do funny little things like that.
I just thought it was a part of history that was, fun for women to hear, I think. Strong women working hard.
Jenny Wheeler: I hadn’t realized that the States had rationing as well. I thought it was only in Britain, so that’s something I’ve learned already.
Melody Carlson: Tires and shoes and gas and all kinds of things that made life challenging. Sugar, they weren’t allowed to buy more than so much sugar and then there were shortages and it was an interesting time.
Westward to Home inspirational romance
Jenny Wheeler: You’ve also got another sister series, the Westward to Home historical fiction and that deals with women in the west, I think in the 19th century.
These are inspirational romances with titles like Delia and the Drifter, Miranda and the Minor, Julianne and the Judge. I love the titles actually.
Once again, a sister series. Tell us a little bit about that one. It’s obviously different from these others and probably required more research into the 19th century.
Melody Carlson: Yeah, it was fun. I feel like I get more educated every time I write one of these historical series.
It starts with Delia and she finds out through some hard things that the man she thought was her father, that she doesn’t get along with it – not everybody gets along with their parents – but there’s some big things going on. She has sibling twins that are younger than her, and they’re favored.
She finds out her real father is alive and her mother had remarried and never told her. Later on she thinks that he died in the Civil War, but she finds out he has a ranch out in Colorado and she’s had a little bit of education and she’s pretty strong and independent, and she decides to go out there.
Adventuring women in the 19th century
By the time she gets out there unfortunately, there’s been some water rights feuds going on, and her dad’s been shot. She gets left with everything and she’s got this ranch to run and water rights problems.
So it starts with her. And then after that, her half-sister is Miranda and she’s quite a character, but her story gets pretty wild.
She ends up in an Alaska mining town after she’s run away from her, finishing school where she doesn’t really fit in anyway. And, then the third one is the youngest half-sister Julianne, who has a completely different story and she ends up getting kidnapped. It was really fun to write.
Jenny Wheeler: Do you have one genre that you prefer working with amongst all the different things you’ve.
Melody Carlson: I probably would’ve used to have said women’s contemporary fiction, but now that I’ve done more historicals and things. Now Iit’s usually whatever I’m working on is what I’m loving and I’m thinking that, like right now I’m working on adapting screenplays and I’m thinking, this is really fun.
I like doing this. But then I’ll be writing books in and they’ll be, oh, I love doing this, so it’s whatever I’m working on.
A passion for screenplays
Jenny Wheeler: Adapting the screenplays, is that for the team series or for something else?
Melody Carlson: No, it’s not for the teen series. I probably can be involved in that if I want to, but they’ll start out with a team first, because that’s a big project, setting up a series.
But I did an adaptation for one book that was made into a movie, a Hallmark movie called All Summer Long and I looked carefully at that adaptation because I had done some screenplays.
I didn’t have the confidence to do it at that time. But when I saw what was done, I thought, I could have done that.
I went and watched the movie being filmed and learned more. And then, I had a book that I had just finished called The Happy Camper and I thought, okay, I’m going to adapt this one myself.
I did and Brian Bird, who’s well known for When Calls The Heart, he’s really good at what he does, and he did the Happy Camper and it was filmed in March and I got to go on location and see that being done too.
Learning on the job
So now I’m really keen on doing more adaptations. I did another one that’s called Looking for Leroy that we have really strong interest in. And I think maybe it’s going to get picked up here too.
So it’s just fun. I was just talking with a producer yesterday and now that I finally got my bookshelf up in my office, and I can actually see my books, I was saying, well we could do this and we could do that. I’m all jazzed about the possibilities.
Jenny Wheeler: Oh, that’s wonderful. You live in a beautiful part of the country in the Pacific Northwest, close to a national park, I thought it would be fun for listeners if you help them to visualize what your working life is like and what you look out on from your office.
Melody Carlson: Well now, I look out on a garden that I created in the last six months. It’s got big sunflowers out there and pumpkins because we’re in a different season than you guys.
Beyond that, there’s tall ponderosa pine trees. I’ve been to New Zealand, I didn’t spend much time there, but, in a way, our Oregon and New Zealand have a lot of similarities.
We’ve got the mountains, we’ve got the ocean, we’ve got natural beauty and I think in New Zealanders would feel at home. A friend of mine, her son, is from Oregon and now lives in New Zealand and they go back and forth and you’d feel at home.
Jenny Wheeler: Yes, I, when I saw the pictures on your website, I thought it did look rather like some of the New Zealand Forest. You can see.
