Thursday 6 November 2014

It Must Have Been The Mistletoe by Judy Astley ** BLOG TOUR / AUTHOR INTERVIEW **

Thea’s parents decide to host a big family Christmas in a house by the sea… even though they are, in fact, about to split up. Thea herself is newly single - her sister and brother are both settled, with children, homes and a future. But Thea’s boyfriend has ditched her in favour of his pedigree dogs, and Thea can’t decide whether or not she minds.
There will be copious food and drink, holly and mistletoe, lots of bracing walks and a wintry barbecue on the beach. If it seems an odd way to celebrate the final break-up of a marriage and the Moving On to new partners, no- one is saying so. But then no-one had anticipated that the new partners might actually turn up to complicate the sleeping arrangements.
As Cornwall experiences the biggest snowstorm in living memory, the festive atmosphere comes under some strain. Will Thea manage to find some happiness for herself? Will the mistletoe work its magic on them all?

Welcome to the BLOG TOUR for It Must Have Been the Mistletoe by Judy Astley - published on 6 November 2014 by Black Swan (Transworld).  I'm really delighted to be hosting this tour as I've been a huge fan of Judy Astley's books for so many years now. She's one of my 'go-to' authors when I want to feel cheered up.

I like Christmas. I like Christmas Day and spending time with family, I like the traditions that we've kept up since we were little children. I love choosing gifts, and seeing people open their parcels. There are things that I hate about Christmas though; the fact that it gets earlier each year and that people get so stressed out by it all. I can't stand tinsel, it smells and looks tacky and makes me want to squeal. I don't like the word Xmas, or Santa (he'll always be Father Christmas in my house). Usually, I refuse to read Christmas themed books before December starts, but hey, it's Judy Astley, so I set to and read this gorgeous story almost in one sitting.

I loved it, I really did! Judy Astley has a knack for creating characters who really do feel as though they've become your friends throughout the book, and this story of a pretty unusual family and their Cornish family Christmas is a real treat.

From the ageing hippy parents; Anna and Mick, down to the youngest members of the family; Milly and Alfie, each one of these characters are perfectly formed,  - some are incredibly annoying, some are loveable, some are just sweet - much like every family out there.

The Cornish setting is wonderfully done, it's clear that the author is familiar with the beaches, the weather, the cosy little pubs, and I'd like to imagine that there is a large old house, rented out by a Paul and a Sean, just like the one that is central to this story.

Immerse yourself in this funny, sharp, witty and warm story of tangled relationships, Christmas, Cornwall and family, you won't regret it!

I'm delighted to welcome Judy Astley here to Random Things today, she's been kind enough to
answer a few of my questions - thanks Judy!

Do you read reviews of your novels?  Do you take them seriously? I doubt there’s a single writer who DOESN’T read reviews!  It is very cheering (especially when you’re having one of those “I can’t write anything any more” days) to read the good ones.  The trouble is, the ones that stick in your head are those that say, “This book was a pile of pants” or that the reviewer used to like you but you’ve “gone off”.   The ones I take no notice of are those that complain the ending is “predictable”.  I write romantic comedies.  The clue is in the name.  Would they prefer a book to end with “And they all died…”?

How long does it take to write a novel?      I usually have about a year to write one.  That tends to include a few months of “thinking” which can mean anything from full-scale procrastination and putting off the moment of starting, to proper note-making and coming up with the basic ideas.  The actual writing takes about 4 months, really.  Give or take.

Do you have any writing rituals?      I have a bit of a Facebook Scrabble habit.  I pretend it’s work because it involves words but really I just like to play before I get going.  I think it’s a kind of ‘settling’ process, subconsciously collecting some thoughts together.  I like to get all domestic stuff out of the way too, then my brain isn’t distracted by the thought that I haven’t yet shopped for that night’s supper.
What was your favourite childhood book?       I could spend hours just looking at the Book of the Flower Fairies when I was little.  I adored the illustrations and the rhymes that went with each fairy.  I think I wanted actually to be one of them.  I also loved Anne of Green Gables – she made me think it was actually fine to talk way too much whereas my mother would tell me off for being a chatterbox.

Name one book that made you laugh?    The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.  Still makes me laugh.

Name one book that made you cry?    The last of the Adrian Mole books.  I found it so incredibly poignant, as if I were about to lose a much-loved friend.
Which fictional character would you like to meet?      Claudine from the books by Colette.  Fearless, naughty, sexy, clever and wondrously witty. 

Which book would you give to your best friend as a present?      The Cazelet books by Elizabeth Jane Howard but if they were my best friend they’d probably have already got them.  If so, then “Love, Nina” by Nina Stebbe.  I absolutely loved that.

Are you inspired by any particular author or book?      Before I got going with writing my first book I read Hot Breath by Sarah Harrison, closely followed by her follow-up to it, Cold Feet.  I loved the comedy, the style of writing and everything about it and I do think she was an influence on how I pitched my own narrative. 

What is your guilty pleasure read?     I have a weakness for rock n’ roll biographies.  I was absolutely smitten by the Keith Richards one and I’m currently reading one about Marianne Faithfull.  On which, one of my favourite ever novels was Groupie, by Johnny Byrne and Jenny Fabian.  I still think it’s the best music business novel of all time.

Who are your favourite authors?    I like the grace and style of Barbara Pym.  Also Elizabeth Taylor, Nancy Mitford.  Of contemporary writers I like Katie Fforde (hers always make me feel happy) Jane Gardam.  I don’t like books about which people have said, “this will move you to tears”.  Listening to the news on the radio does that.  I want books to make me feel happy.

What book have you re-read?     The Pursuit of Love (Nancy Mitford).  It’s my go-to book if I feel ill enough to stay in bed.  Always a delight.

What book have you given up on?    Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy.  There is a scene in it that is so devastatingly tragic that I can hardly bear to think of it even now.  I couldn’t go on with the book.  Just couldn’t. 

Born In Lancashire, Judy Astley has lived for most of her life in Twickenham, and was a dress designer and painter before writing her first novel, Just for the Summer, in 1994. 

She has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in Twickenham and Cornwall.

For more information on Judy Astley and her books, see her website at     Follow her on Twitter @Judyastley

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