AUTHOR INTERVIEW: SANDY BARKER TALKS THE CHRISTMAS SWAP

Hi Sandy, welcome to BreakfastAtShelbys, I am so excited to have you on the blog for a chat and to give us all the behind-the-scenes gossip on your newest release, The Christmas Swap. Why don’t we kick-start this interview off with you telling us a bit about yourself?

Thank you so much for having me!

I’m a traveller at heart and what I call a hopeful romantic (I met my partner in my late 30s after a few ‘false starts’) and I tend to write where those two parts of my life converge. Family is very important to me (mine live across Australia and across the world) and I consider close friends my chosen ‘family’. I work fulltime in adult education, but I’m stepping back a little in 2021 and hope to be a fulltime author in the next couple of years.

The Christmas Swap is your latest release, which I loved, loved, loved! Congratulations!! Can you tell my readers – who may not have had the opportunity to hear about it yet – what The Christmas Swap is about?

This is a story of lifelong friendship between 3 women who met at Kids’ Club when they were holidaying with their families, aged 11. Jules is from the US, Lucy from the UK, and Chloe is from Australia. After Chloe discovers her parents are going on a cruise for Christmas (the horror!), she practically invites herself off to England to have a ‘traditional’ Christmas with Lucy. Lucy, however, wants a White Christmas, something (to Jules’ dismay) guaranteed in Colorado. Chloe’s hot Melbourne Christmas is what she’d love … and so … they swap!

And because I write travel romances … there may be a love interest (or 3).

What was your writing process like when going back and forth between Lucy, Chloe and Jules’ story lines?

I actually wrote this in order, swapping between the 3 storylines and taking notes as I went about where they would need to intersect. I had a 5000-word synopsis to go by (that and the first 30,000 words is what ‘sold’ it to my publisher), so I knew the basic storylines, but I tend to ‘pants’ my books, so what ended up in the book is even better than I’d imagined in the synopsis.

For each character, I had a detailed character profile and inspirations pics so I could get into their mindset, but eventually, they were distinct enough in my head that I could just ‘switch’ between them.

The Christmas Swap is an absolute movie in the making; I would pay good money to see this book on the big screen! Who would be your dream cast for your leading women and leading men?

[Spoilers!]

Such a fun thing to think about! I’m sure your readers will need to look up some of these actors, but for Chloe and Archer, Adelaide Kane and Theo James. For Lucy and Will, Eleanor Tomlinson and Ansel Egort, and for Jules and Matt, Lily Reinhart and Rob Collins. Those were the actors in my inspiration pics.

How do you get yourself in to the festive spirit whilst writing out of season?

Well, I started this book in June/July 2019, right in the middle of our Aussie winter, so that was kind of perfect – locked away in my little office in the dark, chilly early mornings. But I finished it over our Aussie summer, which was also perfect for writing the hot Aussie Christmas.

Honestly, I love Christmas so much that I can conjure the Christmas spirit without a lot of help. I also drew inspiration from photos of my Christmases in England, the US, and here in Australia.

What are your favourite go-to foods to make on Christmas Day?

I always make a family favourite called Russian Tea Cakes (my American grandma’s recipe). I am not sure why these are Christmassy – perhaps because they’re covered in icing sugar (here’s the recipe – super simple and very moreish).

I will typically make a pavlova for Christmas Day. In fact, when we lived in Seattle, our extended family fell in love with my pavs and would ask me to make one for any occasion. Tip: I top mine with lemon curd before the fruit and cream goes on.

And, here in Australia, we will have a mountain (cold) cooked prawns with lemon and a fruit platter for brunch with lots of bubbly! Then (because my dad’s English), I like a full cooked Christmas lunch (which is usually in the late afternoon). So, a convergence of all 3 countries!

What are your favourite traditions that you and your family take part in on Christmas Day?

We do Christmas stockings as well as our (main) presents – these will be filled with trinkets like small books and puzzles, magnets, coloured pens, chocolate, that sort of thing – and we wear antlers or a Christmas hat when we open our pressies.

 

We love watching Christmas movies too and will typically play games – the shoutier the better – trivia, Cards Against Humanity, Pictionary, that sort of thing.

What would you say is your go-to Christmas song and movie during the holidays?

For a traditional carol, Oh Holy Night will make me weep – I always think of that scene in Home Alone! Speaking of which, I love that movie. And While You Were Sleeping is the perfect holiday romcom – as is The Holiday! And I’m happy to put on the Michael Bublé or Mariah Carey Christmas albums and play them on repeat for days! My partner hates loves it (hee hee)!

You are allowed to invite three of your book characters over for Christmas Dinner this year – who would they be and why?

I would invite Cat from The Holiday Romance series, as she is based on my sister and I miss her desperately. She, my brother-in-law, and nephew live in Rugby and my mid-year trip to the UK was cancelled (just like everyone else’s). If I could magically transport them here for Chrissie, I would.

(That answer is cheating, I know.)  

You are standing under the mistletoe with one of your leading male’s – who would they be and why?

I’m a bit partial to the silver fox in The Holiday Romance series, James, especially as if I was casting him in a film, he would be played by Richard Armitage (swoon). From The Christmas Swap, all 3 of the love interests are good men, but I think I would like Matt best. He’s got that vineyard and Dexter the dog, and he’s a gentle, lovely soul.

What one thing are you most grateful for this holiday season?

That my partner and I (as well as our family and friends across the world) are safe. We have been largely untouched by the pandemic – we still have our jobs and a home, we haven’t been sick with the virus, and we are hopeful. I know that others are doing it much harder than we are, and I am genuinely heartbroken for them. 

If you could describe The Christmas Swap in three words, what would they be?

Hmmm, may need to cheat again.

Adjectives: hilarious, heartfelt, hopeful

Themes: friendship, love, self-discovery

Lastly, do you have any future book news that you are able to share with us?

Yes! I have written Book 4 in The Holiday Romance series, in which one of the supporting characters from a previous book is the heroine, and I have a plan for the next book in the series. I am currently writing a stand-alone romcom set in the world of reality television (nearly done and I think my funniest book yet). And I am noodling on a sequel for The Christmas Swap! So, 2021 will be filled with travel and romance!

Thank you again for having me – this has been brilliant. Wishing you and your readers a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy 2021.

What wonderful answers, I absolutely loved reading them! Your choices for who you pictured as Lucy, Chloe and Jules, along with the three men, are perfect as well, especially Lili Reinhart – one of my favourite people ever! Eek, this book news is so exciting! I’m curious as to which supporting character we’ll be reuniting with for The Holiday Romance series. A reality television rom-com is going to be amazing too, we all love a bit of reality tv! I’m super excited about a sequel for The Christmas Swap as well, as I’m so eager already to find out where these gorgeous characters are and how they’re relationships are doing! Thank you so much, Sandy, for coming on the blog, it has been an absolute pleasure and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to ask you! I hope to see you on the blog again soon. Merry Christmas and a Happy New year to you and your family! x

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