Melody Carlson: Right. And I think just the lakes and the mountains and farmland.
Tracing a remarkable publishing record
Jenny Wheeler: Beautiful. So getting to write 200 books, how many do you publish a year?
Melody Carlson: I used to jokingly say I was at the Book of the Month Club because I was just really cranking them out, and now in the last few years I’ve gone down to more like four maybe a year.
And then there are screenplays in there too. And my goal was to make more room that I could start doing more with the screenplays.
Over the years we’ve had so many times we were almost there, and then right when things got going, then Covid hit and that just put a damper on everything. I’ve been chomping at the bit to more movies and TV.
Jenny Wheeler: I think of something like the Virgin River Series, Robin Carr’s series. That’s a pretty typical, template for the sort of thing that you can do, isn’t it?
Melody Carlson: Yes. Absolutely.
Jenny Wheeler: Turning away from the specific books to your wider career. You mentioned that you’d been a preschool teacher or a nursery school teacher, tell us a bit about your work life experience before you began writing.
I’m not sure if there were many years before you became a writer and how has it influenced your books?
How Melody Carlson got started
Melody Carlson: There weren’t many more years. Ironically, I was in your neck of the woods, I taught in Papua New Guinea in preschool for a year there when I was very young. And then I came home and taught preschool. I did it while my children were young.
And then I had a group home daycare center that we built onto our home and had that so I could be home, when they the children would come home from school and, it was a fun way to know all the neighborhood kids. But finally, I got tired of that.
And then I, worked, in. international adoption for a while. A short while with Holt International, which was really good story material that I could have got there. And I worked with an interior decorator. I thought I wanted to do that for a while. And I got good story material there too.
And then I worked in a publishing company for a while. But, during those last years, I was writing at the same time. And then finally the writing took over and I quit working altogether. Writing was my full-time job.
Melody Carlson – Writing in her genes
Jenny Wheeler: So what was it that sparked the writing?
Melody Carlson: I had always loved to write. As a child, I would write little stories and illustrate ’em and staple ’em together and make covers I don’t know just, the writing gene, I guess.
And, all through school, whenever I had the opportunity to write a short story or a poem or if it was, choice between essay questions or true and false, I’d always go essay.
And especially in college, because if I didn’t know the material, I could write my way out of it, whether I did or not, and I could always ace any writing project.
But the funny thing was I didn’t take the writing seriously, even though I did it all the time. I journaled, I wrote letters.
I, write things for the newspaper, but it wasn’t until my children were approaching their teen years that suddenly I thought, I’ve got to do this. I’m going to write a book. And I did sit down and wrote,
Jenny Wheeler: Is there something that you would credit as quotes, the ‘secret of your success?’ Is there a characteristic or a talent or even a mentor or somebody who encouraged you? Something like that?
The key strength for success
Melody Carlson: I maybe it’s stubbornness. My mom, she just passed away, I love her. And my husband was old fashioned and asked my mom if he could marry me, way back when and she launched into a lecture. Well, she’s really strong-willed, she’s really stubborn. She’s really just – and she listed all of my most wonderful traits.
But I think that has stead me well as a writer because you have to have some stubborn resilience.
I’m in a group with some new writers right now and they’re getting rejections and I just tell ’em you’ve just got to get thick skin and keep going and persevere and believe in what you’re doing and just go for it.
So I guess maybe for a start, this would be my answer.
Jenny Wheeler: What does being a success mean to you?
Melody Carlson: In life. It would be different than in writing. In life it would be having people that you love and love you and, doing your best for them.
In writing, I think, honestly, I probably thought after I’d had so many books published that, getting a movie would feel like success.
But to be honest, it was just like another day. I have friends that were way more excited about it than I am, but I like it, and I enjoy it.
What success means to Melody Carlson
Okay, I know the answer. It’s when I get around to answering fan mail, I have a fan mail, separate account email, and When I read those letters, and sometimes I’ll get one from a teenage girl who is now 30, , and she’ll say something just really amazing in how a book changed her life.
And if I wanted to feel like a success, that would probably make me feel more like a success than anything.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s lovely, we always like to ask people, number one, whether they have been a binge reader at any stage, and secondly, what books they’re reading at the moment they’d like to recommend.
Melody Carlson: Because I write so much, I don’t have as much time to binge read.
Sometimes I will binge TV though, because it’s a different, Your eyes aren’t focusing on the words, but, most recently, and I’m going to be embarrassed because I can’t remember her name, but I really did start binging on this woman who lives in Italy and she was a food writer and I’m on her third book
It’s just this take-you-away story ain Tuscany, but it’s her real life. It’s like a memoir, but it doesn’t feel like a memoir. It feels like you’re really there. And I should know her name.
