Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The 12 Authors of Christmas - Linda Hall

Welcome friend and author, Linda Hall, from the Great White North, our Canadian neighbor!

Thanks for stopping by, Linda.

Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

In my growing up house, the Christmas tree wasn't put up and decorated until after we kids had gone to bed on Christmas Eve.

(rh: My dad grew up with the same tradition.)

But some time during that long night, my brother and I would sneak downstairs to catch a glimpse of the unlit tree. I can still remember what it looked like there, in the halflight of morning with all the presents underneath it. It was splendid and the excitement was more than we could contain.

(rh: The thrilling magic of Christmas for children!)

But, I'm a crybaby. When I was a kid, my parents would pay me a nickel if I could get through the day without crying. I still cry a lot, and just about anything can bring me to tears; a sunset, a beautiful worship song, even the national anthem.

One of the things I remember most about Christmas day is going up to my room in the afternoon and having a good hard cry because it was all over. My mother would have to soothe me and tell me that there were still lots of good things to look forward to. I did it every year.

(rh: I didn't cry, but I can relate to the feeling. Linda, what a wonderful gift. Tears. God's smiling!)

I've learned now, that as a novelist, those tears are a gift. God made me the way I am - perfectly suited to write novels because novels deal with emotions.

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

In my childhood home, we kids were allowed to open our stockings first thing in the morning, but all the rest of the gifts? We had to wait until after breakfast.

My grandmother always took such an agonizingly long time with her breakfast and fussing with her coffee!

The stocking tradition is one my husband and I kept for our own family. Stockings come first, then a nice breakfast, then the gifts under the tree.

As well, in my husband's home, his father read the Christmas story from the Bible before any gifts were opened.

We did that when our children were at home. Also, to keep it from becoming a free for all under the tree, the youngest member of the family hands out the gifts and we open them one at a time.

(rh: Lovely traditions. I like them.)

When do you put up your tree? At my house, it goes up right after Thanksgiving. My husband works assembly and outside lights. I do the rest. Describe the decorating at your house.

One of the traditions we didn't carry into my grown up house was decorating the tree on Christmas Eve after our kids went to bed.

I decided I wanted a tree up way before that! Because for the last fifteen years we have traveled to visit family on Christmas, we have only put up a small artificial one about three weeks before Christmas.

This year will be the first time in a long time we'll be here for Christmas. We've got a big real tree laden with decorations I haven't taken out of the boxes for many years. I love the smell of a real fir tree.

What is your favorite Christmas song or album? I grew up with a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD and it's still one of my favorites. My other is a copy of Mel Torme singing his "Christmas Song."

Around ten years ago I bought a Christmas CD called "An East Coast Christmas," and I've practically worn it out. It was independently produced and so I can't find it on Amazon, but it's simply wonderful.

I also have a Rita MacNeil Christmas CD that I enjoy as well. As you can tell, I love music with a folky sort of feel. I also enjoy Bruce Cockburn's Christmas CD.

I've sung in choirs all of my life, as well. (Writing is my vocation but music is my eternal avocation) and so of course, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without practicing long hours for Christmas concerts, cantatas and caroling.

I love the music of Christmas, and on my iTunes, I've made up a playlist of my favorite Christmas carols.

(rh: I have a Christmas playlist, too.)

Christmas morning, my parents didn't want us in the living room until the tree was plugged in. So, we'd wake up early, five a.m. or so, and bang on the floor to stir my parents awake. Relive your childhood Christmas mornings for us.

Sometime around 5 in the morning or earlier, my brother would come into my room whispering that the tree was up! He'd even been down to see it!

But he didn't have to wake me up, I was usually too exited to sleep. We'd tiptoe down the stairs and stare at the tree, our first glimpse. Then we'd sit beside it and look at the presents.

If our parents didn't intervene, we might stay there until morning, or until we thought it was safe enough to open our stockings.

Seems to me snow and Christmas go together, but I've been a Florida girl for 33 years! Tell us about your Christmas setting?

I live in Canada. We usually have snow on the ground for Christmas, but it's nice when it's actually snowing on Christmas day. I'm very happy in a place where winter is really winter. I like the four seasons. Sun reflecting off the snow on the ground brings such a lightness into the home.

It's Christmas Eve, describe your day and evening.

The day is usually spent shopping for last minute gifts and stocking stuffers, wrapping presents and making the dressing for the turkey.

In the evening is the Christmas Eve service, then home to eggnog and Christmas goodies.

(rh: Yum!)

Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

I'm going to go against the trend here and say that I would really feel bereft if I didn't get to the mall at Christmas.

I like the decorations and the hustle and bustle. I'm married to a man who loves to shop. I know that's unusual for a guy, so I think I'm pretty fortunate!

(rh: Wow, where'd you find him? ;) I do like one day at the mall during Christmas, just for the "shopping fellowship.")

My back doesn't allow me to shop for long time periods however, so all that means is frequent stops for eggnog lattes.

Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

It's a time for family. It's a time when for one day, everything stops and we can be with each other. It's also a time when we can think and reflect on the greatest gift - Jesus. It's a time to reflect on that mystery.

It's Christmas day, what's for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

Turkey with all the trimmings, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and decorated Christmas cookies.

For many years I made traditional Christmas pudding and fruitcake, but I haven't for a while. Those are nice traditions, but fussy and a bit expensive to make.

The one thing I do make is this most wonderful shortbread in the world. It's my mother-in-law’s recipe from England and it's really melt-in-your-mouth sinfully good stuff.

Of course, anything made with pure butter and icing sugar has to be good.

(rh: Well, of course!)

Tell us about your favorite Christmas memory.

It was around 35 years ago. My husband and I were newly married and living far away from either of our families.

We had no children yet and it was our first Christmas alone. We got up, opened our few gifts by ourselves and then went up to the ski hill.

I still remember what my husband bought for me that year - a locally made pottery creamer and sugar which I still use.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day on the ski hill, sunny and the snow was perfect. Also, being Christmas, the hill wasn't very crowded, and everyone up there was in such a festive mood. In the evening we went to a friend's house for dinner.

(rh: Lovely memory!)

What are you plans for this season?

My two little grandsons will be here! Can you tell I'm excited? They are four and two and I know will add a kid-dimension to our Christmas. We're going to decorate gingerbread houses and make more cookies. They're bringing their ice-skates, so hopefully we’ll get some ice-skating in, too.

Also, we'll be sharing our Christmas dinner with a couple of international students who are here at the university with no place to go. It will be crowded and noisy and fun.

Any final thoughts on Christmas?

Enjoy it. Take it easy. And if you go to the mall, get in with the flow, don't be in a hurry. Look at the faces of the people, enjoy the lights and decorations and bring along some reading material for when you have to wait in line. Those Steeple Hill romances are just perfect for that. They barely take up any room in your purse. Hint. Hint!

(rh: Great advice.)

The official word on Linda Hall

Linda Hall is the award winning author of fifteen novels, seven nonfiction books and a number of short stories. She has received the Canadian Word Guild Award five times, has been short listed twice for a Christy and once for a Daphne Award. She has also been awarded the Beacon Award, the Winter Rose Award, and the Award of Excellence.

Her newest romantic suspense, Shadows in the Mirror is the first book in her Steeple Hill 'shadows' trilogy. All three of her shadows books feature women who must come to grips with their pasts before they can move ahead in the present.

Linda also loves writing short stories, and her newest story, The Mad Scientist will be featured in an anthology of Canadian women crime writers to be released in 2008.

She and her husband have two children and three grandchildren. When she's not writing, she and her husband enjoy sailing. Both she and her husband have achieved the highest level in the Canadian Power Squadron, that of Senior Navigator. She invites readers to her website:

1 comment:

Ausjenny said...

Thanks Linda for sharing, I too like the city at Christmas not so much the crowds (coming from a small town) but the christmas music and the decorations. In our town we do have christmas music in some places which is great to hear.
We too were alowd to open the stockings early. thanks so much for sharing.