Hello everybody, and welcome to day 4 of a Golden Christmas! Today, I have a Christmassy Q and A with the wonderful Scottish writer Lindsay Littleson to share. Onto the post!
1. To start us off, can you please describe Secrets of the Last Merfolk for us in 5 words?
Kids help merfolk fight monster.
2. The book takes place during the Christmas holiday period. What made you want to set it at this time? Does it play a big part in the book?
There were a couple of reasons for choosing to set the book during the Christmas holidays. The story is set in a fictionalised version of Dunure, a lovely little village on the west coast of Scotland. For much of the year, Dunure is busy with day trippers enjoying fish and chips at the harbour café or playing on the beach. I didn’t want Sage and Finn’s adventures with the merfolk to be constantly interrrupted by tourists, so setting the story in winter made sense.
Also, Christmas can be fraught at the best of times, and can be particularly challenging for families after separation/divorce. For Finn, the holiday is proving to be a flashpoint and his resentment is ‘seething like a geyser.’ I wanted to take Finn on an emotional journey and the lead up to Christmas seemed a fitting time.
Christmas is there in the background of the story but as the festival is of no relevance to the merfolk, it doesn’t get a major role until the final chapter, which is set on a rather magical Christmas Day.
3. Are you a fan of books being set at very specific times of year? Why/why not? Is Christmas your favourite time to incorporate into your writing or is there another you’ve really enjoyed using?
I guess I must be a fan, as my first novels were The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean and its sequel, The Awkward Autumn! One theme of these books is transition from primary to secondary school, and Lily’s worries about the changes taking place in her life at that time. As a reader, I don’t mind about the time of year a novel is set as long as the story is enjoyable and engaging. But as an author, there is something quite enchanting about writing about Christmas, particularly white ones.
When Sage and Taj opened the front door, they stepped into Narnia. Snow lay on the ground, clean and fluffy as a newborn baby’s blanket, hiding the grass and the gravel paths. All the hard edges were blurred. Even the castle’s jagged walls and the spiky gorse bushes on the cliff edge were fluffy with snow. In the distance, the sea gleamed, pink and glossy as mother-of-pearl in the dawn light.
4. On a similar note, do you enjoy reading about Christmas? Which bookish Christmas would you most like to get to experience for yourself?
Yes I do, and as a child really enjoyed the magical descriptions of snowy landscapes, sleigh rides, delicious food and present giving in The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. As a child I’d have loved to be in Narnia with the Pevensie children when Santa ’in a bright red robe with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest’ arrived in the snowy woods and handed out such exciting presents. A bow and arrow for me, please, and perhaps the magical healing cordial, just in case I’m not as good a shot as I imagined.
5. Another reason I’m very excited about the book that has nothing to do with Christmas is the fact it’s about merfolk, which I love reading about and really wish there were more of. Why did you want to write about them? What research into mythology and folklore did you do to inform the book?
Guardians of the Wild Unicorns was published in 2019 and was nominated for the Carnegie medal. It was such a joy to research and write that writing another novel about mythical creatures seemed an excellent next step. Merfolk in various guises play a major role in Scottish folklore, from the Blue Men of the Minch to the half-salmon, half-woman Ceasg, and I was keen that the merfolk in my story should be equally proud and intimidating. The legend of Cianalus in Secrets of the Last Merfolk has its basis in historical fact. 8,000 years ago, a massive tsunami swept over Doggerland and the landmass disappeared beneath the sea forever. In my legend, a few survivors adapted to life in the sea and became merfolk.
6. A question I always like to ask authors, especially if I’ve been lucky enough to do 2 interviews with them, is: if you could have written any book by another author, what would it be and why?
It would have to be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Elizabeth Bennett’s wit is delicious, and the novel’s sharp dialogue still makes readers smile two hundred years later. That’s quite a feat! Novels set in Jane Austen’s world really appeal to me and I recently enjoyed and would highly recommend The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow and Miss Austen by Gill Hornby.
7. Finally before our Christmassy quickfire round, can you tell us anything about what you’re working on at the moment/will be releasing next?
The Rewilders is coming out on the 3rd of March 2022 and I can’t wait. The novel’s main theme is the rewilding of large predators to the Scottish Highlands, and it touches on the issues of children in care and bullying. In the story, Esme is annoyed and braced for boredom when she’s sent to stay with her gran for the weekend, until she discovers a terrible mistake. Cora, the abandoned kitten Gran found on the Rothiecraig Estate, is in fact a wild lynx kit and she is growing—fast! Suddenly, Esme find herself on a dangerous mission to rewild Cora, along with Callum Docherty for company, the school’s ‘bad boy’, and Shug, the worst guard dog in the world. The situation takes a terrifying turn when the children pitch their tents on a bleak Highland moor and hear wolves howling outside…
Your favourite food that’s only available during the festive period?
Mince pies, preferably with clotted cream and/or custard, although I try not to overdo my December consumption!
Would you rather make the toys with the elves or deliver them with the reindeer?
I’d prefer to make toys, chat to the elves and stay in the warmth of Santa’s workshop. (see below for my favourite pastime, which does not involve being outside in the cold).
Your favourite winter pastime?
ÀReading in front of the fire in my cosy living room, while sipping a frothy hot chocolate. For absolute perfection, the Christmas tree lights should be lit and snow should be falling outside.
Top 3 books of 2021?
I reviewed Ghost Cloud by Michael Mann and described reading the story as a thrilling combination of whizzing along on a rollercoaster and jumping aboard a scary ghost train. Another children’s book I loved this year was The Chessman Thief by Barbara Henderson, an exciting and meticulously researched historical novel, about a young slave’s battle to escape his Viking captors. Danny Chung does not Do Maths by Maisie Chan is a delightful read too – heartwarming and funny, with an adorable grandmother.
3 books you’re excited for in 2022?
Well, I’m massively excited about The Rewilders and Jo Clarke’s Libby and the Parisian Puzzle is coming out on the same day in March 2022 and it sounds fabulous fun! Also, I can’t wait to read the final instalment of Caroline Logan’s fantastic Four Treasures YA series, which will be out in October 2022.
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read any of Lindsay’s books? What are some of your favourite seasonal books, especially those set in winter? I’d love to hear in the comments!
4 thoughts on “Christmassy Q and A with Lindsay Littleson”
Oh this was so much fun!
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so pleased you enjoyed the post! 🙂
I’ve read the titanic detective agency by Lindsay. Loved this and love Christmas.
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Really pleased you enjoyed the post 😊😊