(See links at top – Marlena de Blasi)
Melody Carlson’s favorite read right now
Jenny Wheeler: We’ll fill that in for our readers before this gets published, if that’s okay, because it sounds very interesting to me as well. Is it a contemporary story?
Melody Carlson: Yes. I think her first book was maybe 2011, and I think she’s got four or five books. I have four of her books. I’ve loaned one of them out to a friend, and I was just about to finish the other one.
Jenny Wheeler: Did she originally write in Italian and now they translated?
Melody Carlson: No, she was an American who married an Italian and remade her life over there.
And the way she talks about the foods and the cooking and the wine and the olives and the harvesting things, and then putting them together. But then it’s all about the people and the friendships.
I took care of my mom while she was passing away, and so I really had a little time to binge read because she slept a lot.
And that’s where I got started on these, and it was just this wonderful. Take-me- away. I hope that my books are like that too. And I’ve heard from readers, like, thank you.
Of course, I feel bad when they say, I didn’t go to bed until four o’clock in the morning. That’s not really my plan, but I, yeah. Sometimes we need that.
What Melody Carlson likes to binge watch
Jenny Wheeler: And to cheat a little bit, what have you been binge watching?
Melody Carlson: I haven’t really been binge drawn much of anything lately.
I really love old movies and, we have the streaming service for Classic Reel Channel and if I binge anything, it’s on that channel and those old, forties movies, even some of the good thirties movies.
I just love them. And, actually today I was watching some. I had an event where I found out I had high blood pressure.
It’s been a stressful year and I had never had high blood pressure before in any way. I got warned ‘you need to calm it down.’ So today I really calmed it down.
Jenny Wheeler: Oh, that’s great. That was wonderful. Looking back down the tunnel of time, if there was one thing about your creative career that you’d change, what would it be?
What would Melody Carlson change?
Melody Carlson: Oh, that’s a really good question. This is going to sound weird, but looking back, I think I might’ve slowed it down a little bit. Even though I had the opportunity to write 10 books a year, maybe it would’ve been better if I’d only done six?
Jenny Wheeler: It’s still a heck of a lot of books,
Melody Carlson: Yeah, I know. This doesn’t happen now, but then it felt like publishers were throwing contracts at me, and when you go through that initial rejection period and then suddenly the doors are open, it’s hard to close them.
I knew I was a really fast writer too, because when I started to write it was when I had jobs and children and stuff. So, I would only have a spare hour here or maybe a Saturday here or whatever.
I would write extremely fast and, and publishers love that, I can just, crank ’em out.
Jenny Wheeler: What is next for Melody the author? What are you working on at the moment?
Melody Carlson: I’m trying to decide which screenplay and I think actually the decision might have been made today because, the Christmas book that I just finished, it won’t be out until 2023. It’s working title is A Royal Christmas, and I already am optioning that, and she just said today that I could write the screenplay for it.
Melody Carlson’s next year of work
I didn’t know that until today. Yesterday I was talking to somebody else saying, let’s do something different. Nobody told me the dates yet, but I have a feeling I need to get moving on it. And I have about 20 pages already started, so at least it’s begun.
Jenny Wheeler: I know the answer to this question before I ask it because of what you’ve already said, but we still do have to ask it, and that is, do you enjoy interacting with your readers, and where can they find you online?
Melody Carlson: I love interacting with them. My website is melody carlson.com and then I am on Facebook. I am not doing as much social stuff as some people are, and although I’m hearing more people are letting things go too, so I’m not feeling quite so alone.
And then people can also email me letters to MelodyCarlsonbooks@gmail.com, which I really do answer them.
I don’t answer them really fast, but, within a month or two, I get ’em all answered and then I let it go again for a while.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s lovely.
That’s great Melody. Thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure talking
Melody Carlson: Yes. Thank you. It was fun.
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Nest Week on The Joys of Binge Reading
Next week on Binge Reading, Faith Hogan is an award-winning and best-selling Irish author of nine contemporary novels, the latest of which is The Gin Sisters’ Promise.
Her books are described as grown up, feel good, women’s fiction, which is unashamedly, uplifting, and inspiring, but doesn’t dodge, the hard questions.
Also Faith has also got a Christmas book out; The First Day of Christmas. We’ll be talking about that one as well.
That’s next week on The Joys of Binge Reading.