I friends! I just had to do a follow-up email with author Jane Christmas because she got some HUGE news just days after her book released! Also, I’ve received her book and read it and LOVE IT. You can order it through online retailers or request a copy from our local bookstores.
Here we go!
VS: So your book release day came and went like a virus on an isolated wind. okay, maybe that’s a bad metaphor…thing is, it was quiet, and you felt the difference that this weird human pandemic is creating. what you didn’t know was that folks all over the world were quietly ordering your new book and BAM! In its first weekend, Open House – A Life in Thirty-Two Moves is on the BEST SELLER LIST! How does that make you feel? Did you celebrate?
JC: I had just finished a Zoom Pilates class when the ping came in. As soon as I read the email I hurried downstairs with my laptop and yoga mat and spread the news … to The Husband and my dog. They were thrilled. I immediately sat down at my laptop and wrote to my squad of cheerleaders (you were among them, Vanessa!) telling them the news that Open House had made the national bestseller list, and also thanking them from the bottom of my heart for their emails of support, some with photos of them holding my new book. At this time of enforced isolation, the support has especially meant a great deal. After I hit SEND, I had a glass of wine and a small bowl of potato chips to celebrate, got a hug and kiss from The Husband, and then it was into the kitchen to get dinner ready.
VS: What does it mean to be on best-seller list? Can you give us the inside scoop on how this is possible?
JC: I have no idea how one gets on the list. Sometimes it’s the result of data collected from a particular book store, sometimes it’s aggregated data from a few sources. This is the first time one of my books has made it onto a national bestseller list so I’m not sure what it means in terms of sales or how it’s treated by a publisher’s promotion department. I guess I’ll find out. From a personal perspective, it feels like a warm hug. It’s a validation of your work. And the key word there is “work”, because this is my fifth memoir so it’s not like I’m some instant success. It’s taken five books and 18 years to make that list!
VS: Readers have been sending you photos of themselves with your book – how does that make you feel?
JC: Fantastic. First, it’s great to see their smiling faces, it’s a connection with them. And then to see them holding my book, well, goodness, it is just the most humbling feeling; some days I’m almost moved to tears.
VS: Are reviews from readers starting to flow in? What are some of the responses? Has anything surprised you?
JC: I’ve had a couple of reviews/comments from friends on Instagram but that’s been all. It’s too early to expect anything on some of the sites like Goodreads or Indigo or Amazon. I’ll wait a bit longer before I dip into those. I’ve actually started to read my book—it is a long gestation between writing and publishing so I need to reacquaint myself with what I wrote.
VS: You’ve hopped back onto social media…onto Facebook and Instagram (links will be below!)…what prompted you to do this…and why did you stay away so long? Does it feel different now?
JC: The truth? I’m petrified of social media, and I also do not have (or want to have) the time to spend on it. I had forgotten I had a Facebook page – before the release of ‘And Then There Were Nuns’. So that was weird to stumble onto that. My agent, publisher, media rep, friends …. everyone has told me to get on board to boost the visibility of my work. And it’s been a learning curve. I’m still leery of Facebook and if someone I know posts a note to me I respond via email. Instagram? Such a new world! I’m surprised at the people I find there. Two friends in Toronto have been super helpful: Last Monday they spent two hours on Zoom with me walking me through the set up of Instagram and Facebook. Now I have to get a YouTube channel. That’s next week’s lesson. It’s just so much info to take in, but I’ll get the hang of it. My rationalisation is that it’s good for the brain!
VS: The house you’re living in right now is the last house you renovated and moved into in the story of the book, is that correct? How long have you been living there now?
JC: We’ve been in the Bristol house for three years – in fact we got the keys exactly three years ago this month, and moved in six months later once the renovations were pretty much done. I won’t lie: I’ve got itchy feet.
VS: One of the things I learned about you whilst reading this book was your apparent love (is it love?) for research. I learned so much about the history of Victorian Terrace houses…and the old farmhouse your parent’s bought…is research something you enjoy when writing?
