In the Author’s Own Words
“My intent was to write a story that would become a true legend, so it was important for me to present Holly Claus’s story as a legend, a fantasy that would become part of the culture…a tradition…a classic…I want Holly’s story to endure for generations.”
-Brittney Ryan, storyteller-author.
There is an art to storytelling. The best storytellers inspire. I love bringing my stories to life by acting out all the different characters, for my characters tell my story. I love weaving tales of wonder and taking you on majestic adventures to conquer your fears, and I love creating worlds where your dreams can be awakened. I bring you stories of love that will lift your heart and make you believe that the human spirit truly can shape our world.
Albert Einstein loved fairytales. He said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them a fairytale. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales.” Storytelling is a universal human trait that goes back as far as human language: Neolithic cave paintings attest to the tales our ancestors told one another about the animals in their world. Some stories endure for thousands of years—the Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Bible all have their origins in oral tales passed from teller to teller, and still resonate with listeners today. Even our classic fairytales, like Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, were told by the hearth before they were ever set to paper.
It was from the pure heart of a three-year-old girl that the inspiration for my classic tale, The Legend of Holly Claus, sprang. I was a young woman performing a musical Christmas story I had written. I invited all the children in the audience onstage to sing the last song with me. This one little girl sat on my lap, and after my song number, I asked her name. She did not say a word. As the curtain was going down, she asked me, “Are you Santa’s daughter? I will keep your secret forever.” I was amazed and speechless, but I knew magic had happened. In that moment, I became Holly Claus and I lived in a kingdom called Forever. And I started to write and weave a Christmas tale that I hoped would be told and retold every Christmas for generations.
When I was but a young girl myself, I had voiced my heart’s desire to someone who meant a great deal to me, someone I greatly admired. “My dream is to one day become a writer,” I confessed.
“No, dear,” she said gently. “I believe that what you want to be is an author or a storyteller. Writers are magnificent…but they write what they see in the world. An author-storyteller writes what nobody sees. They originate and create ideas…stories…messages. And they create legends! You shall be the author of a legend, dear girl. I believe this legend will go on to become an intricate tapestry, including in its threads the lives of all it touches.”
Intently listening, I felt something come alive inside of me. “Yes, yes! You have looked into my soul. An author-storyteller is exactly what I wish to become. That is my dream.”
With my imagination stirred by the guidance and wisdom of my mentor, and my heart filled with the sweet words of the little girl, I set about to create Holly Claus’s story as a legend—a true classic that would become part of the culture.
Many people mistakenly believe that for a story to be a classic, it must have been in print for hundreds of years. Yet every true classic transcends time. A truly classic story would have been read and cherished hundreds of years ago, just as it will still be read hundreds of years from now.
It is against the backdrop of a Gilded Age Christmas that Holly’s story unfolds. It was an age of invention and discovery, but also of art, literature, and music. Young and old alike feel their heartstrings respond to the atmosphere of that era—the sounds of sleigh bells and horse-driven carriages, the sight of snowflakes gently falling on mansard roofs.
From the Gilded Age, poised as it was between the old and new, one can look backward or forward in time. In the pages of The Legend of Holly Claus, the reader will find the results of the research work I did with the Smithsonian to ensure that I was bringing to life an authentic depiction of 1895 New York. The setting was perfect for this magical Christmas story.
Nothing less than a divinely gifted and inspired illustrator would have been suitable to capture the spirit of those old Christmas classics. I found in the incredibly talented Laurel Long just such an illustrator—someone who could evoke Victorian artists like Arthur Rackham and Maxwell Parrish. I fell in love with Laurel’s artwork. She is a truly magnificent illustrator who has drawn Holly and her world with emotion and a timeless appeal. She has a master vision for the universe of Holly Claus, and it is she who brought Holly to life.
From the Kingdom of Forever, Holly travels to New York, drawn by her dream to contribute to the Mortal World something of value and thereby help shape the future. In her journey—a journey to find her purpose, her destiny—readers of all ages will recognize themselves and feel as if they are looking into a mirror. Holly’s story will reignite in readers the desire to take their own journey and discover their purpose.
I have been on that journey. And along the way, I discovered that my purpose was to use the art of storytelling to inspire others to find and follow their dreams.
If I ever doubt the impact Holly Claus has had on the world, I need only remember the letters. From near and far, the world over, children have written letters to Holly to tell her their dreams. A young girl named Hannah wrote to say that she had been inspired by Holly’s story to become a heart doctor so that she could help other children. A twelve-year-old boy named Andre wrote to say, “Holly, your story shows us how the smallest act of kindness, like the one that Christopher does, can help create a world of peace.”
That quote affected me deeply. With all that is going on in the headlines right now, it can sometimes feel as though our world—like Holly’s—has fallen under a curse that made it stop dreaming. Today we need role models like Holly. She has touched the world in such a heartfelt, important way.
The Legend of Holly Claus is part of THE JULIE ANDREWS COLLECTION. “Ever since I was a little girl growing up in England,” Julie said, “one of my favorite things has been reading…I love being transported to different worlds and meeting all sorts of wonderful characters when I read a book, don’t you? Reading Holly Claus for the first time, I felt an immediate tingle of excitement and anticipation. I sat by the fire and turned the pages, completely captivated. This sweeping tale with everything one could wish for—a beautiful and compelling heroine, fanciful characters, gripping adventure, and a wonderful love story.” She also referred to Holly Claus as “marvelously original…an homage to all the great fairytales, an insightful portrait in which all cultures, legends, and myths come together in one magical place and dissolve every boundary, including time itself. Holly Claus feels destined to take its place beside our favorite holiday classics.”