Riveting Riffs Logo One  Nancy Naigle and Hallmark Give Us Christmas Joy
Nancy Naigle Photo One

This Christmas season the Hallmark Channel in the United States and the W Channel in Canada are debuting two new Christmas movies, Christmas Joy and Hope At Christmas, both of which are based on romance novels written by Nancy Naigle, a USA Today Bestselling Author.  The affable Virginian who now makes her home in North Carolina was on the film set for both movies earlier this year and when she sat down with Riveting Riffs Magazine she was effusive about the actors, the production crew and the completed movies.

This writer read Christmas Joy and did not want to put the book down, because the storylines and the characters were so well developed that you felt like you knew them personally.

Joy Holbrook one of the two main characters in Christmas Joy learns that her Aunt Ruby in Crystal Falls has been injured from an accident and so Joy travels from her high profile job in the big city to the small town of Crystal Falls to help out with feeding her aunt’s farm animals, do some Christmas decorating and help out with Molly. You will not see the little girl Molly in the movie edition, but as Nancy Naigle says it is difficult to condense 70,000 or 80,000 words contained in a novel into a movie script of approximately 20,000 words.

Nancy Naigle Photo TwoSo Nancy who is Joy Holbrook?

“The Christmas story came from me. As a career girl (She was a Vice-President with a financial institution) for a lot of years I was really proud (of my career) and I missed a lot of birthdays, I missed a lot of family time and it wasn’t until I hit forty and I started opening my eyes to the kinds of things I was missing that I realized how important those things were that I would never get back.

Joy’s character is much younger than I was, but the whole idea behind that story was that she was a professional girl and she was very good at her job. Her aunt (Ruby) needed her help. She had this big promotional opportunity right at her fingertips and being there to handhold that and hopefully make that happen was important to her. I wanted her to make the right decision, so it turned out good for her.  That is where the whole story started.

Of course, in most of my books if you look close enough, there is a goat mentioned somewhere. Aunt Ruby having some goats and stuff was not out of the question.  Some of my love for farm animals comes through everywhere, but I thought it would be fun with her living in D.C. I was born and raised in Virginia and people would go oh yes I have been to Arlington, Virginia and that is so different from the part of Virginia that I lived in. She is working in this big city in D.C. and she is going to go back to Crystal Falls to help her aunt. She thinks it will be a piece of cake and she can handle all of this marketing stuff and she can also handle a few animals and whatever else is coming her way. It is harder than she thinks.

In the book there is the little girl Molly who adds a whole new dimension to the book too. She is not in the movie.

The movie works perfectly without it, but I think people are going to love reading those pieces in the book. I think she is an awesome character and I love Molly. There is that wide eyed bewilderment (about Christmas) and the snowflake kisses. Those things are so simple, but they make a big difference in her life. I love the story of Molly. I don’t have children of mine own, so writing that is my extra special little thing. I had stepchildren and they were teenagers when I raised them with my husband. He passed away in 2014 and my stepchildren are in their thirties. My fiancé now has a little six year old and those things in the book are things that I am experiencing with him for the first time. It has been such a delight. Oh my gosh.

Then there is Ben Andrews. How would you like to meet the future love of your life by running into his vehicle? Come on, that is hardly a spoiler. This is a romance novel and a Hallmark movie. You can see this one coming from a mile away. The suspense is always in how it is going to happen, not if it is going to happen.

Naigle says, “Ben worked in the city before. His parents were getting older and he realized he wanted to come back to Crystal Falls and so he does and he works as the hospital administrator. He still does woodworking in his garage and he still helps his parents. In his home he is matching all the cornices and the woodwork. He is detail oriented. He is an all-around good guy. I love his relationship with the other guys in town.

There are some things you will (read) in the book that you won’t see in the movie that I think make him a more well-rounded character.”

About Christmas Joy, the movie Nancy Naigle says, “I was on set and it was so beautiful, lovely and so well done.  It was the first moment that I was able to say with a one hundred percent certainty you want to read the book and you want to see the movie, because both bring different pieces of it to life.” Nancy Naigle Photo Three

On the set when we were in Pitt Meadows in British Columbia (Canada) and during the (scene) when Joy found the ornament from her mom and Ben is talking he ends up breaking the ornament. It is a big moment in the book. As I watched them film that when he dropped that ornament I just cried. It was exactly how I had seen it in my head. It is almost a little frightening and you think oh my God this has been private in my head for three or four years now and I just watched it happen just like I thought.

