Wednesday 15 July 2015

Festive Q&A with Shanna Swendson!

Shanna Swendson earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas but decided it was more fun to make up the people she wrote about. Her contemporary fantasy Enchanted Inc. series has been published around the world. She just launched a new contemporary fantasy series, beginning with A Fairy Tale, and her young adult steampunk fantasy Rebel Mechanics will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers in July. She’s also contributed essays to a number of books on pop culture topics and spends too much time discussing television on the Internet. Visit her web site at

What sits on top of your Christmas tree?

I have a big bow of gold and white brocade ribbon, with streamers that come down the tree. But I’m thinking of doing something different with it this year. Maybe I’ll switch to red ribbon.

Favourite Christmas song?

“What Sweeter Music,” a contemporary carol by John Rutter that sounds like something you’d hear in an ancient cathedral. I campaign every year for my choir to sing it.

Favourite Christmas movie?

The Holiday – the one with the house switch. I usually watch it every year on the night before Christmas Eve, mostly because an English cottage full of books sounds like my dream vacation. I wouldn’t even need the cute guy to pop by.

Favourite festive foodie treat?

Every year I bake Spritz cookies – a traditional Swedish butter cookie

The best part of Christmas is…

The music. I sing in the choir, so I get to start with Christmas music early, and that’s one thing I don’t mind coming early. I like listening to Christmas music and singing it.

The worst part of Christmas is…

How busy I get. I like to have lots of down time and that’s not always possible during the busy holiday season, but at the same time I don’t want to miss any of the fun.

Your best, and worst, Christmas present?

I think one of the best presents I’ve received was an electronic keyboard. I was the rare kid who begged for piano lessons, but that was before keyboards were common, and we moved too often to have a piano. When I was an adult, my parents gave me a keyboard, and I felt like I was finally getting that piano I always wanted. I still need to learn to really play it, though.

For the worst, a relative who shall remain nameless once gave me a pair of queen-sized pantyhose – and not even fancy stockings, but just a supermarket brand. It was weird enough to get a pair of pantyhose for Christmas, but I’m rather petite (both short and slim), so there was no way they were going to fit me. It was like this person had a panic attack about not having gifts and just started giving stuff she had lying around her house.

When do you do your Christmas shopping?

Sometime in December. It has to be after Thanksgiving, but I’m also not a last-minute person. I don’t have a huge shopping list, though. I knit a lot of my gifts, so that starts much earlier in the year.

Any Christmas Day traditions?

Since I sing in the choir, I stay at home for Christmas Eve to sing at the church services. The late service ends about midnight, and I usually cue up the stereo to “What Sweeter Music” for the drive home through the very still night, and it feels rather magical. Then I get up on Christmas morning and drive to my parents’ house for Christmas dinner, opening presents, and watching Doctor Who that night.

Favourite Christmas book?

This is going to sound like a weird one because it’s pretty dark and about the Black Death in the past and another epidemic in the book’s “present,” but The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis may be my favorite Christmas-set book. There’s humor mixed in the darkness, and a sense of hope. It’s set around Oxford, where I went on vacation once, so it’s in a familiar setting.

Favourite Christmassy book cover?

Nothing really comes to mind. I just gave my shelves a quick scan, and not too many books have good Christmassy covers, even when they’re set at Christmas – I guess they want to keep them in stores even when it’s not the Christmas season.

Book sat at the top of your Christmas in July wishlist?

I’d love an early copy of the next (and last! Sob!) Terry Pratchett book.

When did you find out Santa wasn’t real? Or is he real?

I was six when a classmate with older siblings informed me that Santa wasn’t real. I was convinced he had no idea what he was talking about and went straight to my parents for verification. Alas, they had to confess to the scheme. But there’s a part of me who’s convinced that if I look at the sky at the right time on Christmas Eve night, I just might see something.

How would you spend your ideal Christmas?

The way I currently spend Christmas is already close to my ideal. I think I’d concentrate more on the whole season rather than on just the day itself and make time to do all the little things I say I want to do every year but never get around to, like just getting out and soaking up all the atmosphere.


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