3 December 2011

My Favourite Christmas... by Nina Bell

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the fabulous Nina Bell!

My favourite things about Christmas:

1)    The decorations. We got married in December and bought Christmas decorations on our honeymoon in Malaysia (which was surprisingly full of Christmas shops!) Each year we’ve added to our collection. I also cut lots of greenery from the garden, or gather wild rose hips or teasel heads from local fields and hedgerows. We couldn’t afford to re-decorate our house when we first bought it, so covering it in Christmas decorations was a way of making it ours. This year I’ve bought six large silver balls to hang in our tall, thin hall window.

2)    Everybody getting together. We used to go back to my family home in Surrey when my mother was alive. Various combinations of friends, brothers and in-laws came too - about ten or twelve of us in all. The car was always packed to the gunnels with us, our twins, and our stuff, but we always left something behind. Once it was the cat, another time it was the presents. My brother, Graham, lived nearby and always left later, so he’d get the key off a neighbour and retrieve the missing item. She used to say ‘see you next Christmas, Graham.’ My sister-in-law forgot to buy the turkey one Christmas, though.

3)    Treating myself to a stack of new books and reading them straight through. Reading during the day feels rather wicked, like drinking during the day. But there’s something about Christmas that makes you feel that you can eat, drink or read anything anywhere at any time. I’m on a thriller binge at the moment: Perfect People by Peter James, The Litigators by John Grisham and, for a change of pace, Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley are on my list at the moment. I’ve also got Sarah’s Key, but I’ve been told that the film is really good so I’d rather see that. I prefer not to see films if I’ve read the book.

4)    The tensions. My novels are family dramas, and Christmas is such fertile ground: when and how to give presents, competitive present-giving, games or no games, how long to cook the turkey, how to deal with vegetarians, hyped-up children, who spends Christmas where…but no-one is actively trying to be difficult. It’s just that customs, expectations, assumptions and misunderstandings clash in a glorious fanfare of booze, tiredness and good intentions. One Christmas I had three successive conversations with three different friends, all of whom had had problems with their sisters-in-law over Christmas arrangements. My editor, Jo Dickinson, and I immediately agreed that it would be a fab basis for a novel, so that was the inspiration for Sisters-in-Law. Lots of my friends gave it to their sisters-in-law for Christmas once it was published – luckily it’s quite a positive portrayal of the relationship.

You can buy Nina's latest book The Empty Nesters from Amazon in paperback on on eBook/Kindle now. You can check out my review of her book here too!

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