OVER THE HOLIDAYS
BY SANDRA HARPER
The best holiday traditions are meant to be broken.
It's only December 1, and Vanessa Clayton has been dreading Christmas since she spotted tinseled trees at her local mall in September. Thankfully, she and her husband, JT, can't afford to drag their twin boys across the country to New England for the annual celebration at her stuffy sister-in-law Patience's home. Not that Vanessa has prepared a proper Christmas for her family in years, and she has less time than ever since she agreed to consult on the script of a local play. Her older sister, Thea, is no help -- she'd rather make art and flirt with surfers than babysit her nine-year-old nephews. Then Patience drops a holiday stress bomb: Her family will come to California instead.
In between "baking" cinnamon rolls for the school potluck and overbearing Patience testing her patience, Vanessa can't stop thinking about the difficult but charming playwright at work. Meanwhile, Patience's teenage daughter, Libby, obsesses over a college boy she has met by the pool, and Thea searches desperately for the meaning of Christmas -- for her latest installation, of course. As their holiday plans go comically awry, these four women discover the true spirit of the season is hidden in every festive surprise.
- Q. How did you come to write Over the Holidays?
- A. I'm a member of a highly secret sorority - The Christmas Conundrum Club. We have admitted our holiday shortcomings and have pledged to support one another with love, lattes and laughter from November 20th to January 1st. Our story needed to be told - so I've boldly confessed to everything.
- Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
- A. What should I make for dinner??
- Q. What is your motto or maxim?
- A. She who perseveres wins
- Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
- A. When my son tells me he loves me and he hasn't asked for anything.
- Q. What’s your greatest fear?
- A. I'll have to learn a new computer program
- Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
- A. On my way to a Broadway show in New York City
- Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
- A. Any woman who's come of age at fifty
- Q. Which living person do you most admire?
- A.Ina Garten - who wouldn't want to be making an apple crostata in that beautiful kitchen in the Hamptons?
- Q. What do you regret most?
- A. Leaving New York for a musician
- Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
- A. Let's see... I love Jo March and Elinor Dashwood for their intelligence, strength and grace. I love "The Provencial Lady" for her timeless portrayal of domestic life and her great sense of humor
- Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
- A. Daisy Buchanan...so often our enemies come in beautiful packages.
- Q. If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
- A. Auntie Mame - Can I move in with you?
- Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
- A. Peanut butter
- Q. Who are your favorite authors?
- A. Edith Wharton, E.M. Delafield, Laurie Colwin, Jane Austen, Alexander McCall Smith, Sarah Waters, Michael Connelly, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ina Garten, Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins, Deborah Madison, Susan Straight, Charles Dickens
- Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
- A. Sense and Sensibility The Provincial Lady The Secret Garden The House of Mirth The Mists of Avalon
- Q. Is there a book you love to reread?
- A. My cookbooks. There is nothing more relaxing then lying in bed and read about food and cooking
- Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
- A. Have you thought about medical school??
- Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
- A. "I really related to your characters"
SANDRA HARPER WAS NICE ENOUGH TO PARTICIPATE IN AN INTERVIEW FOR BOOKIN' WITH BINGO....SO HERE GOES:
The Sunday New York Times. It takes days to finish.
2. What books would you say made the biggest impression on you, especially starting out?
My first stories were screenplays, and the work of Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges really impressed me. Probably because the women in those films were strong, funny and memorable. I have always loved a great female character, be it the tragic heroines in Edith Wharton or the happier gals of Jane Austen.
3. What gets you started on a new book? A character, or a story idea or...?
I usually begin with a setting and then find the characters in that world. For example with "High Tea," I wanted to write about a tearoom because I love the food and tradition and ceremony of tearooms. For "Over The Holidays," I thought a story about the pressures of the holiday season would be juicy. Once I have my idea, I lie on my bed with my notebook or I sit at the computer and I wait for the characters to show up.
4. What is something about you that you would want people to know about you that we don't know?
That I am much younger in person. Really. I'm more like twenty-five.
5. What is your best advice to anyone, including young people, who want to be writers?
First off I would say definitely go for medical school. But if that isn't challenging enough then just
keep writing and don't worry if you don't have instant success. It took me two centuries to get published but in that time I had lots of jobs and learned many important skills. For example: the proper way to fold a T-shirt and how to bake a delicious apple pie.
6. What is something you'd like to share with us about writing your favorite genre in general.
I write comedy which is supposed to read "effortless" but in reality it's quite the opposite! A considerable amount of polishing is required to be light and entertaining. So don't be discouraged if you have to go over something many, many times. And if you are feeling frustrated....dark chocolate and a walk to the nearest bookstore will turn it around.
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