One Writer’s Homage to O. Henry

Based on the title of my novella, you might have deciphered that it’s a play on O. Henry’s classic Christmas tale “The Gift of the Magi”. And just in case you’re thinking a sci fi/fantasy book named “War of the Magi” somehow got mixed into the romance pile, let me quickly reassure you that there are in fact, no dueling wise men to speak of, although now that I think about it, wouldn’t that be an awesome book? Three powerful kings at war, their gold weapons designed to incapacitate a city with the pungent smells of frankincense and myrrh. And now I’ve lost you. Sorry about that!

For those of you who haven’t read O. Henry’s story, I’ll summarize by saying it’s a tiny lasting portrait of true, selfless love. And that’s why I love it – it’s a simple message but a resounding one that is especially relevant in our modern age. We could use a little bit more consideration and kindness these days, but most especially at Christmas. I’m guilty of it, too. We get so caught up in what we think is important that we forget the modest, easy ways of love, and not just romantic love. (You can access the story at Project Gutenberg

These themes must have been lurking at the back of my mind because as I started penning an outline for a holiday-themed story, elements of the other tale kept finding their way in. The idea was simple – I wanted to have a woman break out of her safe, routine life in order to do something grand, and perhaps a little bit madcap. What would a man do when confronted with a woman on the verge of the doing the extraordinary? Be scared, for one thing! But also, find out just what motivated her choices, and discover the woman inside the good intentions.

I didn’t want to hit the reader over the head with heavy-handed comparisons. I made a conscious choice not to provide a ‘version’ of O. Henry’s tale; I really tried to create my own story, with a few subtle hints at the other.

Nods to O. Henry’s story

2012 “War of the Magi”

1906 “Gift of the Magi”

Ginny’s unruly hair is a constant source of annoyance for her. Phin, however, likes it. The young wife in this story sells her beautiful, long hair in order to buy a gift for her husband.
At the beginning of the story, Ginny stares out a window at the object of her desires. At the beginning of the story, the young wife stares out a window in despair at her poverty.
The story takes place in 1908, two years after O. Henry’s version was published. I wanted to allow enough time for O. Henry’s story to exist in Ginny and Phin’s world even if they never mentioned it.
Phin has a pseudonym, unbeknownst to most of the townspeople. O. Henry was a pseudonym. The author’s given name was William Sydney Porter.
Phin is a newspaperman. O. Henry worked for a newspaper before reaching renown for his short stories.

So there you have it, the Easter eggs – let’s call them Christmas ornaments for the occasion, shall we – behind my little ol’ story. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you all enjoy it, as well as the other romances in Avon Impulse’s Christmas anthology, Five Golden Rings. Happy Holidays!

P. S. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to perform one selfless act, à la Ginny, this holiday season. I’m going to resolve to do the same. If you undertake this mission, I’d love to hear all about it!

2 thoughts on “One Writer’s Homage to O. Henry

  1. As both an avid reader and a librarian with limited financial resources, I loved the shout out to Project Gutenberg.

  2. I love Project Gutenberg! I think the people at Project Gutenberg do an amazing job providing the world at large access to more than 40,000 ebooks. I especially like that they’ve included various e-reading devices, instead of choosing to privilege only one.

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