Thursday, September 28, 2006

Victoria Bylin: Serendipity

When my editor invited me to write a novella for the October 2006 Western Christmas anthology, I knew what I wanted to write. William Merritt, the unconventional preacher from Of Men and Angels, had a story of his own to tell. Christmas offered the perfect setting for a man coming to grips with his failings and need for forgiveness.

Here's where the serendipity comes in . . . Angels is set in western Colorado in 1885. Because of a key event, the novella had to take place twenty years earlier in Denver. A little research revealed Christmas traditions as we know them were just beginning to take root at that time. Many of those traditions came from German immigrants to the Pennsylvania Dutch region. The odds of a family in Denver having a Christmas tree and glass ornaments were fairly slim unless they had ties to that region of the country.

By a stroke of luck, when I wrote Of Men and Angels, I chose Philadelphia as Katherine Merritt's home town. It made perfect sense for William's wife to bring the traditions of a Christmas tree and a decorating party to her home out west. She owns glass ornaments from Europe and loves Christmas music as much as I do. It's funny how things worked out. If Katherine had been born and raised somewhere else, the Christmas connection in 1865 Denver would have been harder to establish.

I loved telling this story, though my family found it a bit odd to hear "O Holy Night" in July. But why not? The music is beautiful and the true spirit of Christmas isn't just for December.

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