The Spirit of Hygge with B. Snow – Post + Giveaway

July 24, 2016

B. Snow joins us today to talk about Have a Hygge Holiday!

The Spirit of Hygge

Hi, all, I’m B. Snow, and I’m here to talk about my new release, Have a Hygge Holiday.

“What the what??” I hear you ask. “What does that mean? And how do you even pronounce it??”

I’ll answer both those questions further down in the post, but first I’d like to talk a little about Dreamspinner Press and a recent epiphany I had. It’s germane, I promise. :)

I submitted Have a Hygge Holiday to Dreamspinner’s Advent Calendar with the expectation that it would be rejected, because it’s not the sort of story most people want to read around the holidays. Not to spoil it for anyone, but there are no Christmas miracles, no sweet scenes of reconciliation, no realizations about the value of family. Of course it has [SPOILER ALERT!] a happy ending, and some funny parts, so although it didn’t make it into the Advent Calendar, Dreamspinner very kindly contracted it for their Christmas in July promotion.

And now I’ll go off on another tangent (but it will all make sense in the end, I swear!). In real life, I know a lot of authors who write het romance. I’ve heard some of them speak about the large number of changes their editors have asked them to make in their stories. Sometimes these published authors suggest making plot or character changes to your story in order to make for a better pitch to an editor or agent.

I understand that editors, agents, and publishers do make their living by selling books. I know they’re trying to make your story the best it can be so it will sell well. And I know writers support each other by helping make each other’s books better, AND by helping fellow writers sell those books, first to an editor/agent, and then to readers.

That said, I find it kind of strange when authors are asked to change their plots or characters, and I recently realized why authors of het romance don’t seem to find it as strange as I do. It’s because most of them are used to working with traditional publishers, and I’ve worked mostly with Dreamspinner.

Yes, technically Dreamspinner is a traditional publisher. But* their editors have never asked me to make any huge changes to a story. They’ve asked for clarification of scenes, or corrections of historical elements, or elaboration when a character’s motivation isn’t clear, but they’ve never asked me to rework the plot or change a character or add a sex scene. They’ve never finalized a blurb without asking for and incorporating my input. And the Dreamspinner art department has never asked me to accept a cover I wasn’t 100% happy with. I’ve heard other traditionally published authors talk about ALL these things.

My theory is that Dreamspinner doesn’t ask for big changes because they publish gay romance.

Gay romance is already outside the box. Readers of gay romance have already shown they’re looking for the unusual, the unpredictable, and Dreamspinner gives them that. They trust the stories their authors tell, even if those stories can be a bit bizarre (time-traveling codpiece, anyone?). They don’t reshape manuscripts to fit into an upcoming theme or some recent trend. They’re willing to take a chance on the different, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go….well, you get the picture.

They’re willing to accept stories by authors who don’t write a lot, stories with unpronounceable titles using words that no one outside of Scandinavia has ever heard of. Stories like Have a Hygge Holiday. (See? I told you I’d get to the point. Eventually.)

Have a Hygge Holiday is about the winter holidays, family and traditions, candles, decorations, hot drinks, good food, and being with the people you love. Hygge (pronounced kind of like “hyoogah”) is all of that. It’s a Danish word that has no English equivalent, but the closest definition might be “coziness”. This video has some examples of hygge, which is really the only way to explain it.

The story is one I’d been trying to write for a few years but could never get quite right: a relationship between two young men of different religious and cultural backgrounds, and the comedy of errors that follows when their families clash during the holidays.

I’ve never had that clash myself, despite being Jewish and married to a man who is Catholic. To paraphrase the dedication of the book, our families are not the families in the story. However, some elements of the story are drawn from real life. The amount of oil used to make latkes, for example, and growing up without lights on the house in winter because that would have meant we celebrated Christmas, which we didn’t.

Now that I know about hygge, I think EVERYONE should put lights on their houses for winter, and string light balls from their trees.

winter light balls

There’s a reason Yule logs and Hanukkah candles happen around the same time of year. Humans have a need to bring warmth and light to the dark and cold of winter. Whether you celebrate one of the winter holidays, or all of them, or none of them, you’ve probably still been doing hygge all this time without even knowing it.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the story (before the hygge really gets going):

Turn around and walk away.
Niall stood outside the door to Josh’s apartment, his finger an inch from the doorbell, while an argument waged silently in his head.
It’s just for a week, Niall’s rational side countered.
It’s wrong, and you know it.
Niall sighed. Catholic Guilt didn’t automatically disappear when you stopped going to church. It was ingrained. Possibly genetic.
That boy thinks he might have a future with you, Guilt said, and if you spend the holidays with him, it’s going to cement that thought in his head. And his heart. And you don’t feel the same, so you should not be here.
You don’t know that, Niall replied silently, his finger moving a millimeter closer to the doorbell. I might feel the same. We only met six weeks ago. It’s not like I know everything about him.
Niall’s phone buzzed, making him jump. He pulled it out of his pocket, and swore as he looked at the caller ID. He turned and walked down the hall away from Josh’s door before hitting the Talk button. “Hi, Mom.”
“Niall, sweetie! Where are you?”
“I’m at Josh’s.”
“Put him on the phone.”
“No, I mean, I’m just outside his door. I was going to—”
“Let him know you changed your mind. That you decided to spend the week with your family. If he has any kind of appreciation for family, he’ll understand.”
Perfect timing. And it’s a perfect excuse.
Niall looked back at the door.
You can call him later and explain that your parents called, that your mom guilted you into staying with them for Christmas. It’s not even a lie.
“You should be with your family for Christmas,” his mom went on, as relentless as she’d been every time she’d called over the past three weeks. “We never get to see you anymore—”
“I see you every Sunday for dinner,” Niall said.
Don’t snap at your mother.
“And Molly’s going to be in town. You can go to the movies or something.”
“Mom, I’m not going to the movies with Molly. We’re both nearly thirty, not sixteen, and I’m gay.”
“Don’t be silly, sweetie, you always had a girlfriend in high school.”
“And I always had a boyfriend in college. I know you think it’s a phase—”
“You can explain it all to me when you come over. You have to go somewhere since you had that pipe break. You really should have demanded that they get it fixed before Christmas.”
“Like I told you yesterday,” Niall said, fighting to keep his voice low, “I’m going to spend the week with Josh.”
His mom went quiet. Niall could practically hear the wheels turning. “Is he the thirty-five year old accountant?”
“No, he’s the twenty-six year old social worker.”
“That you’ve only known for a few weeks.” She couldn’t seem to remember that he was gay, but she sure could steel-trap the inconvenient details. “I’ve made up the guest room. It’s all ready for you.”
“Josh has a guest room.”
“You’d rather spend Christmas in a stranger’s guest room than with your own family?”
Oh, dear God. Niall banged the edge of the phone against his head a few times before saying, “Hey, hi, Josh! Mom, I gotta go, love you, bye!” He ended the call and shook his head.
You lied to your mother.
Josh might open the door. Any second now.
But he didn’t.
Niall banged the phone against his head once more as he walked slowly back to Josh’s door. Maybe he should start therapy. There had to be some professional who specialized in guilt removal, Catholic or otherwise. But before he could think about entering therapy, he had to decide if he was going to enter Josh’s apartment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To celebrate the release of Have a Hygge Holiday, I’ll be giving away a $10 gift certificate from Dreamspinner Press. For a chance to win, please leave a comment below, telling me about the hygge you do every year, or the hygge you’d like to do sometime in the future. For my own house, I aspire to the description of Josh’s apartment in all its hygge glory, but first I’d need to clean and unclutter**. So it’s going to be a long road. :)

In your comment, please make sure to include the email address you have registered with Dreamspinner Press. The drawing will take place 72 hours after this post goes up.

You can find me using one of these methods:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bsnow.writer
E-mail: bsnow.writer@gmail.com
woefully neglected Blog: http://bsnowwriter.blogspot.com/

Thanks for reading!

