Toni Shiloh is a wife, a mom, and an award-winning Christian contemporary romance author. Her novel In Search of a Prince won the first ever Christy Amplify Award. It has also been praised by Oprah Daily, POPSUGAR, Library Journal, and Booklist, and is a Parable Group bestseller. Her books have been finalists for the HOLT Medallion and the Selah Award. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Toni loves connecting with readers and authors alike via social media.
In this interview, Toni talks with us about her latest Christmas novel, You Make It Feel like Christmas.
FF: Can you tell us a little bit about your new novella, You Make It Feel Like Christmas?
You Make It Feel Like Christmas is a story about a woman returning home. Unlike most people during the season, Starr Lewis dreads the return. She’s single, jobless, and entering a home full of people who are successful in their careers. Not to mention her sister, Angel, is marrying Starr’s ex-boyfriend. Starr’s just not sure she’ll enjoy anything about the Christmas season.
But then she meets her oldest brother’s best friend and sees a spark of that Christmas magic that seemed so fleeting.
Waylon is struggling this season because he’s all alone. But thankfully, his friend Noel invites him to hang out with the Lewis crew during the holiday season. When he sees Starr, he sees the same ache that’s been lodged in his heart the past six months. Together, they discover the hope of Christmas and the beauty of togetherness.
FF: There are five, yes five, Lewis siblings in total. Can you briefly introduce us to each of them?
I’d be happy to. I’ll go in order of birth.
1. Noel is the oldest son and has a very type-A personality. He’s married to his work but loves his family and will be there for them if they need him.
2. Eve is the oldest daughter and very much like Noel. Although she’s willing to listen to her siblings’ problems, she’s not quick to share her own.
Gabe and Angel come next as they are the December-born twins.
3. Gabe loves life but feels a little shadowed by Noel’s capabilities.
4. Angel is all about herself and interior design.
5. Last, but not least, is Starr. She never felt connected to her siblings since she’s the last and odd number out. Yet she longs to feel part of the family and seen for who she truly is.
FF: What fun elements and what challenges does this cast of Lewis siblings present to the story?
I love the banter between the siblings. I think whenever you have a close-knit cast, the dialogue provides ample opportunities to entertain the reader. However, there are many of them, and it’s hard as a writer to make sure they’re all seen so the readers are introduced to them and get an idea of their personality. However, the Lewis siblings have personality in spades.
FF: Starr feels a definite struggle to keep up with her successful siblings when she returns home for the holidays single and without a job. What would you say to readers who struggle with this kind of comparison around the holidays?
A lot of the times, holidays amplify feelings that were already bubbling beneath the surface. The holidays and cheer can seem false to someone struggling with their singleness and career prospects. If that’s you, please know that God sees you. God hears you. You are not less- than—you are exactly who He created you to be. Walk in confidence and remember that God has a plan. You may look around and see desert, but an everlasting oasis is on the horizon. Hold on to Him and His promises.
FF: Can you tell us a little bit more about Starr’s relationship with her sister Angel?
Yes. Starr and Angel are close in age and therefore have always suffered from sibling rivalry. Starr just wanted to be close to Angel, but Angel has always been self-centered. Because Starr is quieter in nature than her sister, she let Angel come in like a whirlwind and essentially take Starr’s boyfriend. Her boyfriend, Ashton, dumps Starr and begins to date Angel. Angel has no remorse and sees nothing wrong since they date after Starr has been dumped. Starr has to deal with all these emotions as she returns home to a family of superstars.
FF: What are you most excited for readers to experience as they pick up this holiday romance?
Definitely the beauty of the Christmas season. Family, Christmas activities, Christmas décor, and most importantly, Christ.
FF: Will this novella appeal to fans of Hallmark Christmas movies? What sets it apart as well?
Definitely! I must admit I think of Hallmark Christmas movies every time I dive into a novella. There’s just something about a small-town feel, Christmas festivities, and romance that makes a person feel ready to enjoy the season. But I also offer the reason for the season—the fullness that can be found in Jesus Christ and the hope He brings when life looks bleak.
FF: What aspect of this story did you enjoy writing the most?
The banter between Waylon and Starr. I wasn’t expecting Waylon to have such cheesy charm, but it perfectly works for him.
FF: As a romance reader yourself, what are your favorite kinds of romances? Any particular tropes or storylines you can’t resist?
Oh, this is a fantastic question. I read so many romance books, but rom-coms are definitely at the forefront. I love marriages of convenience (modern!), fake relationships, and enemies to more. Bonus if you start combining my favorite tropes in one book.
FF: What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on book two in the Love in the Spotlight Series. Book one releases August 2023 and the rest of the books in the series are set to release in 2024 and 2025.
You Make It Feel like Christmas
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: September 5, 2023
It’s the most wonderful time of the year—for everyone except Starr Lewis.
As if going home for the holidays jobless and single wasn’t bad enough, she’s dragged into a holiday season full of activities leading up to her sister’s uber-romantic Christmas Eve wedding—to Starr’s ex-boyfriend. But when her brother’s best friend, Waylon Emmerson, attends their family Thanksgiving, she starts to wonder if maybe coming home for Christmas isn’t so bad after all.
As Starr finds the perfect distraction in helping Waylon make over his late mother’s Christmas shop, the most wonderful time of the year works its magic and the spark between them grows. But with the holidays fast approaching, Starr must decide what she wants out of life after the gifts are unwrapped and the ornaments are put away–to go back to New York City or to open her heart to a love that will last beyond Christmas Day?
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