It takes a lot to stand out in the annual deluge of holiday-themed romance novels. Kieran Kramer's Christmas at Two Love Lane—with its charming (and only mildly cold) Charleston setting, matchmaker heroine and perfect blend of sweetness and sass—did just that. We talked to Kramer about Christmas in the South, how she decides if the humor in her books is working and what she thinks is the least romantic holiday activity.
Describe your latest book in a sentence.
Christmas at Two Love Lane is the first in a fun romantic series about three matchmakers finding their own paths to love in Charleston, South Carolina.
It was so fun to read a Christmas-themed novel set in the South! What was your inspiration for the setting, and what attracted you to Charleston in particular?
I grew up here in the Lowcountry, on a rural sea island called Johns Island, and consider Charleston my home. Christmas in the South is great. Charlestonians love their parties year-round, so around the holidays they go all out. Count on copious amounts of spiked eggnog and bourbon flowing at every event. The front doors downtown are always gorgeous, but around the holidays, the wreaths and trimmings are spectacular. I also love the nighttime boat parade in the harbor. And have you ever seen a palmetto tree swathed in lights? It's beautiful—and very merry!
Do people ever ask you to serve as a matchmaker or give them relationship advice because of your books? Do you think you'd be a good matchmaker?
This question makes me laugh because I can't tell you the number of taxi drivers in New York or strangers on a plane I've given romantic counsel to. Deep, meaningful chats that go to the heart of the matter are sometimes more possible with strangers, you know? And everyone seems to want love advice these days!
As for my friends and family, I secretly think I should have been a matchmaker in another life! I love getting people together. Have I had a lot of success with it? I think so. I've never seen anyone marry as a result of my date-strategizing on their behalf, but I've at least provided opportunities for people to get together. As Macy Frost says in the book, a matchmaker can only take a couple so far. They have to fall in love on their own.
You have a real knack for snappy dialogue and funny situations. How do you know when the humor in your book is working?
Thanks. The more I write, the more I realize I would have had a lot of fun trying to write for TV sitcoms because dialogue is my thing. I'd especially love to write for Tina Fey.
I know when the humor is working in my books when I'm not forcing it. It flows. And it makes me laugh out loud. I always feel sassy and powerful when I write funny. It's a great feeling.
Honestly, I'd like to go even further with my humor, which includes a love of the "out there," the absurd. I'm a huge fan of George Saunders and Aimee Bender. I'm working on some short stories right now in my MFA program. It's very freeing to explore my limits.
What was the most challenging part of writing Christmas at Two Love Lane?
I was writing this book over the holiday season in 2016 when I was living alone for the first time in my life, so that was very challenging. It gave me a new appreciation for people who don't have a solid network at the holidays. In late 2016, everyone left home all at once: My Navy husband deployed to Afghanistan for a year, our youngest child started college, and our two older children moved to England and Spain to study and couldn't come home for Christmas. So Christmas morning, my youngest and I made breakfast for the residents of Charleston's Ronald McDonald House. It was a great experience. And it fueled my references in the book about how good it feels to help other people during the holidays. It's the best gift you can give yourself, honestly.
When you worked as an English teacher, what was your favorite book to teach and why?
Great question! I could talk all day about books. I'd have to say The Pearl was a great novella to read in a classroom of kids who are intimidated by reading. It's shorter, it's got a fascinating setting, and it breaks your heart. Middle school and high school kids love to feel emotion. They're so sincere and wise. We don't give them enough credit.
You're a huge fan of Oscar Wilde. If you could magically transport him to the present day, what do you think he'd most enjoy about the 21st century?
First of all, he'd love to go to the great new bar named after him and totally devoted to celebrating him at 45 W. 27th Street in Manhattan. I was there last week, and it rocked! I so wish I could transport him to the present day. . . . I really would love for him to be my best friend. The closest I could get to that was hugging the bronze statue of him at the bar.
Oscar Wilde was wickedly intelligent and fun. He was fully alive. You know when you meet people like that—you want to be around them. Everyone wanted to hang out with Oscar back in the day. The thing he'd enjoy most about the 21st century would be the freedom he'd have to be totally himself without being thrown in jail (at least in most countries). He could go to Pride parades—he'd lead them! He'd love the computer age, I think. He'd be on his smartphone all the time, being snarky. He'd have a couple million followers on Twitter. I think he'd appreciate freedom of expression, above all.
In your humble opinion, what is the least romantic Christmas activity? And what is the most romantic?
The least romantic Christmas activity is standing in line at Target waiting to pay for Christmas gifts when you're both hungry and you can smell the Target popcorn in their cafe, but the line over there is too long to wait for popcorn (and a hot dog with relish for him), so you load up your stuff in the car trunk and tell yourselves you'll go home for a late lunch, but then you remember you forgot funny paper cocktail napkins for the office party, and you get boring ones because that's all they have left, and back at the car, you see the traffic leaving the shopping center is so backed up, you open the bag of candy you were saving for the stockings—and between you, you eat eight Reese's Christmas trees.
The most romantic Christmas activity is getting home after that hellish shopping trip, throwing yourselves on the couch, ordering pizza, skipping that night's party and watching Elf.
What's next for you?
Thanks for asking! Wedding at Two Love Lane is coming out in January 2018. That's Greer's book. And then Ella's book is Second Chance at Two Love Lane. That will be out later in August 2018.
I'll finish up my second year of grad school this coming May—I'll miss being on campus, walking around with my backpack with the other students, 99 percent of whom are half my age. I'll be very proud to graduate with an MFA in Creative Writing. I went back to school simply to blow my mind, kind of how Thoreau went to that pond to get away from the busyness of life. We all have our heads down, don't we? I decided to put the brakes on routine and re-examine who I am and who I want to be.
As for my writing life after grad school, I'm going to continue to explore the short form to keep me on my toes. But my main love is novel writing, especially books for women, so my plan is to get back to doing that full time (I've had to slow down a bit with classes and term papers, etc.).
Starting this May, the sky's the limit. It feels bigger to me now, wider. I'm very excited.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of Christmas at Two Love Lane.