Book Review and Author Interview: Christine Kringle by Lynn Brittney

Christine Kringle by Lynn Brittney answers the one question burning on all kids' minds during the holidays: How does Santa Claus deliver all those presents in ONE night? Each country has its own Gift Bringer/s! There's Pere Noel and Tante Arie for France, Grandfather Frost and Babushka for Russia, Santa Claus for the Philippines, Babbo Natale and La Befana for Italy, and so on and so forth. All the Gift Bringers of the world are part of one family - the Yule dynasty. And each Gift Bringer is responsible for delivering holiday gifts to the children in his or her country.

The American Gift Bringer, Kris Kringle, has a problem. He has no male heir. He has a very likeable fourteen-year-old daughter named Christine. Will the Yule clan allow Christine Kringle to be the United States' Gift Bringer when Pa Kringle retires 100 years from now?

The Yule dynasty has an even bigger problem this year though. The Town Council of Plinkbury in England has formally banned Christmas. Nick, the son of the United Kingdom's Father Christmas, has come up with a secret plan that will save Christmas in Plinkbury and convince the dynasty to allow Christine to become the United States' Gift Bringer. Christine and Nick head to Plinkbury with their friend Little K, the son of Japan's Santa Kurohsu, who is on a mission to promote his Living Lights invention - fantastic Christmas lights that need no electricity because they run on reindeer DNA. To help the three teenagers are Nick's mother Zazu - a beautiful, glamorous, and kind "tall elf," and Nick's uncle Egan - a handsome and clever "tall elf" businessman.

Christine Kringle stirs up Christmas memories and excitement for Christmases to come. It is a story full of good cheer, interesting tidbits about how Christmas is celebrated around the world, and Christmas spirit. If you are looking for a way to kick off the holiday season, I recommend reading Christine Kringle. It's a fun Christmas adventure - complete with interesting shopkeepers, mulled wine, a Christmas bazaar, Christmas nuts, and a female Scrooge!

Christine Kringle is the first book in a series and author Lynn Brittney is offering readers the chance to win USD$5000 (or the equivalent in their national currency) if they can come up with a one page synopsis of a plot for book two in the series.

Lynn says, “There are endless possibilities for future adventures for Christine Kringle and her friends and this competition gives me the unique chance to find out what characters and situations the readers would like to experience in the next book in the series.”

Entry forms for the competition can be found on the website Anyone aged over 9 and under 90 can enter. The entries must be in English and the deadline for entries is January 31, 2009. The winner will have their name on the front of the next book in the series!

It is now the month of December and I cannot think of a better way to start off the holiday season than by hosting the author of Christine Kringle at my blog. Welcome to Into the Wardrobe, Lynn! :D

What was your road to publication as a writer for children and young adults?

I had spent many years writing non-fiction books for various people and four of them were for children (The Treasure Chest Series by Running Press - history books). When I felt ready to write a novel, I felt I wanted to write for Young Adults, because the selection of books available for that age group is very poor. A lot of the books are about "misery" topics - drugs, teenage pregnancies, bullying etc. I felt it was about time that someone started writing good old fashioned action adventures - so the Nathan Fox series was born. Christine Kringle was born out of my love for all things Christmassy and a need to write something light-hearted in between writing serious historical fiction for teenagers. I did the usual thing with Nathan Fox 1. I sent three chapters and a synopsis to all the literary agents in the UK. I was fortunate that William Morris saw the potential of the book and took me on.

What books and/or authors have influenced you the most as a writer for children and young adults?

As a child I loved The Mary Poppins books, The Borrowers series and Paddington the Bear. I think my sense of the gently ridiculous comes from those books and, I hope, I have put that in Christine Kringle. As a teenager, I'm afraid to say that I devoured spy books by Ian Fleming and John le Carre. Hence my desire to make the Nathan Fox books set at the very start of English espionage - the Elizabethan era. I am also, by the way, crazy about Shakespeare, and this love started when I was a teenager because I lived around the corner from the London home of the Royal Shakespeare Company and spent all my Saturdays there!

What inspired you to write Christine Kringle? Where did you get the idea of all the world's Christmas Gift Bringers being part of one family - the Yule dynasty?

I love the magic of Christmas but it always seemed ridiculous to me, as a child, that Santa could deliver presents to the whole world in one night. It therefore seemed entirely logical to me that each country would have its own "Santa" and they would all be part of a family dynasty. Then there was the issue of the British Government legislating the joy out of Christmas at every turn by banning carol singers (Health and Safety violations), Christmas lights (ditto), selling homemade Christmas cakes etc. I felt I wanted to protest about that through the novel. Even overseas readers seem to appreciate the stupidity of it all.

Christine Kringle explores many of the different aspects of Christmas. Is there a particular reason you chose not to explore the religious/spiritual aspects?

I think we live in an age where religious/spiritual aspects of Christmas have come under fire from non-Christians - or so it seems. I decided to concentrate on the celebration and fellowship of the festive season and to attack the commercialism of it all. This seems to be a universal feeling that we should get back to a Christmas holiday where we celebrate togetherness and family, rather than making it an orgy of shopping. There is room for both secular and religious aspects of Christmas I think. I write nativity plays for children, which are performed in schools around the world ( I express my religious feelings about Christmas in those.