JC: My degree from university was in English and History so I’m surely working those two streams! I love history, and yes, the research part of any book is fascinating to me. It totally adds context to everything, a vital dimension. I’m fascinated in history in all its forms—architecture, literature (historical fiction), social history, the formation of cities and empires, the works!
VS: I’ve been drinking more and more tea – and I drank double as I was reading your memoir. What is your favourite make/brand tea? How many cups of tea do you drink? What is your favourite coffee?
JC: I need to explore more kinds of tea. I fall into habits fairly easily. We buy Yorkshire Gold: when I first heard the name I thought was a type of cannabis. It’s a good full-body everyday tea; The Husband likes it so that’s what we drink. I also love Earl Grey—it’s probably my favourite—but he doesn’t. And there are some herbal ones—ginger and lemon—that I enjoy. It’s not quite 10am right now and I’ve already had about three cups. I’ll probably go through the day having another four more. Have you found yourself drinking more tea during this isolation period? As for coffee, The Husband and I gave it up for Lent. One more week to go and we’re back on the drip!
VS: So, ghosts. I’ve had my fair share of encounters as well. You were so brave to handle the ghosts as you did (no spoilers here!)…are readers sharing their ghost stories with you now?
JC: Not yet, but I’m certainly keen to hear them! Care to share your ghost story? I think when you are a sensitive person you can feel another dimension. I’m good with ghosts. After the one in the Herkimer home I’ve become bolder with ghosts.
VS: Since you are back on social media, have more ‘old friends’ been reaching out?
JC: There are a lot of people who I don’t know who are populating my social media, and it feels weird. I’ve only been on it a week so I’m still building my community.
VS: I can’t believe you knew The Friendly Giant! That blew me away! I’ve no real question here…just wanted to say that the little girl in me is jealous. :).
JC: Yes, lucky me! Friendly was so friendly! One anecdote I left out of the book was the day that my mom, who was a newspaper columnist, had to interview the helicopter traffic reporter. I think his name was Eddie Luther. She asked if she could bring us along and he said yes. And so there we were early one morning, flying over the city of Toronto in a freaking helicopter. This would have been around 1963. It was amazing. At some point my mom mentioned that we needed to get to school, and so the heli-reporter flew us to our school, landed in the field behind Rippleton Road school, and my brother and I got out of the helicopter. Our school friends were there, and just stood staring: they could not believe it. And we just kind of shrugged it off and went to our classrooms. You wouldn’t be able to do that nowadays.
VS: And, I know it’s only been about a week since our first conversation, but how are things going in Bristol as far as the virus is concerned? How it it affecting your daily routines?
JC: It’s going OK. To be honest, the life of a writer is one of constant isolation. But it’s never been as fraught with fear as it is now. We are allowed out for one hour each day to exercise/walk the dog. I go around 6:30/7am each morning. Bristol is a busy city, and yet I see no one. At the grocery store, the layout has been changed so that shoppers are funnelled through the maze of aisles. And there is not a lot of stock on the shelves. Probably for good reason—too many greedy bastards hoarding all the loo roll! The store, which is a big Tesco, looks like Russia in the 1970s. It’s awful. But we get what we need. The Husband goes with the list alone, as they have stopped couples from shopping so as to limit the number of people. Every Thursday now, everyone in the country steps outside their front door at 8pm to clap for the NHS (the National Health Service)—doctors, nurses, care home providers and support staff—and for shop keepers and cashiers and delivery folks. It’s amazing that most of our lives these days are propped up by people earning minimum wage. I foresee a shakedown when this is all over – the meek and low-paid might indeed inherit the Earth! What concerns me is the pent-up mental health of people forced to isolate. I fear that some folks just won’t be able to handle it. I can’t imagine what this must be like for people who live alone. My heart goes out to them. And for families who cannot be with their dying moms, dads, daughters and sons, and cannot give them a funeral. It’s horrific and cruel. We’ve never known anything like this.
