Christmas with Debbie Johnson
I have always loved writing stories – and I have always loved Christmas, so it was a good fit! When I had the idea for my first HarperImpulse book – Cold Feet at Christmas, which came out last year – I was walking my dogs across a field in a huge snow-blizzard, and it all felt so mysterious and full of potential – like anything could happen! Plus Christmas is such an emotional time of year – sometimes good, sometimes bad – that it seems the perfect occasion for some wish fulfillment! My Christmas is focused around my kids now, but I do remember when I was single, how I’d always hope for a bit of Christmas romance – a kiss under the mistletoe, meeting someone at a party, a special encounter on a night out! I do write books that aren’t set at Christmas, but I love the romance opportunities that the festive period brings – heightened feelings, a focus on hopes and dreams, plus of course the very dodgy Christmas jumpers!
2.) How do you get into the festive spirit to write?
That can be tough – Christmas Jumper was written in the summer, and during an especially hot part of the summer! I was wearing sandals and T-shirts and Maggie and Marco were wrapping up warm in boots and gloves! Music helps – listening to Christmas albums is an excellent way to put yourself in the mood!
3.) What are your favourite Christmas stories?
I think THE Christmas story is actually a fantastic one – we’ve all seen nativity plays a million times, but really, if you sit down and really think about that tale, it’s amazing. I’ve had three babies, and I really can’t imagine riding around on a donkey at the end of my pregnancy, and then not being able to find a place to rest. It’s the original and the best, I suppose! But I also love some of the wonderful children’s Christmas stories that are out there like The Snowman and the Little Matchgirl. For myself, I always love a bit of Bridget Jones at Christmas!
4.) Which fictional character would you like to kiss underneath the mistletoe?
Hmmm...purely fictional, maybe Han Solo, before he met Princess Leah (as I wouldn’t want to tread on her toes!)? Or James Bond, Daniel Craig era.
5.) What’s the worst Christmas jumper you’ve ever seen?
It was one I saw at a party that was a 3D turkey – all the turkey’s legs and bits and bobs were dangling down the front of the man’s chest; to be honest, it looked absolutely obscene!
6.) What’s your favourite thing about Christmas?
Spending time with my family, when everyone is switched off from work/school/real life – and focused on being at home, enjoying each other’s company! Christmas is like a very welcome break from reality.
7.) Do you have any Christmas traditions?
We have a few. We go and choose our Christmas tree from the same place – a garden centre in the suburbs of Liverpool – on or around December 1. I usually go into a zen-like state of trance as I wander around, looking at almost identical pine trees until one ‘speaks’ to me – although not literally. I’d get really worried if that happens. We also let all three of the kids choose a new decoration – which means that our tree, like Maggie’s, looks like a drunken elf has vomited all over it! We’ve been going there since the kids were tiny, and the staff always remember us. We also go to a service at our local church called Christingle on Christmas Eve, which involves carols and sweets on sticks stuck into oranges, and that is always lovely – sometimes Christmas Eve is actually nicer, because of the sense of anticipation. It’s the calm before the storm, and doesn’t involve batteries, Phillips head screwdrivers or cooking!
8.) What does Christmas mean to you?
For me, at this stage in my life, a perfect Christmas is all about family – seeing the excitement on my children’s faces in the morning; sharing a meal with loved ones; celebrating all that is good in our lives. It’s a time to count our blessings and be thankful – which is very easy to forget in the insanity that lead up to it! If the cooker broke or the dogs ate the turkey (both very feasible scenarios in my house), I’d still be happy if we were all healthy and together. In Never Kiss A Man in A Christmas Jumper, Maggie is facing up to her first Christmas alone – and although she tries to stay strong about it, that is also one of my worst nightmares. Having a young family is chaotic – but does make for the best Christmasses ever!
9.) Do you treat yourself to a reward once you finished writing/published a book?
I usually just sit back, take a big sigh of relief, and put something fab on the telly! I know that sounds boring, but I have to try and avoid the TV when I’m on deadline – working from home is fraught with perils, and the goggle box is one of the main distractions! I once got lost in a Netflix boxed set of an American sports drama called Friday Night Lights for weeks on end...so being able to grab a coffee, sit on my own and watch something entertaining is brilliant – it’s a chance to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s imagination, rather than just using my own!
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