 

* Dreamspinner Press editors do take me to task over how much I use “but” in my writing. I’ve had to perform many a butectomy during editing…..

** For help uncluttering, I recommend Unfuck Your Habitat [link: http://unfuckyourhabitat.tumblr.com/]. If I went to that tumblr every day, my house might be hygge-ready by Halloween.

 

Check out Have a Hygge Holiday today!

HaveAHyggeHoliday_postcard_front_DSP

Blurb:

Niall is having second thoughts about spending the holidays with Josh. If Josh’s sweet nature masks the fact that he’s a spineless pushover, Niall doesn’t want a long-term relationship with him. Guilt—an annoying voice in his head—agrees, telling him to end it before Josh gets hurt. But then Niall sees how Josh has turned his apartment into a cozy, inviting nest for winter, based on the Scandinavian tradition of hygge: curling up with good food, candles, music, hot drinks, family, and friends.

Niall decides to stay, telling himself he’ll discover the real Josh when the two of them are together for a week, but two become four when Niall’s Christmas-crazy parents show up on Josh’s doorstep, and four become five when Josh’s father arrives to celebrate the last night of Hanukkah. The two sets of parents clash over decorations, food, and public displays of affection. Their bickering drives Niall crazy, as does Josh’s calm acceptance. If something doesn’t change, Niall will walk away from all of it, including his future with Josh.

23 Responses to “The Spirit of Hygge with B. Snow – Post + Giveaway”

  1. Didi says:

    Huh… for a solitary person like myself, I struggle to come up with something that could describe having a hygge. Let’s see… reading, my cup of coffee and enjoying my preferred food for the day. All very self-centric, I know! :) )

  2. Theo says:

    Hygge in my family usually is finding last year’s christmas tree and decorations, setting the (plastic) tree with decorations and lights (while arguing about placements) with my sisters, eating cold mangoes when it’s hot, or hot tea with banana fritters when it rains in the evenings. Can you guess where I live? :)

  3. Kim Krogh says:

    Being a native dane in the land of hygge (hygge is a mood you are in).

    You can say: The spirit of hygge. But when you say “have a hygge Holiday” it just sounds wrong. I would say something like “Have a hyggelig holiday”. The meaning of that would be, have a great/nice holiday.

    Kim

  4. Susan says:

    When I was growing up, we always put electric candles in the windows of our Cape Cod house. After I started celebrating the holidays myself, I inherited those candles and still use them today. They bring back wonderful memories!

    skadlec1@yahoo.com

  5. Jen says:

    Thanks for the post and teaching me a new word. :-) In my family we have a decorating party where we put up all of our decorations, play Christmas music and have appetizers and holiday beverages. We also do a “countdown” of our favorite holiday shows leading up to A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. Presents are opened Christmas morning with a nice wood fire in the fireplace, music, and some warm pastries plus coffee for the adults.

    jen(dot)f(at)mac(dot)com

  6. B. Snow says:

    Hi, Didi, that is very hygge! Mmm, coffee and a book…..

  7. B. Snow says:

    Hi, Theo, you’re probably the Theo who lives in Florida? :D And LOL about arguing over the placements. It’s not family if there’s no good-natured arguing. :D

  8. B. Snow says:

    Hi, Kim, thanks for the clarification! I hope I got the content right, anyway. :)

  9. B. Snow says:

    Hiya, Susan! I don’t think I ever saw candles in windows until maybe 10 years ago, but I know it’s an old European tradition. It’s lovely to see a house lit up in winter. I try to put the electric Menorah up where it can be seen from outside, but it probably just looks like random lights the first few nights….. :P

    Yes, it’s a thing: http://www.partycity.com/product/light+up+menorah+11in.do?kwid=light-up%20menorah&qcid=&ref=ci&extcmp=pla%7CGoogle

  10. B. Snow says:

    Hi, Jen, very hygge! And I love Christmas Carol movies — saw one last year for the first time, “A Diva’s Christmas Carol”, with Vanessa Williams as Ebony[zer] Scrooge.

    Which movie version is your favorite? I have to say I love Bill Murray’s “Scrooged”. (“Bitch hit me with a toaster!”) And back in my fanfic days I wrote a story based on A Christmas Carol, set in the Harry Potter universe. It’s still one of my favorites. :)

  11. Debra Guyette says:

    I love to put candles in the windows. we tried lights on the house and the weather was problematic.

  12. Ami says:

    Well, if hygge means coziness then being in bed curling up with Kindle is my kind of daily coziness. Does that count? I don’t have winter and don’t celebrate wintee holiday, but as a Muslim in Indonesia I do have a celebration after Holy Ramadhan where I spend it with family and great food. That can be hygge holiday, eight?

    amie_07(at)yahoo(dot)com

  13. Trix says:

    I knew the word hygge because of a Northern California indie duo called Josh & Hugh Make Hyyge (I have one of their cassettes somewhere). I definitely do the cooking aspect, but the uncluttering would not come naturally to me to say the least!

  14. Trix says:

    Aagh, misspelled “hygge” the second time, quelle dork!

  15. H.B. says:

    There wasn’t really a form of hygge celebration or tradition when I was growing up and there still isn’t one now when I’m an adult. I guess the closeted would be getting (trying to get them anyway) the family together and just sitting down and having a meal together. After a united front of cooking said meal together.

  16. Angela says:

    Congrats on the release of Have a Hygge Holiday.

    Hygge sounds a lot like the Dutch Gezellig or Gezelligheid (and i can’t find a good English translation for Gezellig either, Cosy is the word that comes close)

    When the kids are free from school and can stay up later then usual i like to put on a film and make some snacks and we all watch together and eat the snacks and have quality family time, that is what Gezelligheid means and i suppose it is close to what Hygge is. So i like to have a little Hygge during the year and not only on or close to Xmas time :)

  17. B. Snow says:

    Hi, all, the drawing will be a little delayed as I’m in the middle of a work webinar. Watching it at home so I’m playing a drinking game — sip of coffee every time the speaker says “basically”. :)

    It should be over in time for me to draw at 11 AM. So I’ll be back in a bit.

  18. B. Snow says:

    Hi, Debra, we never had lights on the house growing up, but my husband did. I’d like to do it now, but he says it’s a pain in the rear. so we’ll have to think about it. :) Candles in the windows sounds lovely.

  19. B. Snow says:

    Hi, Ami, yes, everyone gathering to celebrate and eat after a period of fasting is absolutely hygge!

    Something I found out when I was researching it was that although hygge keeps people sane in winter, it can be a year-round thing. And those of us closer the north and south poles tend to forget that some places don’t have winter, sorry! :)

  20. B. Snow says:

    Hi, Trix, I’ll have to check out that music duo! And no worries about the spelling. Typos happen. :D

    And I’m more about the cooking than the decorating, too. But maybe I’l get a little closer each year. I should try to get a hashtag trending: #hyggegoals. :)

  21. B. Snow says:

    Heya, HB, LOL at “united front” of cooking. That reminds me of a movie? Story? where the adult siblings keep arguing over how to make the gravy…..

    Yes, getting the family together counts as hygge. Sitting under a blanket with a book, having a cup of cocoa, watching A Christmas Story on TV, all hygge (as long as no one shoots their eye out). :)

  22. B. Snow says:

    Hi, Angela, yes, it’s probably the same concept. One of the descriptions was the German “Gemütlichkeit”, maybe it’s a similar “ge” and “keit” as in the Dutch words? As you said, there’s no good English equivalent.

    And as you said, hygge isn’t just for winter. The picture on Wikipedia for Gemütlichkeit is of a beer garden, definitely a summer thing. I’d love to have year round hygge, but since I’m at the beginning level, I’m trying to start with winter and work up from there. :D

  23. B. Snow says:

    Okay, the winner of the drawing is…..Susan!

    Susan, I will contact Dreamspinner about getting the gift certificate to you.

    To everybody who commented, thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll check out and book and enjoy hygge throughout the year!

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