My kids are fine: they are out of work but they are fine. My daughter is at school and so her classes are continuing online. It’s been great FaceTiming with them, but as time goes on their stoicism is going to crumble, and I don’t know how we’ll manage that. My other prediction about the aftermath of this pandemic is that more families are going to consider creating mini compounds where, in the case of future pandemics (and there will be more of these now) they can safely isolate with their entire family. For now, I can’t even think of when the next time might be that I can see and hold my kids again. It’s like a punch in the stomach.
VS: Why is it important for readers to post reviews/comments on Goodreads or Amazon? How does that affect you – the author? (*Hint here, readers – be sure to post your ‘stars’ and/or reviews on these platforms!)
JC: It’s hugely important. Not everyone knows about a book release. At some point, once you’ve read that stack beside your bed, you start looking for recommendations from other sources. Goodreads and Amazon provide that ranking system and unfiltered reviews. So does Chapters-Indigo. And personal reviews and recommendations sell books. It has a domino effect that can really help establish an author. I’m certainly grateful for all the reviews my books have received. Thank you, everyone!!
VS: Do you think you’ll do some online things like a reading or a q&a for your new book?
JC: I sure hope so. I’ve got a few things in the works. Just need to figure out how to record myself doing a reading and upload it to my YouTube channel! If you’ve got any tips or ideas, I’m all ears these days!
VS: I know you’ll let us know you’re new book tour and trip to Canada will be. We can’t wait to see you!
JC: Aw, thanks Vanessa. I can’t wait to set foot again in the Great White North. I will surely let you know if things get rescheduled. We are supposed to come to Toronto for a wedding in October so I’m setting my sights and hopes on Thanksgiving!
JANE’S SOCIALS INFO:
Here’s my review of Open House – A Life in Thirty-Two Moves (posted on Goodreads and Amazon. Be sure to copy your review after you write it so you don’t lose it, and can then paste it into different places to share it!)
Jane Christmas is my favourite memoirist. Her clever, vulnerable, sassy voice stands the test of time and is always offering poignant stories that educate, include and entertain. Her newest book, Open House: A Life In Thirty-Two Moves is no exception. Perhaps her most revelatory thus far, Jane brings readers into her past through bedrooms, bathrooms and boxes. Jane opens the doors to houses past and offers readers a seat the dinner table and into the moving vans and shows us what it was like to live nomadic lifestyle as a child…scooting from house to house. It is clear that as Jane reflects back on her childhood, she cannot escape the way she learned to escape by moving over and over again. Along the house-studded mosey down memory lanes, Jane shows off her skills as adept researcher, essayist and detective. There are vast sweeps of history she dives into to better acquaint herself and her readers with the historical significance of the places she chooses to live in – from curb appeal to racism to teatime and real estate prowess (or not), Jane holds nothing back as she raves and rants. Open House is Open Hearted. Jane’s opinions are steadfast and steaming – both examples of a deep bravery she is just beginning to recognize in herself, though to her readers, it’s been evident from the start when she whisked herself and her daughter to a tiny island for her first memoir, The Pelee Project. Jane is sweet, but Jane is also sassy. She weeps but she also swears and fights ghosts. Open House – A Life in Thirty-Two Moves is Jane’s newest literary gift to the reading world, that perhaps now, as we’re all facing confinement to our ‘homes’ in the horrific wake of a pandemic, is quite the perfect book to snuggle up with and read. Jane’s journalistic abilities juxtapose homelessness with hope, and frustration with patience. We learn much about Jane Christmas as she unwraps her past full of boxes and battles, but can also learn much about ourselves and our own relationships to the walls, stairs, rooms and ghosts of the places we call ‘home’. It’s no wonder Open House: A Life In Thirty-Two Moves is climbing up the Best Seller ladder. It belongs at the top of the heap with the best tea pots, best top-notch reality real-estate shows and best corner-bent home decor magazines. Jane is movin’ in – make way!
THANK YOU JANE!
Thank you readers! Keep reading! Keep writing! Keep loving!