I had the same feeling too when they started decorating the tree. They started the snow machines outside and the snow started wafting around me, while I was watching on the video, as the two of them were hanging the balls on the tree. I almost felt like I was pulled into this scene and like it really happened to me. I know it didn’t, because I made it up. It was real. It was emotional and I cried a lot on set and I cried when I watched the movie. My mama and I watched it together. We laughed, we giggled, I teared up and I cried. At the very end of the movie the house that they are standing in front of has almost a manger shape to it. They are standing there together with their heads tilted towards each other. They start panning to the sky and the beautiful Mariah Carey (rendition) of “Joy To the Word,” (starts to play). Probably half the people will have flipped away from the channel, while the credits are rolling, but if you keep watching (Editor’s Note: We decided not to include the rest of the quote, because it would spoil it for those watching the movie).”  

In a society that seems to move at an increasingly quick pace and with films and television programs that seem more focused on entertaining for the short term than they do on substance, sitting down to read a novel seems almost a thing of the past. Yet, here we are talking to Nancy Naigle who has a solid core of ardent fans who eagerly devour each new book that she authors, about another couple who meet, fall in love and who either live in or visit some small town. It therefore, seems quite appropriate to pose the question to Naigle, why are your books so successful?

With a soft, cheery voice that is often sprinkled with light laughter or a giggle she says, “I don’t know. I think television and movies have so many things that just would never have made it to a screen before, so I think people get desensitized to special little things.  Maybe they think they are too little. Gosh now a teen doesn’t even go to prom without some big promposal. In the past you might hear about a proposal for a wedding or a marriage proposal that was really over the top, but kids are doing that for prom these days. I think oh my gosh you are wasting all of your good stuff, before you even need it.

For a lot of people it is little simple things that mean the most. They are sincere and they don’t have to cost a lot of money. They are just caring and kind. I think that it is refreshing and it might seem old fashioned to some people. Maybe I am old fashioned (she laughs). I don’t have the answer for that. There is nothing wrong with sweet, gentleness, being kind and caring. It is sad to say that when you see it, it feels refreshing. It should be an everyday part of our lives, right?”

That explains the romantic part and the goodhearted characters that are in Nancy Naigle’s books, but what about the small town settings, especially with a North American demographic that continues to trend more towards large urban centers than it does rural and small town environments?

“I grew up in Virginia Beach and that is not really a small town. One of our biggest naval bases is right there. I worked in Charlotte. I had some bigger city exposure traveling with the bank to Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas, but I have always had a real affection for small towns. No matter where I have been I loved driving through the small towns and discovering the little shops and little diners. Every story that I write is a mishmash of little towns I have visited. It doesn’t matter where they are, small towns have that same feeling everywhere that you go. I just have a real love for small towns.

I think it is the slower pace. When you jump into the books that are set in small towns you take on the smaller town pace. I hope the books bring people a breath of fresh air. That certainly was the case for me when my (late) husband and I moved out to a little town in Hinton County Virginia, where we had an eighty-eight acre goat farm. I worked in high tech, big business every day and I was on conference calls around the world. I would step outside and sixty goats would run to the fence. If it was kidding season we might have a hundred kids (baby goats) on the ground it was a whole different feeling. I could literally feel the stress fall away and that is what I hope to achieve with the books. If someone walks into that book with a feeling of anxiety over an ex-husband or a job, a child, a problem or a sickness when they are opening those pages, getting into those characters and becoming friends with those characters they are getting that feeling of I can breathe,” she says.  

As for the inspiration for her characters Nancy Naigle says, “They come from all over. Some of them like the characters in Sweet Tea and Secrets (set in Adams Grove, Virginia) with Pearl (Clemmons) who is the old matriarch of the town she was my great grandma Amy who was such a hoot. She would take my mom and me out to lunch and she would put a piece of parsley behind her ear. She would try and fix my mom up with the waiter. She was a say what’s on her mind kind of a girl. I just love her and I love old people.

I was on Princess Cruise’s Book Club Pick a few years ago, so I got to go on a cruise to Alaska.

While we were on that cruise we did some excursions and one of those excursions was a beautiful glass blowing excursion. I think it was to Skagway, Alaska. The young man who taught us glass blowing and helped us to make our beautiful artwork was kind of hippieish and a nice guy. When he was teaching me I teased him and I said this is sexier than that moment in Ghost when they were doing the pottery (she laughs). We laughed and laughed and he is the one who inspired the character in my novel Until Tomorrow that has the Alaskan glassblower. You never know who you are going to bump into that gives you a spark or makes you feel good and you want to share.”

