Matt Haig's A Boy Called Christmas, illustrated by Chris Mould, is out in November from Canongate. The author spoke about his inspiration for the book.
Why did you decide to write a Christmas book?
For a few years I wanted to write a Father Christmas story. Originally I wanted to do it as a novel for adults, a more cynical take on Christmas, but then I decided to do something a bit more confident, something that actually had a real Christmas feel. My son Lucas asked me: “What was Father Christmas like as a boy?” That was the start of A Boy Called Christmas.
What happens in the story?
It is an origin story for Father Christmas, so it is about how an ordinary human boy called Nikolas becomes the magical superhero we know as Father Christmas. Nikolas is a poor boy living with his woodcutter father in a forest in Finland. His dad goes on a mysterious quest to find proof of the elf kingdom. When he doesn’t return, Nikolas runs away from his ferocious Aunt Carlotta to find his father. On the way he discovers elves, a troll, bears, reindeer, the truth about his father and who he himself could grow up to become.
How much of the story is folklore and how much is from your imagination?
I wanted to start with the elements we know about Father Christmas—the elves, the sleigh, the reindeer, the red clothes and so on—and explain them. I absolutely wanted this to be about the Father Christmas we know, so I started from there, but as it is about the life of Father Christmas as a boy, it was about imagining all these things afresh. I also wanted the elves to be a bit different to what we might expect.
What events will you do to celebrate the book’s publication in November?
Canongate is amazing at events and is planning “big things”...but I don’t know what yet! Hopefully they will involve [the book’s illustrator] Chris Mould.