What do you want readers to take away from Christine Kringle?

I want readers to feel good, to laugh, and to say "Yes. Christmas should be about celebrating with friends and family. People shouldn't make it a focus for religious or political point-scoring. It's a harmless winter celebration of the good things in the human personality."

Why did you decide to hold a competition for Christine Kringle's second adventure?

Many critics poured scorn on this and said "Oh, haven't you any ideas of your own?" The truth is that I have too many ideas and I felt that the competition would provide a unique opportunity for readers to tell me which direction to take next. I'm looking forward to getting a perspective of Christmas from other cultures. Let's face it, in the world of The Yule Dynasty there is ample scope for hundreds of stories about different Santas and their country's customs.

If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for your books to be award-winning, or for your books to be bestselling? Why?

If I had to choose between those two, I would have to be sensible and say bestselling. Not for the money (although that would be nice) but for the satisfaction (which every writer should aspire to) of communicating with as many people as possible. Also, I'm not sure that awards mean much nowadays. For example, many of the awards for children's books are not selected by children or teenagers but by adults - professionals in the publishing world - and I don't feel that they truly represent the tastes of children. I have been nominated for several awards and the most satisfying have been the ones orgainsed by school regions, where the children themselves have selected and voted on the books. I feel honoured to have been nominated by those children.

What book would you like your work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact, popularity, sales, or awards)?

With the Nathan Fox books, I would like them to become enduring classics, still read by men as they progress from teenagehood, like the Sharpe books or Hornblower books are. This is already happening with Nathan Fox in Germany, where they have become "crossover" books as they are called.

With Christine Kringle, I would also like those books to become Christmas classics, like The Polar Express, or A Christmas Carol. Books that people turn to every Christmas, in order to generate that Christmassy feeling.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a YA science-fiction thriller series (Book 1 is halfway through) and some adult novels. Of course, I already write plays for children and adults and I am starting a new company next year which specialises in plays with good parts for older actors (much needed in the amateur drama world!). My ultimate aim is to be the most versatile writer possible, hopping from one genre to another with ease.

What is your strongest or favorite holiday memory from when you were around Christine Kringle's age?

My father was a professional soldier, he was in the Coldstream Guards for twenty two years. Every year they used to have a Christmas party for the children and one of the biggest guardsmen would be Santa. We used to have a wonderful time. The parties were usually held at Wellington Barracks in London or some such venue and then my parents would take me to Oxford Street for the switching on of the Christmas lights. Very special!

What are your favorite holiday books/stories?

A Christmas Carol, as I have already mentioned, can never be beaten in my mind as a truly great classic. I also love The Nutcracker, as a book and a ballet. (I shall take my daughter to see it this year - she is 12 and training to be a dancer.) I love The Polar Express and The Snowman too. I have a huge collection of Christmas DVDs which we all watch every Christmas. And I also have a huge collection of Christmas craft books. I am a Christmas nut.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? How will you be celebrating the holidays this year?

We live in the South West of England which is farming country, so there are lots of food fairs (not good for the waistline!). There are also wonderful craft fairs in the historic houses dotted around this part of England. We live four miles from the beach at a place called Lyme Regis (where the famous book The French Lieutenant's Woman is set) and we always go for a walk with the dog on the beach before Christmas lunch. It would be wonderful if it snowed this year. However, there is a wonderful tradition locally, where lots of insane people go swimming in fancy dress in the sea at another local beach, in sub zero temperatures. My family usually goes along to support them and donate money as it is all for charity.

[This is a picture of] my greatest Christmas ever, when I brought my adopted daughter Rose back from Beijing the week before Christmas 1997. Rose is 12 now! My son Tom (pictured also) was 6 years old at the time – he is now 18! That was our most wonderful Christmas.

Thank you so much for sharing, Lynn. Happy holidays! And happy holidays to everyone reading this. :o)

What are you all reading for the holidays? How will you celebrate the holidays this year?


rathacat said…
Nifty idea, neat book, and good interview. Is that a Porsche 911 that Christine is driving on the front cover?
Tarie said…
Thanks, Clare! It's actually a Ferrari. Christine totally stole it from Babbo Natale, the Italian Gift Bringer. LOL. But she needed it to save Christmas. :D
rathacat said…
Cool! I'm a bit of a car nut, mostly hybrid and electric, but a classic Ferrari works for me.

Jingle bells, Jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a souped up Chevrolet

Happy hollydaze,

Clare Bell,
Named series author
Tarie said…
Hee hee hee. :D Thanks for that Christmas ditty, Clare!
Callista said…
The book sounds very interesting! It's too late for me to find it before Christmas but I may read it after Christmas and if not, next year for sure! My mind is already thinking of a plot to enter the contest with!

I enjoyed the interview too!
Tarie said…
Hi, Callista! Thank you - I'm so glad your interest was piqued by the review and interview. I recommend Christine Kringle as a fun Christmas read. :D And it would be great if you joined the contest. I want to join it myself!
Charli said…
I have to say this book sounds like a completely awesome read. I am going to have to obtain a copy of this for myself. :)
Tarie said…
Hi, Charli! I'm glad you want to read Christine Kringle. :D If and when you do, let me know what you think of it. Personally, I can't stop saying that I think it is great fun!