It's already Day Four of Queermas, and we have another treat in store for you! Today, we're chatting with Serena Kirsch about her festive lesbian romance, Jingle around the Block, in an exciting written interview. Grab a mug of hot cocoa and find out more about this charming, small-town, opposites-attract story and the inspiration behind it.
Serena Kirsch is a contemporary lesfic author who loves sapphic media of all kinds. Her guilty pleasures include The Real Housewives, snuggling her cats, and reading indulgent, trope-filled romance.
Thank you so much for featuring on our website! First of all, let’s get to know you a little better. Tell us about you and your work.
Thank you for having me! I’m Serena Kirsch, a lesbian who lives in the Midwest United States in a house full of kitties and books. I love me some super trashy reality TV and also YouTube channels that analyze said shows. Jingle around the Block is my debut novel wherein two women from very different backgrounds connect during the Christmas season after a negative interaction where one of them helps the other catch a cheating husband in flagrante.
Your new release, Jingle around the Block, is a WLW holiday romance that’s out now. Tell us what we can expect from the book and what inspired you to write it.
Back in 2020, I counted down the days until I could stream Happiest Season on Hulu, and then it was an angsty disappointment where one girlfriend was awful to the other the whole time. There are tons of happier sapphic Christmas romances now, especially in the indie book world, but I wanted to contribute out of spite for that movie. We have a lot of making up to do! You can expect a book club for Evelyn Hugo, a dramatic encounter at Aldi, a Dragmas show, and characters who learn to be happy with each other in a suburban environment.
The book is set in Lake Ridge. Is this a real or fictional town? What made you choose to use this background and how does it play into the atmosphere of the book?
Lake Ridge is fictional, but it is heavily inspired by Fairview from Desperate Housewives—one of the best shows ever. That show poked a lot of fun at the suburban housewife lifestyle, and I couldn’t help but want to do the same. Charlie is a very straitlaced bisexual who needs to uphold her social status at all costs, and Rachel is a wildcard lesbian who doesn’t sugar-coat anything. I thought a lot about the kind of person who would really shake up a group dynamic in that kind of environment, and also the kind of person who would eventually lean into the change.
In your book, Rachel is a gamer. Do you have a favourite video game, and does Rachel? Bonus points if it’s seasonal!
I wish there were more Christmas games! My favorite series of all time is The Last of Us because of the gameplay, the gripping story, and the characters. One of the main characters is a lesbian, too. I feel that Rachel would really take to the newer Assassin’s Creed games. They’re enormous now, and you can make your character a woman who’s as queer as you want her to be by romancing the NPCs populating the world. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is Viking-themed and does have a recurring Yule Festival that’s really charming.
One of the tropes in this book is opposites attract. What is your favourite trope of festive/romance fiction as a reader, and is your favourite as a writer any different? If so, why?
The return to hometown trope gets me a lot in festive fiction because there’s always a good excuse for why someone would need to go home for Christmas. There’s so much complex history about what caused that character to leave. For me, I like writing opposites attract, too, because it’s like enemies-to-lovers lite. It’s more satisfying to bring two people close when they have so much to overcome—plus, there are tons of opportunities for delicious tension. The tropes I read and write tend to overlap.
Do you have any holiday traditions/activities, and do they also feed into Jingle around the Block?
I need to be fully immersed in the season, so I’ll light some pine tree candles, pop on a Christmas movie, and prioritize reading books that take place in winter (ideally read by a window as it snows). The consumption of sapphic media is a huge theme in the book, and they do watch plenty of it, plus going to a festive drag show and a Christmas market. I also try to hit up local Christmas events in town.
Speaking of feeding, how about festive food and drink?
Charlie and Rachel drink “Christmosas” at one point, and I’d love to try one. They sound yummy. Personally, I am always confused about what people are supposed to eat for Christmas. My family’s Christmas meals look a lot like US Thanksgiving meals. Everyone’s traditions seem to be a little different.
Favourite festive song and why? Do your book characters share similar tastes?
This is a shallow reason, but I love Nat King Cole’s “Happiest Christmas Tree” because the “ho ho ho, he he he” is a lot of fun to belt out at full volume. The book’s name is a riff on a line from “Jingle Bell Rock.” Rachel’s not a fan of Christmas music due to working in the service industry and hearing it every shift for two months of the year, but Charlie loves the season and all of the tunes that come with it.
Do you have a favourite festive movie, show, and/or book and has it influenced your own work at all? Bonus points if it’s queer!
I have to give a shout-out to Barbara Winkes, who writes really lovely lesbian Christmas romances. Check out Christmas Cupid for a Christmas-hating reporter and a Christmas-loving bakery owner falling in love in a Christmas-themed small town. So much Christmas! I’ve been inspired a lot by the recurring themes in the indie Christmas romance field. I can’t get enough of them.
Are there any other seasonal LGBTQ+ releases that you’re looking forward to reading?
Recently I was in my local Barnes and Noble and saw Courtney Kae’s In the Event of Love prominently on display. I got so emotional about a lesbian book being advertised that I snagged a copy. I also have Honeymoon for One waiting on my Kindle. Very excited to start both of them.
What made you choose the indie publishing route and have you enjoyed the experience? Do you have advice for other debut indie authors?
Frankly, the state of traditional publishing has deterred me from ever pursuing that route. I’m loving the experience of indie publishing so far! It’s so nice being able to personally email back and forth with readers who loved my book, and, of course, having control over the contents and marketing for a book is gratifying. For other indie authors, my advice is to connect with the community early on. There are so many supportive authors out there willing to share their expertise (and their mistakes!) with a debut author.
With New Year just around the corner, can you tell us anything about your next project, even if it’s just a little hint? What can readers expect from you in 2023?
My WIP list is embarrassingly long. I have other Christmas romances I’d like to write, so you may see one from me in the future, but I’ve really been into cozy mysteries lately as the world has gotten darker. Very different genres, but I promise I will make you laugh, whatever it is.
Keep up with Serena: