Christmas Q&A

In celebration of the UK publication of The Mischief of the Mistletoe, my British publisher had me respond to some Q&A.

Here they are below, along with an extra that had to be cut for length reasons– but as Queen of my Website, I get to be as long-winded as I like over here. (Cue seasonally inappropriate evil laughter.)

Q. What are your favourite Christmas reads?

A. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Little Women! In addition to Little Women, I like to revisit Liz Young’s Fair Game, which I associate with the Christmas I lived in London; Jo Beverly’s Regency-set story, The Christmas Angel; and Elsie Lee’s Silence is Golden (your classic Victorian heroine-meets-brooding-hero-with-insane-appendage story—don’t ask how it made it onto my Christmas list!).

For me, Christmas is also all about experimenting with new books. I spent most Christmas afternoons munching lopsided gingerbread people and reading through whatever books had shown up in my stocking. Santa had a taste for historical biographies and bodice-rippers, so it could be anything from Antonia Frasier to Johanna Lindsey, depending on whatever the last minute shopping (er, I mean sleigh-packing) had yielded.

Q. What made you decide to write a Christmas book?

A. There’s a magic about Christmas. It’s a time when anything can happen: reindeer fly; obese men squeeze through chimneys; there’s chocolate for breakfast and movies in the middle of the day. In short, the ordinary rules are suspended. I had a rather unusual hero for whom I wanted to write a story, a blundering, warm-hearted soul known to his friends as “Turnip” for his lack of whatchamacallit in the brainbox. Basically, he’s Bertie Wooster in knee breeches—or, as Jane Austen puts it, during a cameo appearance, “quite definitely a Bingley”. What better time than Christmas for someone to see underneath that bumbling exterior to his heart of gold?

Q. Your book is set in 1803 and features Jane Austen as a side character. What would Austen’s Christmas have been like?

A. Not as we imagine it! So much of what we associate with a traditional Christmas came along later. Christmas trees only became popular during the reign of Victoria and many of our favorite carols, including “Silent Night”, didn’t exist yet. There were, however, all sorts of fun and interesting traditions, including the bringing in of the Yule log on Christmas eve, decking the halls with boughs of holly, and big Twelfth Night celebrations, complete with Lord of Misrule. And, naturally, plum pudding!

Q. Is it true that the hero of The Mischief of the Mistletoe takes out the villain with a Christmas pudding?

A. Do you really think I’m giving that kind of information away? Let’s just say that, as the hero observes, Christmas puddings make deuced good projectiles.

You could say that Christmas puddings form a sort of leitmotif throughout The Mischief of the Mistletoe. The action kicks off when the hero and heroine find a mysterious message—in French!—hidden in a Christmas pudding, which sets them on the train of espionage, intrigue, an incredibly awful Christmas pageant (haven’t we all suffered through those?) and, yes, more pudding.

Basically, I was trying to think up lots of ways to use Christmas pudding that didn’t involve actually eating it!

Q. What’s your favourite Christmas carol?

A. We Three Kings of Orient Are. Hands down. There’s something so mystical and haunting about it—you can just see those ornately garbed kings on their camels laboring through the desert in search of that little manger in Bethlehem. That’s quite a trek without GPS. (Can’t you just hear the quarrels? “I told you we should have turned right at that last oasis!”)

I have other reasons for remembering the song affectionately. One of the traditions at my tiny all girls’ school was to make all the fathers, brothers, uncles, and any other unwary males unfortunate enough to be there get up on stage and sing “We Three Kings” at the annual holiday concert. The looks of trepidation on their faces as they sheepishly and reluctantly climbed up onto the risers always sent the whole school off into giggles. There was a reason my brother refused to attend….

What’s your favorite carol?


  1. Jessica S. on December 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    To sing, Joy to the World; to hear, O Holy Night — and I prefer a male soloist.

    I have special memories of “Silent Night” at church at midnight every year, with lights out and everyone holding candles.

    Clearly I’m a traditional kind of girl 🙂

  2. jeffrey on December 13, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    It has to be the incomparable Nat King Cole singing his rendition of the Christmas song.

  3. HJ on December 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I love In the Bleak Midwinter, but was never allowed to sing it around our tree as a child because it was deemed too dreary. So I used to fall back on Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

    PS – Silence is Golden is a very odd choice! But thank you again for introducing me to Elsie Lee this year.

  4. Chartreuse on December 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    I don’t suppose Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” counts as a Christmas carol. I’ll go with “We Three Kings”, even though it brings memories of the guys I went to grade school with singing:

    We three kings of orient are
    Smoking on a rubber cigar.
    It was loaded, and it exploded.
    Now we are sitting on yonder star.

  5. Ellen on December 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Definitely Oh Holy Night.

    We Three Kings always reminds me of when my friend Pat King announced the birth of her second child in Egypt where her husband was teaching – “We Three Kings of Orient Are … now four”.

  6. Céline on December 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Being French, my favourite Xmas Carol is a French song by Tino Rossi, called Petit Papa Noël, that my granddad used to play us when I was little, every year, when we came to see him in Xmas time… I still sing it out loud when I’m alone at home! 🙂

  7. Michelle Springer on December 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Silent Night will always be my favorite.However, Michael W.Smith does a version of Angels We Have Heard On High that is just amazing.

  8. SusanN on December 13, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    If I have to pick, I’ll go with Do You Hear What I Hear?

    Chartreuse–I think Santa Baby counts! 🙂 Not a carol, but surely a Christmas tradition by now. Love it.

    I missed the Christmas books post the other day. I think CS Lewis’s Narnia books are my seasonal faves–esp The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But The Horse and His Boy is also right up there–I read that aloud to the nieces and nephews one year.

  9. AmyN on December 13, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    “White Christmas”. I, too, like “Santa Baby”~

  10. Christy on December 13, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    All of the classics and too many to mention.My favorite parts are usually the 2nd, 3rd or 4th verses with all the “meat” and meaning. O Come O Come Emmanuel, I Wonder as I Wander, Silent Night, Angels from the Realms of Glory, In the Bleak Midwinter, Of the Father’s Love Begotten, What Sweeter Music (by John Rutter), Judy Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Bing Crosby singing anything, especially White Christmas, and Mary Did you Know.

  11. Nancy on December 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    I agree I love “Mary did you know?” That song always gives me chills. There is a relatively new verison that is a little darker but the music is amazing.

  12. Jessica C on December 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I love Christmas carols! I love the first Sunday in Advent, when we first start singing them in church. For Advent, I love O Come O Come Emmanuel and The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came. For Christmas Eve, my favourites are O Holy Night and O Come All Ye Faithful. Nothing beats hearing a packed church, lit only by candlelight, filled with joyous song.

  13. hilly on December 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    12 Days of Christmas — when performed by Straight No Chaser:

    2008 –
    1998 –

    If you’ve never seen this, you’re in for a real holiday treat!


  14. Lauren on December 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Hilly, I love it! How did I never see this before?

  15. hilly on December 21, 2011 at 2:03 am

    Glad you liked ’em — thought you would! 🙂

    After all the hours of reading pleasure that you’ve given me, I’m happy that I can return the favor with these few minutes of fun for you!

    Merry Christmas, Lauren!

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