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An Interview with Ann Whitford Paul, Author of ‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas

Ronna Mandel interviews local L.A. author Ann Whitford Paul who’s written a new book, ‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas with illustrations by Nancy Hayashi.

NOTE: Consider making your purchase before the holiday season and house guests roll in. It’s an ideal present for the moms in your life who need to know there is light at the end of the hectic, sometimes dim Yuletide tunnel. With tongue-in-cheek (and all her holiday shopping already completed), Paul manages to entertain readers in need of a laugh and a nudge from one who’s been there whispering wisely, “Let it go!” Check the GRWR Facebook and Twitter pages for dates of Paul’s appearances at bookstores around town.

Q&A with Ann Whitford Paul

'Twas the Late Night of Christmas cover art

‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas by Ann Whitford Paul with illustrations by Nancy Hayashi, 2013.

Good Reads With Ronna:
Santa’s gone. The kids are complaining. Mom and dad have reached capacity. ‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas, your new gift book and a parody of Moore’s famous 19th century poem, shares the exhaustion of post-holiday-partum. The house is a wreck and who’s left to clean up? The parents. Or in this case the mom. Who or what inspired you to pen this tongue-in-cheek tale?

Ann Whitford Paul:
I’ve always loved the magic of Christmas and gone all-out, filling my house with handmade decorations—Christmas quilts and throws, pillows and pictures, wall hangings and toys.  Right after Christmas I begin making new decorations for the following year.  As you can imagine, the number of decorations has gotten out of hand and the more I make, the more exhausted I’ve become.  This book came out of a combination of my love for the holiday of giving and thinking of others and at the same time my weariness from all the work involved.  I dream Mrs. Saint Nick might come and help me with the resulting chaos of the holiday.

GRWR:
The book is dedicated to frazzled parents everywhere. The dad in the story takes his three tikes to get ready for bed while the mom remains downstairs to tidy up.  In your experience as a parent, did you prefer putting the kids to bed or pulling the house back together?

AWP:
No contest.

My greatest pleasure was putting the kids to bed.  Before turning off the light, we would read together.  That time together, sitting close and focused on the book was my favorite time of the day. Being with them always came first to cleaning.

I want to clear up any misconception that readers might get that my husband was not a help at Christmas.  He was (and is) fabulous, doing more than his share of the cooking and cleaning.  Although he didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas, he’s embraced it with his arms wide.  We’ve been married forty-five years and he’s still as excited as the kids on Christmas morning.

GRWR:
Parenting is certainly full of challenges and rewards.  What have you found is the most difficult part of parenting around the holidays? And what has been the most rewarding part?

AWP:
The most difficult part was the planning and shopping and trying to make sure that each of my four children got the same amount of presents and the same value.  In addition I always wanted to give them something I had made.  A quilt?  A sweater?  Once I stitched them each a sleeping bag!  Talk about crazy!

The most rewarding part is that for a brief time, the everyday trials and tribulations of daily life are put aside to spend time with the people we love most.

GRWR:
Having Mrs. Saint Nick show up to clean is a fun take on what many view as Mrs. Saint Nick’s more traditional role of looking after the elves and Santa at the North Pole. Do you see her returning in another installment, perhaps fixing up a mess somewhere else?

AWP:
I haven’t thought that far ahead, but I loved giving the silent woman behind the scenes a starring role.  Isn’t there a saying that goes something like “behind every great man, there’s a great woman.”  This is as true for a corporate executive as it is for Santa Claus.

GRWR:
You’ve created a clever companion blog to your book – Mrs. Saint Nick, A Countdown to a Stress-Free Christmas. Please tell readers some of the posts they can expect to read on this site.

Ann Whitford Paul image

Ann Whitford Paul, author of ‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas

AWP:
In the blog, I focus on ways to take the stress out of the holiday.  The number one way is to complete one’s planning and shopping early (before December.)  I encourage everyone to do as much as they can in advance so include recipes for easy, prepare-ahead and freeze foods, directions to make simple decorations and gifts and suggestions of books, music and activities to put the focus of Christmas back where it belongs on love and family.

GRWR:
I’m partial to tea, Ann.  I love how Mrs. Saint Nick offers the mom in your tale some tea. There’s nothing like a good cuppa to soothe the soul. Do you agree?

AWP:
Absolutely!  And it’s especially good with a cookie—Check out my blog for a yummy peanut butter cookie recipe with more cookie recipes to come.

GRWR:
Mrs. Saint Nick is heard to dish out a complaint of her own as she dashes off into the cool winter sky. Do you think she could use a girls’ night out or a season off the circuit?

AWP:
After the holiday is over, she and Mr. Saint Nick love going to a warm climate and a sandy beach to relax.  There’s a picture of Santa Claus in his swimming shorts on the blog.

I know Mrs. Saint Nick would love a season of not having to follow after and clean up the post-Christmas messes around the world.  That’s why she’s written her blog.  The more she can get you to cut back on the craziness, the less work she’ll have to do and the happier everyone will be.

GRWR:
You’re well known in the children’s book world having written over 19 books. Can you explain why you decided to focus on adults instead of kids this time around?

AWP: I think this book will work equally well for ages 2 to 102.  Surely kids can, or should, understand how much it takes to put on such a celebration.  The idea of Mrs. Saint Nick coming to visit came during the writing.  It wasn’t planned, but the minute it came into my head, I knew it was right.

GRWR:
How can readers buy your book?

AWP:
My book is available as an e-book and the old-fashioned page turning kind.  If your local bookstore doesn’t carry it, you can always order on-line via Barnes &Noble or Amazon.  It will shortly be an iTunes book narrated by the amazing Jane Kaczmarek—the mother of Malcom in the Middle.

GRWR:
Is there anything else you’d like to add to this Q&A that perhaps I haven’t thought to ask you?

AWP:
The script for this book began as a holiday letter I sent one year instead of a card.  The response was so positive, I wondered if it might make a book.  Nancy Hayashi, a well-published illustrator and more importantly a good friend, offered to illustrate it. She gave Mrs. Saint Nick some contemporary garb, lovely white curls and a sprig of holly in her red beret.  The changes she put in the mom’s expressions that go from exhaustion to anger and then utter peace are fabulous.  Thank you Nancy for bringing this text alive.  Thank you, too, to the incredibly talented Jane Kaczmarek for the You-Tube she made about the book—due to be posted any day.

The last person I’d like to thank is you, Ronna, for this interview filled with so many fun questions.

 

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