Sandy Barker’s latest novel, The Christmas Swap, was the perfect tale to get me in the festive mood. Telling the story from three different perspectives, the novel bounced between Colorado USA, a the UK and inner-city Melbourne.
The characters, Jules, Chloe and Lucy have been best friends since they met on holiday as children, and in a similar vein to the popular Christmas rom-com, The Holiday, they trade places and spend Christmas in each other’s homes. From a snow-capped cabin in USA to a quaint British village and Australia, the settings for this story provided a great escape. Sandy’s own travel adventures and love of all things Christmas were layered through the novel, making it a sweet and entertaining read with a lovely mix of wanderlust, family and romance. If you like Hallmark Christmas movies, you’ll be sure to race through this one.
Based in Melbourne, Sandy has a background teaching high school English and drama, and writes after hours, between her full-time job as an adult learning specialist. A keen baker, she once made a friend’s wedding cake, and prides herself on finding the perfect gift for loved ones, just like one of her characters in The Christmas Swap. When she’s not writing romance and blogging about her travel adventures (a passion that’s on hold due to Covid), Sandy loves giving back to the writing community and regularly volunteers as an early reader and writing contest judge. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob. The Christmas Swap is Sandy’s fourth novel, published by One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins.
Short and sweet questions
Current book on your bedside table: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld – it’s a hefty read so I only pick it up when I can focus
Where do you do most of your writing? At my standup desk – I usually write an hour or two before starting work
Favourite Australian holiday destination: My home state, WA – family, friends, beautiful scenery and beaches, and the wine!
What’s your preferred drop? Wine! Love an Aussie Riesling and Pinot Noir best
Guilty pleasure? Trashy reality competition shows (am writing in this world at the moment)
Pet peeve: Rudeness – it’s easy to be polite
Favourite fictional couple and why? Jamie and Claire from the Outlander series – it’s a real relationship, complex and deep, with humour, compassion and honesty
If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be? My Kindle and a battery pack and charger (is that cheating?)
Name an emerging author to keep an eye out for: Fiona Leitch – she writes romance/crime/comedy mashups and her cozy mystery series with One More Chapter (HarperCollins) comes out early next year – she’s the funniest author I’ve ever read
Established authors who inspire you? Lindsey Kelk, Paige Toon, Julie Caplin, Julie Houston, Natasha Lester – prolific writers who are so, so talented and work so hard (there are lots more too)
Best thing about being a writer? Having characters ‘living and breathing’ in my head and when I’m in such a flow, I just follow them about and write down what they do and say
Worst thing about being a writer? EDITING! Structural edits are my least fave
Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing? Silence. If I need something to drown out noise, I will listen to ocean or rain sounds on Spotify
Favourite perfume: Clarins Eau Dynamisante – citrusy and uplifting – I call it my happy smell
TV/film crush: Henry Cavill – swoon
The best non-writing related prize I won … an all-expenses-paid trip to New Zealand worth $10000 in 2013 with ‘25 words or less’!
Top three tips for aspiring authors?
- Get the words on the page without worrying about the mechanics of writing
- Edit with lots of attention to the mechanics of writing
- Hone your synopsis and query letter until they are perfect
What theme do you hope shines through in your writing? That love comes in many forms, and self-love is the most important
Proudest author moment? Holding my first book, One Summer in Santorini, in my hands – it felt real then.
My favourite thing about writing romance … the happily ever after (or happy for now) – getting to experience that vicariously over and over again fills me with joy
If anything gives me flack about writing romance, I tell them… it’s the biggest selling genre for a reason – people want to read about relationships because they are a big part of who we are and how we come to know who we are
Three fun facts about the author:
- I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue
- I met Hugh Jackman when he was at Drama school (another swoon)
- I’ve travelled to all continents except Antarctica
Find Sandy online:
From country show baking to raising orphaned lambs, bestselling author Maya Linnell writes about the life she lives and loves. A keen bookworm, former rural journalist and radio show host, Maya is also an ambassador for the digital library app Libby OverDrive. She lives in rural Victoria with a menagerie of animals, sweeping gardens, three bookworms and the odd tiger snake or three. Her latest novel Kookaburra Cottage is out on May 30 with Allen & Unwin. Find her online @maya.linnell.writes or mayalinnell.com