Continuing my spotlight on authors with festive books out this year, today we are meeting Jenny Bayliss and hearing about her book, Meet me Under the Mistletoe. Welcome Jenny. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
Hmm this is always tricky as I am not in the least bit interesting. I am 48 and live with my husband in a small seaside town on the southeast coast of England. I have two gorgeous grown-up sons who live in London and Bristol respectively. I have a real thing for the sea, I walk to the beach most mornings and get antsy if I don’t catch a glimpse of the ocean for a few days; there’s something about being near an edge of the land, somehow I breathe easier knowing I’m near an edge. I am a coffee fiend! Luckily, there is a brilliant coffee hut on the promenade which means I can get my ocean and caffeine fixes at the same time. I am a terrible sewer but a lover of patterned fabrics, the result of which is a dangerous dress buying habit. I am also crazy about candles, I have them burning every evening, to me it signifies that the day is done and that it’s time to get cosy. Not surprisingly, I love reading. My TBR grows almost daily, and my patient husband continues to build new bookshelves into every available wall space of our tiny house. I went to university at the age of 40 – mid-life crisis? – and studied part-time for a degree in Creative and Professional Writing whilst continuing in my job as a baker. I had my first novel – The Twelve Dates of Christmas – published when I was 46, after approximately 25 years’ worth of rejections. It’s never too late!
In a nutshell, what is your Christmas book about?
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is a story seen through the eyes of Nory Noel, owner of a second-hand book shop called Serendipitous Seconds. Nory is invited to spend a week at Robinwood Castle, near where she grew up, by two of her old school friends who are having a lavish Christmas wedding at the end of the week. The House party consists of her old gang from the very fancy private school they all attended. Nory was a scholarship student from a working-class family, which always set her slightly at odds with her affluent friends. The group had disbanded when they left school but had been brought back together years later by the death of one of their friends, and they all swore to keep in touch from then on. Still, spending a week living with old friends brings its own complications, which is how Nory finds herself escaping into the grounds one night and bumping into Isaac, her old nemesis and now head gardener at the castle. While the Christmas celebrations ramp up, Nory must navigate her way through old relationships with her friends whilst nurturing a new relationship with Isaac.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Ah, well, the title I came up with while writing the book was ‘Christmas at The Castle.’ However, Trisha Ashley – one of my favourite festive authors – brought out her book ‘One More Christmas at The Castle,’ last year and it was decided that the titles were just too similar. So, my lovely editor came up with ‘Meet Me Under the Mistletoe,’ which felt perfect. It’s not the first time my editor has come in and saved the day. When I was writing my last novel, I was using the working title, ‘The Wooing of Annie Sharpe.’ But it was pointed out to me that I had made it sound like a murder thriller, especially because a book by C. J. Tudor had just been published with the title ‘The Taking of Annie Thorne.’ And so, my clever editor suggested The Winter of Second Chances, which sounded far less murdery!
How do you plan to celebrate Christmas this year?
I’ll be at home. Our sons will come home for a few days and this year our eldest is bringing his girlfriend home for Christmas which is beyond exciting. So far as I can see, the only good thing about your children leaving home is the supreme joy that comes with them arriving home again for Christmas. That knock on the door makes my heart leap with happiness! My siblings and I take it in turns to have our parents each year on Christmas day and this year it’s my turn which makes me very happy; I have the jolliest parents and they love Christmas every bit as much as I do. Christmas eve will be spent prepping starters and vegetables and making the Christmas gravy, so that on Christmas day all I have to do is cook it all. And then on boxing day my household and brother’s and my parents will all pile over to my sisters – as she has the biggest house to fit us all in. We all cook different dishes and buy mountains of buffet foods to take over, so that no one person has to pay for it all or do all the cooking. The boxing day menu is usually organised back in November, so that each household knows what to bring; our family takes food very seriously!
You have £5 to buy a Secret Santa gift – what would you buy?
A Christmassy scented candle, preferably something with orange, cinnamon and cloves. It’s like handing someone the essence of Christmas.
What’s your favourite Christmas song?
Now that is a hard one! I have so many; at least two in each music genre. If I really had to choose it would be Sia’s, Santa’s Coming For Us, its so bouncy and joyful. Michael Buble’s It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas would come a close second.
What’s your essential Christmas food or drink?
Mince pies are an absolute must. And snowballs for drinks. My parents don’t drink as a rule, but the snowballs always flowed freely at Christmas, so there’s a good deal of nostalgia wrapped up in that thick custardy Advocaat.
What Christmas book are you looking forward to reading this year?
Gosh, so many! I always like to read a Christmas locked room mystery/cosy murder, you know the sort of thing – guests trapped by snow in a manor house while a murderer picks them off one by one. A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer is one I go back to every year. I’ve got a proof copy of Make You Mine This Christmas by Lizzie Huxley-Jones, which I can’t wait to jump into. I’d also like to read Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle and All I Want For Christmas by Maggie Knox, but I always find that there are so many great Christmas books and so little time to read them all!
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I am most active on Instagram, so please do say hello, @jennibayliss and I also like a spot of Twitter: @BaylissJenni
And finally, what’s your favourite Christmas tree decoration?
I know this sounds macabre – what do you expect from someone who likes a cosy murder book at Christmas – but I have a decoration made by an artist by the name of Sutured Specimens, called Kissing Under The MissingToe, which is a felt skeleton of a foot with one missing toe, which you hang instead of mistletoe…I told you it was macabre, but I do love it so very much. She is on Instagram as @suturedspecimins and has an Esty shop SuturedSpecimens – Etsy UK
Well that’s certainly an unusual tree decoration! Thanks for joining me today Jenny.
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe sounds just lovely. It’s out now from Pan Macmillan.
You should be able to get it from your usual book retailer or you can order a copy
on their website here: Meet Me Under the Mistletoe