Sunday, 14 December 2014

Festive Guest Post: Xmas Q&A with . . .Author Karen Swan

Q) When do you normally get in the Festive spirit?
Usually mid-December when my children have their nativity plays and carol concerts, although I’m a little ahead of festive schedule this year as I went to the Spirit of Christmas fair at Olympia and bought loads of gorgeous Christmas decorations for my house (we’re just coming through six months of building works) and I’m chomping at the bit for the first of December to arrive so I can put them up.

Q) What is a family tradition you like to have/do Christmas eve?
Oooh I have several! One is that we always go to a Smelly Donkey candle-lit carol service where the youngest baby in the parish is dressed as Baby Jesus and the local children dress as angels and shepherds and kings. Best of all is that a real donkey is brought into the church; Usually it’s remarkably placcid but the year before last, it upstaged everyone by having a bit of a temper tantrum which was highly amusing.

I also spend the week before Christmas baking a gingerbread house for each of my children (which does drive me to the brink of insanity) and when we get back in from the Smelly Donkey, I throw a lasagne in the Aga; Whilst it’s cooking, the children decorate the gingerbread houses with sweets, I stuff the turkey and we sing 1940s and 50s Christmas songs very loudly. My favourite song is called ‘Let It Snow’, which is particularly apt for my book this year.

And the very last thing my children do before going to bed - after putting out a plate of snacks for Father Christmas and the reindeer - is they climb into their stockings for a photograph. I made their stockings for each of their first Christmases and they were so huge when they were babies. Now, my eldest - who is 12 - can only get one leg in it. It’s become a sort of marker for how much they’ve grown in that year.

Q) Favourite Christmas Book?
If it’s not too immodest to say one of my own books, I’d have to nominate Christmas At Claridges. The tree scenes, the ball at her feet… I was so there in that moment. It gives me goose bumps every time I read it.

Q) How do you feel when your writing your Christmas books in Summer?
Actually, one of the very few advantages of writing two books a year is that my timetable has shifted so I’m now writing my Christmas book over the winter and my summer book in the summer, doing the edits for each in spring and autumn respectively. If I’m a bit stuck, it’s so much easier looking out of the window and having the corresponding season looking back at me. Having said that, when I’m actually fully in the flow of writing, I don’t see what’s in front of me anyway as the story runs like a film through my mind and overwrites reality. I also make a point of only writing about places I know personally, so even if I was writing the book in the Maldives (I wish!) I would still be able to conjure Zermatt and the snowy Matterhorn, no problem.

Q) Do you love buying/wrapping gifts and seeing everybodys face's on Christmas Day?
Oh yes! Completely. It’s absolutely the best part as far as I’m concerned. All I ever really want myself each Christmas is a new pair of cashmere socks. Beyond that, I’m all about the giving. it’s such a thrill to know you’ve got it right. I’m famous in our family for ‘having to see your face’ when a present is opened. It’s not about the gift per se, it’s the happiness you bring in that moment.

Q) What it is like on Christmas Day for you & your family?
Well, thankfully it’s a little shorter than it used to be! We used to have to tell the children not to come in to us before six am, now it’s a more natural wake-up call from seven thirty onwards. I do ask the kids not to open their stockings in their rooms as I - of course - like to see their faces, so we go downstairs to the drawing room and open presents in front of the fire. Again, I have my Christmas songs playing, my husband and I must have tea in our hands (the children nibble their gingerbread houses for breakfast), the dogs get over-excited with all the wrapping paper being thrown about…It’s chaotic and noisy and wonderful. I cook the turkey overnight in the Aga so there’s always that wonderful aroma when we come down. If possible, we try to delay opening the presents under the tree until at least lunchtime, but of course the children are just bursting so it’s usually more like eleven am! If the weather allows, we go for a big walk on the forest with the dogs. I’m very aware that these are the golden years of our family Christmases and I treasure every moment of it.

Q) When do you normally put your Christmas tree up?
Usually the second weekend in December, in time for the nativity plays, but I think it could well be the first of December this year. After months of my house being a building site, I am beyond desperate to reclaim my home and beautify it!

Q) Favourite Christmas film?
When I was little, it was The Wizard of Oz, bizarrely.  It’s nothing to do with Christmas at all, of course, but it always seemed to be on so now it’s Christmassy for me, by association. For proper Christmas, I do love It’s A Wonderful Life - last year, we broke with tradition and spent Christmas in a glorious chalet in the Swiss Alps and it was just magical watching it, flopped on the  squashy sofas, log fire crackling with snow-capped peaks outside the window…  

Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism before giving it all up to raise her three children and an ADHD puppy, and to pursue her ambition of becoming a writer. She lives in the forest in Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the Downs. Her first novel, Players, was published in 2010, followed by Prima Donna and Christmas at Tiffany's in 2011.

You can find Karen at;
Twitter: @KarenSwan1

!! Festive Giveaway Time !!

The Lovely Karen Swan is offering one lucky winner a copy of her new book Christmas in The SnowSorry but this is giveaway is UK only


  1. Great interview. This book is on my Christmas List to Santa :).

  2. My dream place to go at Christmas would be New York to watch the sunset rise and fall from Brooklyn bridge and walk in central park. Thanks for great giveaway.