What made you want to write this book? Did anything in particular spark the premise, or did anyone in your life inspire the main characters, Gracie and Nick?
I wrote Once Upon a Royal Christmas as a follow-up to my previous Hallmark book, Once Upon a Royal Summer. It’s not technically a sequel, but it’s very much in keeping with the spirit of Once Upon a Royal Summer, because the summer book is about a theme park princess and a real-life prince, whereas the Christmas book is about a children’s party princess and a real-life prince who happens to have a Scroogey streak.
I love these books because writing them feels like crafting modern-day fairy tales. I missed the characters from Once Upon a Royal Summer so much and wanted to stay in that fun, glittery world, so I decided to come up with a new twist on a similar premise!
If you could be any character in ‘Once Upon a Royal Christmas’, who would you want to be any why?
If I could be any character in Once Upon a Royal Christmas, I would choose Gracie. I think it would be really fun to work as a party princess and spread joy to so many people. I also love her because she is a true romance heroine—she’s a confident girl-boss running her own successful business with a heaping dose of sparkle, but she’s also vulnerable in a way that I find really endearing! I like the way she views the world through a lens of kindness and touches the hearts of everyone she meets, like a real fairytale princess.
Gracie is a big animal and dog-lover, and of course Mittens and Gumdrop both play pivotal roles in bringing people together in this story. Are you involved with animals in your life, and did any dogs inspire these two?
Like Gracie, I’m also a big animal lover—I especially love dogs. Nick’s dog Mittens was inspired by my real-life Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Charm, who is probably familiar to anyone who follows me on Instagram. She is so precious and sweet—definitely main character material! I can’t help but post loads of photos of her. She’s in training right now to become a therapy dog so we can visit people at hospitals and nursing homes.
And actually, the reindeer that Gracie interacts with at the zoo were also inspired by real animals. A few years ago, I participated at an event in Alaska called the Reindeer Run, where people run through the streets of Alaska alongside live reindeer. Reindeer are incredibly fast! They zip past you at the speed of light; I liked giving them a mischievous streak in the book.
My inspiration for Gumdrop wasn’t a real-life dog, but just the fantasy of finding a puppy with a big red bow around its neck on Christmas morning. Who hasn’t dreamed about that at some point?
What part of this book was the most fun to write? The hardest to write?
My favorite part about writing romantic comedies is the banter between the lead characters, especially when they *think* they despise each other, even though the reader knows better! So of course I loved writing the Christmas tree maze scene, which eventually leads to an epic snowball fight. I also love writing scenes where the characters don’t have all of the information that the reader is already privy to, because you can really have fun with subtext and wordplay. So the Christmas market/hot chocolate scene when Nick and Gracie meet for the first time was a treat for me. Also, the moment when they both realize they’ve each made a huge mistake in assuming who the other person is…ahhh, so much fun, even though it was kind of torturous for poor Gracie!
The hardest part for me to write in any book is always the dark moment, when the characters either break up, or just aren’t ready to admit that they have feelings for each other. I hate writing this scene because inevitably, someone’s heart is breaking and it’s just painful, even though I know they will find their happy-ever-after in the end. I suppose I’m a true romantic at heart.
Did any music inspire you while you wrote this book? Did you make a playlist?
I love to listen to music when I write, and I definitely choose special songs for each book. When I was working on Once Upon a Royal Christmas, I listened to a combination of Christmas music and songs from Princess movies. I also like to listen to a lot of instrumental music when I’m writing because sometimes the vocals distract me, so some of the songs I played a lot didn’t have words. If I put together a playlist for this book, it would look a little something like this: