Many years in the making: A Wish to Save Christmas
Updated: 23 hours ago
On the surface, it may seem like the Mr. Tout's series came flying out of my imagination and onto my computer in rapid-fire succession, and to some extent that is true. Prior to the covid lockdown of 2020, I had never written more than 50 or so pages of an unfinished horror/suspense novel. So the fact that the sixth and final book of the series, The Big Show, will be coming out in June 2024 is a bit of a surprise. But as anyone who knows me well can attest, once I set my sights on something, I'm all in.
That was certainly the case with Mr. Tout.
While the ideas I eventually shaped into the Magical Forest came before any of my other creative writing endeavors, the first time I actually sat down and wrote a complete story happened around 1996 or 97 (I'm a bit hazy on the exact year). I wrote that story, Mariah and the Christmas Magic, as a present for my then five- or six-year-old daughter, and also as an entry for a holiday contest in the local newspaper. I didn't win the contest, but what I did accomplish was the start of a holiday tradition. And, as the story goes, I experienced some Christmas magic of my own during the creation of the original version. It came in the form of a Christmas card featuring the beautiful Boris Zvorykin painting of Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden. My story already featured an unnamed character who fit her persona perfectly, so being able to link my story to this character from Russian folklore made it all the more appropriate. Being able to connect both the Snow Maiden Returns and the short story, The Naughty Gnomes to the ongoing Mr. Tout's Magical Forest series many years later was another bit of happy magic that came my way.
The original Mariah Christmas story, which was about 7,000 words long, was a shell of what became the 2022 novella, A Wish to Save Christmas. Over the years it has undergone numerous changes, but the essential message has remained the same. As my daughter Mariah grew older, the annual readings went by the wayside, but I never totally forgot about the story or stopped trying to make it better. The first step was the introduction of the songs/poems when the line "you'd be surprised what a small girl can do" got stuck in my head. From there, I began to imagine the story as a musical of sorts and more songs/poems presented themselves in the way they often do.
When the calendar turned to December and the arrival of the holiday season, my thoughts often returned to the Snow Maiden. Whenever that happened it meant more changes and adjustments, including one major rewrite. I will admit that it wasn't easy tearing into a story I had already been working on for years. Many of the minor details changed, but again the essential message remained intact. The result was the now out of print short story, The Snow Maiden's Return, first published in 2020. While I was happy enough with that version to set it out into the world, in my mind something was still missing. That all changed one Thursday evening when I began wondering about the events leading up to those described in The Snow Maiden's Return.
It made for a wonderful writing project over the holidays in 2021 as I found enough Christmas magic and holiday spirit to expand The Snow Maiden's Return into a novella nearly twice the length of the original and six times longer than Mariah and the Christmas Magic. Looking back on it, A Wish to Save Christmas was probably the most enjoyable stretch of writing I can recall during this marathon of words that has resulted in the six books of Mr. Tout's Magical Forest. Which does not mean that I haven't enjoyed writing about Mr. Tout, Mariah, Katriva and the others. There is just something very special about being able to create an original story about my favorite holiday. And as I noted at the end of A Wish to Save Christmas, "I have long had the desire to write a story that could capture some of what Christmas means to me."
My original hope was that it might someday become a picture book, and who knows, that may eventually happen. But in the meantime, my wish is that others might share in some of the joy that I experienced during the long journey to bring this story to life.