The Inspiration behind “The Fruitcake Challenge” novella
Book 3 in The Christmas Traditions series with
Cynthia Hickey, Niki Turner, Darlene Franklin, Patti Hall Smith and Jennifer Allee.
I’d been wanting to do a lumberjack and lumber camp story since I’d written “Snowed In,” a short story published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer (Guidepost Books, 2013). I even pitched this concept for the 2014 collection.
But God spoke to my heart that it wouldn’t be in it. The word count limit was 6500 words, and I convinced myself I could tell this story within that limit. But when I began developing the story with editor Eva Marie Everson this summer, she told me it couldn’t be told in under 35,000 words or so. I told her I was aiming for 20,000. And I did.
As we worked on the project, it soon bore out that Eva Marie was correct—the final novella was 34,000 words!!! None of the other stories in the series are this long, and I’d not meant for it to be so many words, but that was what it took to tell the story.
The inspiration for my heroine Josephine Christy was my mother, Ruby Evelyn Skidmore Fancett, who was a real life cook and who’d lived in a lumber camp part of her growing up years. My grandmother, Eliza Jane Clark Skidmore, was also an inspiration because she’d been a lumber camp cook for my grandfather, who ran a lumber camp. When I’ve read other Christian romances set in lumber camps I felt the whole story wasn’t told. I didn’t sugar coat the camp experience but I did include how some camps were family camps with men just trying to make a living.
As I got into the character of Jo, it was clear she wanted out of the lumber camp life. And I always sensed this was true of my mother who as soon as she could got a job and lived on her own. My heroine has been lacking hope. And when she meets Tom Jeffries and accepts his challenge to make a fruitcake “as good as” his mother makes, she rises to the occasion but also begins to finally take action to go after her hope in Christ to bring her from the camps and begin a new life. But Tom represents what she says she’d never have—a husband who is a lumberjack.
Teachers, in the 1890s when my story was set, were paid very poorly whereas a hardworking shanty boy could potentially make decent wages for the time. That inspired me to make Tom an educated man who is big and strong, gets into the camp, and becomes a little too cocky for his own good! But he has a heart of gold!
“The Fruitcake Challenge”
When new lumberjack, Tom Jeffries, tells the camp cook, Jo Christy, that he’ll marry her if she can make a fruitcake, “as good as the one my mother makes,” she rises to the occasion. After all, he’s the handsomest, smartest, and strongest axman her camp-boss father has ever had in his camp—and the cockiest. And she intends to bring this lumberjack down a notch or three by refusing his proposal. The fruitcake wars are on! All the shanty boys and Jo’s cooking helpers chip in with their recipes but Jo finds she’ll have to enlist more help—and begins corresponding with Tom’s mother.
Step back in time to 1890, in beautiful Northern Michigan, near the sapphire straits of Mackinac, when the white pines were “white gold” and lumber camps were a way of life. Jo is ready to find another life outside of the camps and plans that don’t include any shanty boys. But will a lumberjack keep her in the very place she’s sworn to leave?
Find Carrie’s books and connect with her at:
Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., “Hearts Overcoming Through Time,” is an award-winning Christian historical romance author. In 2015, Carrie’s novel Saving the Marquise’s Granddaughter will release with Pelican Book Group. Carrie’s Amazon Christian Historical Romance #1 bestselling novella, The Fruitcake Challenge, released September 2014. Her short story, “Snowed In,” appears in Guidepost Books’ A Christmas Cup of Cheer (2013). She’s the Amazon best-selling and top-rated author of Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance (2013). Her short story, “The Quilting Contest,” appears in Family Fiction’s The Story 2014 anthology. Carrie received Honorable Mention for the 2014 Maggie Awards for Excellence for her unpublished novel Grand Exposé. She is a former psychologist (25 years) and mother of two.
Christmas Traditions Giveaway
Carrie Fancett Pagels is giving a copy of her novella, “The Fruitcake Challenge.” Please leave a comment on this post for a chance to win.
Niki Turner is giving a copy of her novella, “Sadie’s Gift. Please leave a comment on Niki’s post for a chance to win.
For both giveaways, the winners will be randomly chosen from comments left on the respective posts before 11:59 pm (Central time), Sunday, December 14th. Winners will be announced on Monday, December 15th and may select either a paperback or ebook (Kindle or Nook) edition. (USA only for paperback choice.) Thank you for your participation.