Nancy Naigle Photo FourThe conversation segues back to another character, Sydney Ragsdale who appears in Hope At Christmas, “Sydney is a made up gal who is going through a lot of stuff that women go through these days, divorce, reengineering her life, while keeping her daughter’s life stable. I picked the name Sydney, because one of my dear friends has a daughter named Sydney and I always thought it was a pretty name. Everyone was teasing me when they found out I was writing Hope At Christmas. They thought the name was going to be Hope, because Christmas Joy had Joy. I thought Sydney was a good, strong and pretty name. I love the character and I think between the book and the movie her character is really on point. Scottie Thompson plays her in the movie and she is so beautiful. She perfected that part.

As for the central male character Kevin MacAlea, Naigle says, “I wanted him to be called Mac and that is why he got MacAlea. He is every single dad who has ever had to take on all of that responsibility. I will tell you between the movie and the book there is a difference, because he is not a single dad (in the movie). He is (still) a single guy. There are definitely differences between the book and the movie. The guy is still a good guy. He is a teacher. He is caring and he works with his hands. He is very close with his mom. Even though there are a lot of changes between the movie and the book when I read the whole script I was really happy with where it went.  I think readers will love the book, because there is so much more to it, but they will still love the story on the television.”

Hope at Christmas is set in a small town called Hopewell. Nancy Naigle describes the town that she created, “It is the kind of a town where everybody who goes to the diner knows each other and where the people walking down the streets really are going hey John, how are you? Everybody knows each other and you don’t see people just walking down the street and passing each other without saying a word. It was fun for me when I was on the set and they were doing one of the scenes when Sydney and Rayanne (Erica Tremblay) are walking down Main Street near the Cookie Dough Bakery and they are offered a cookie on the street.  The extras were walking down the street and I was so delighted that the extras were being told what to do and that they greeted each other. That is exactly how it was in my book, in my heart and in my head. People were interacting with each other and it wasn’t just people moving down the street it was people living and (talking to each other), as they moved down the street. It caught that perfectly.”

As a nod to Nancy Naigle’s brilliant writing and how highly Hallmark and Crown Media think of her, she was asked to do a novelization of a movie that was already aired in 2017 and 2018, Christmas In Evergreen.

“It was a Hallmark original movie last year and Hallmark approached me to do the novelization for that movie. I wrote the novel for Christmas In Evergreen and it came out this past July, so it could go with the movie they already had. It was backwards, but super fun for me. I thought when they asked me to do this that they were going to send me the script and that it would be a piece of cake. What I didn’t realize was the script is 20,000 words and that is it. I needed to turn in this 50,000 or 75,000 word book from this 20,000 word script. It was a lot more work than I thought it was going to be, but it was also a different kind of work. It gave me a huge new point of view of how to watch the movie and then turn it back into a story. I really enjoyed it. They also asked me to do the novelization for Christmas In Evergreen Letters to Santa, which comes out this year. I will be writing that during the first quarter and it will come out next July. I assumed at first it was going to be a continuation of the first Christmas In Evergreen movie, but this is a whole different story. I am really excited and I think it will be fun.

The guy is driving grandpa’s truck in that movie and I want to know how he got grandpa’s truck. Allie is in the movie still, so there are some tie ins to the old movie. It is a fabulous cast anyway and Barbara Niven and Ashley Williams are in the movie again. I am excited to see what the new story is going to be. I have no idea and I have only seen the previews. I will probably watch it forty-five times just like I did with the first one.  I watched it over and over and over again, plus they sent me the script and they send you what they call their last script, but it doesn’t always match exactly to the movie. I found myself doing a lot of editing to make sure that it matched the movie and then found out where I could add some additional back stories that didn’t change the movie at all, but would give the readers more detail about the characters. Then I get to write an epilogue or what happened after the movie and that is a lot of fun.”

Nancy Naigle won a fan in Riveting Riffs Magazine, because of her brilliant storytelling and at a time when there seems to be so much turmoil in the world, her characters who are influenced by real people, remind us of the things, the values and the relationships that really are important in life. Treat yourself this Christmas season to purchasing Nancy Naigle’s Christmas Joy and Hope At Christmas. In fact, you will enjoy reading these books anytime of the year. You can purchase Nancy Naigle’s novels through most major online retailers. Please take time to visit the website for Nancy Naigle.    Return to Our Front Page

Top Photo courtesy of the Hallmark Channel and Crown Media is from Christmas Joy with Danielle Panabaker and Matt Long and is protected by copyright © , All Rights Reserved. Second Photo is of Nancy Naigle, plus book cover photos are courtesy of Nancy Naigle and are protected by copyright © , All Rights Reserved.

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This interview by Joe Montague  published November 12 th, 2018 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos and artwork are the the property of Nancy Naigle and / or Hallmark Channel / Crown Media and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved