Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Author Interview: Debbie Johnson

It's my pleasure to welcome author Debbie Johnson to the blog for a Q&A on the latest leg of her blog tour for her Christmas novella Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper which I'll be reviewing in December.

Can you tell us a little bit about the latest festive offering, Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper?
Well, for anyone who read Cold Feet At Christmas last year, it features an update on Leah and Rob – although if you haven’t read it, it won’t matter! 

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper is a sweet, emotional story about a single mum, Maggie, who finds herself facing up to her first Christmas alone – her teenaged daughter is flying the nest, and her dad is off on a pensioners’ booze cruise! She’s left with her work – making beautiful wedding dresses for loved-up brides, despite never having been in love herself – and anticipating a solo Christmas dinner from M&S on the big day!

Of course, this being a festive romance, it doesn’t quite work out like that – Marco Cavelli literally crashes into her life on the snowy streets of Oxford, and these two apparently very different people are thrown together for a very memorable Christmas. Marco, I have to say, is my favourite of the heroes I’ve written – he manages to be funny, kind and caring, while at the same time super sexy!

I used to live in Oxford and it’s a perfect setting for a Christmas story – achingly beautiful – and also the perfect setting for the weddings that dressmaker Maggie attends throughout the story.

How did the title come about?
It came about after literally dozens of suggestions and months of trying! I can’t claim the credit for it – the idea came from HarperImpulse, my publisher – but I loved it straight away. It relates to a funny, frivolous aspect of the story, and works really well. Because Marco is a successful lawyer, he’s mature and experienced and worldy, and he’s not the kind of guy you’d expect to see in a Christmas jumper – so it’s a bit of a Bridget Jones nod as well!

We briefly met Marco Cavelli in last year's festive story, Cold Feet at Christmas, had you always planned to write his story?
I always had it in the back of my mind, yes. He was a secondary but valuable character in Cold Feet at Christmas, a good counterpoint to the sometimes very dark Rob Cavelli. Plus, you know, as a writer, if you’re going to go to the trouble of creating handsome twin brothers, it seems rude to waste one of them! When i sat down to think of ideas for a new Christmas book, he was the obvious choice – but creating Maggie, who is quiet and self-sufficient but just a lovely person, was what really completed the story.

Describe Marco in three words.
Hilarious, loving, hot!

If you could design your own pattern for a Christmas jumper, what would it be?
Ha ha, that’s a fun question! Maybe something to reflect my books? I spend a lot of my working life making up romantic stories, so that would be fitting! Perhaps a super-cute snowman and snow woman in the middle of a big, pink love heart?

On the subject of Christmas jumpers, what's your preference i.e. Garish or Tasteful?
Oh, garish, definitely!

Who would be your ideal Christmas jumper wearing celeb to kiss under the mistletoe? 
Oh I have to limit myself to one? It is Christmas, after all! Daniel Craig – or, to be more precise, his version of James Bond – although I really can’t imagine Bond wearing a Christmas jumper! Damon Salvatore from the Vampire Diaries – he could definitely rock one. And Sawyer from Lost, who was played by Josh Holloway. I’m giving myself a festive treat and having all three!

What can we expect from you next?
Well, I have my first HarperCollins paperback release out at the end of January – it’s called The Birthday That Changed Everything, and is actually the first book I ever wrote! It’s the story of Sally Summers, and what happens when her whole life is turned up down by her husband running off with a Latvian lap dancer  – when everything seems to go wrong, when her entire existence is falling to pieces and nothing ever feels like it’s going to be right again. She takes off to Turkey for a holiday with her two teenaged kids, and meets a whole new group of friends – and in some cases, potentially more-than-friends. It’s a lot longer than my HarperImpulse books, there’s a lot more swearing, and it is (I hope!) very funny – it’s as much about family life and friendship as it is about romance. And after that, there’ll be a new HarperImpulse over the summer.

How did your writing journey start?
Initially as a child – I was always writing stories, I had old-fashioned exercise books full of them. Then as an adult, I worked in journalism, so was incapable of writing anything more than 800 words as a result! I was also pretty busy having babies, that kind of thing. So I was actually 40 when I started writing fiction seriously – just like Sally, the heroine of The Birthday That Changed Everything!

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
To put your story away in a drawer – virtual or real – after you’ve read it, and leave it for a few days before you go back to it. Having a fresh pair of eyes makes all the difference!

What essentials do you need to have close to hand whilst writing?
Laptop, notepad and pen, masses of coffee, and dogs to distract me!

For single mum Maggie, Christmas has always been a family occasion – her daughter Ellen filling the house with her bubbly warmth and mistletoe, her dad Paddy having one too many festive tipples, and the traditional family Christmas tree looking like a drunken elf vomited a rainbow all over it.

But this year, with both Ellen and Paddy away for the holidays, Maggie’s facing a truly blue Christmas – alone with nothing but a bottle of Baileys and an M&S turkey dinner.

Until walking the snowy streets of Oxford, Marco Cavelli quite literally crashes into her life – and, complete with broken leg, becomes her unexpected houseguest. All dreamy brown eyes and 6’5” of gorgeousness, the man is hotter and more delicious than a freshly baked mince pie.

Though Maggie always thought it’s a truth universally acknowledged that you never kiss a man in a Christmas jumper?

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