A couple of years ago I did a little series of Q&As with authors where we talked about books and Christmas. It was so much fun that this year I’ve decided to bring them back!
First up to chat Christmas with me is the lovely Sandy Barker. Sandy has a new novel out called The Christmas Swap – it has been my favourite Christmassy read so far this year (you can see my review here). Here’s the blurb for The Christmas Swap – read on for our chat.
Chloe, Jules, and Lucy meet at a Maui resort kids’ club, aged 11, forging a lifelong friendship spanning two decades and three continents.
Twenty-two years later, they decide to swap Christmases, none of them expecting the hilarity and romantic escapades that will ensue.
Chloe from Melbourne spends her Christmas with Lucy’s mum and dad in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England, stunned to the core when she discovers who grew up across the road from Lucy.
Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.
And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend a balmy ‘Orphan’s Christmas’ with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away from her mundane life is just what she needed.
Join these three lovable women as they each get a Christmas to surpass their wildest dreams.
I absolutely loved your Christmas novel The Christmas Swap! Can you please tell us a little bit about the book, and what inspired you to write it?
I knew I wanted to write a Christmas story – it’s my (absolute) favourite holiday and I started thinking about all the Christmases I’ve had in various places around the world – England, the US, Mexico, Australia. I pondered on how to include more than one Christmas in a book and got the idea of three childhood friends – all from different countries – who realise they’re each hoping for a different kind of Christmas experience than what they have planned.
Once I had the basic premise, I got to work on the characters to make them distinct from each other and, for research, I scoured my Christmas photos to find the little nuggets – those family traditions that make each Christmas unique to those characters.
I love that you have spent Christmas in each of the three settings you write about in The Christmas Swap (and thank you for sharing photos from each!). Do you have a favourite place to spend Christmas? And if you could Christmas anywhere in the world where would you go?
My most recent Christmases in the UK, including where my great aunt lives in Oxfordshire, hold a special place in my heart because that’s where my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew live. He’s 9 now, but we had our first Christmas with him aged 3 and the next one aged 7 – just magical. Having a child around just makes it all the more Christmassy.
If I could go anywhere this year, it would be home to Western Australia where the rest of my family live, but unfortunately their border is closed to us. I’d also fly my sister and her family to join us – a big Christmassy reunion.
I feel like it’s pretty safe to assume you are into Christmas and festive stories. Do you like to read seasonal books, and do you have a favourite Christmas story or book?
Yes, yes, and yes. I watch all the Christmas movies – favourites are Elf, Bridget Jones’s Diary, While You Were Sleeping, Home Alone, and (of course) Die Hard. I am all about Christmas books too and, this year, I’ve been fortunate to have read quite a few already. Loved the latest by Katie Ginger, Samantha Tonge, Annie O’Neil, and Lucy Coleman. And I have at least a dozen on my Kindle, or pre-ordered. I best make some time to read them all!
Is there a particular book you’d love to find under your Christmas tree this year?
I’ve been really looking forward to reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. And I typically read on my Kindle, but I want this book to hold.
I’m also looking forward to holding The Christmas Swap. Due to COVID, I’ve not yet received my author copies, so I have had to pre-order it and will need to wait until early December to hold my book baby!
Do you have a favourite book you’ve read this year then you’ll be recommending (or giving as a Christmas present!) to everyone you know?
I am a voracious reader and there are so many great books out there this year! My fave so far has been The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester. She writes these stunning dual narratives (contemporary and WWII) and there is always a fashion thread (no pun intended) and always the most incredible slow burn romance. You can get lost in her books.
Can you share a favourite Christmas tradition or memory, or recipe?
Yes! My mom’s side of the family is American and the Christmas baking is always incredible. My fave treat are Russian Tea Cakes – this rich shortbready type biscuit that’s rolled in icing sugar. They are moreish! You can find the recipe here (be warned, plan on a double batch).
I usually make a pavlova too – a lovely tradition for a hot Chrissy like we have here in Australia. Also, my family does this weird thing where we wear reindeer antlers when we open presents. Yes, really. 😉
Finally, are you able to tell us a bit about what you are working on next?
Yes! I have finished the next book in the Holiday Romance series, featuring a supporting character from That Night In Paris in the ‘leading role’. It’s set in Bali, then Edinburgh and it’s about going on sabbatical and finding friendship and love – kind of ‘eat, stay, love’.
And I am mid-way through a standalone book set in the world of reality TV. The main character writes those sarky, snarky recaps for an online magazine and the producers invite her onto the show, which has a similar format to The Bachelor, as a contestant. It’s so much fun to write – it makes me laugh out loud all the time. My funniest book yet, I think.
And then I have the final book in the Holiday Romance series planned out and I am considering a sequel to The Christmas Swap – no promises, but I am percolating!
Thank you so much for having me and I am so glad you enjoyed my Christmassy read.
Massive thanks to Sandy for taking the time to chat Christmas and books with me! I’m looking forward to catching up on the Holiday Romance series, and have everything crossed for more Christmassy adventures!
Author Bio – Sandy Barker
Sandy is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob. She lives in Melbourne Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins. The Christmas Swap, Sandy’s fourth novel is a stand-alone and celebrates her favourite time of year.