Jennifer Joyce talks about creating a magical festive atmosphere – whenever you need to.

It was at the very beginning of November last year when I first put finger to keyboard to start the first draft of what became my Christmas book, The Mince Pie Mix-Up.


Only a few days earlier the house had been filled with carved pumpkins, plastic spiders and cobwebs (and not, for once, through lack of dusting). Halloween was barely over yet it was easy to immerse myself in Christmas spirit because it was everywhere – gifts, cards and wrappings in the shops (not to mention the chocolates), festive music already filtering through to the music channels and tweets were already counting down the sleeps until Christmas. The John Lewis advert was just around the corner and I was already on the lookout for the Coke truck.

But fast forward eight months. It’s July. The school summer holidays are about to begin and our family holiday to Bulgaria is tantalisingly close. It’s not so festive anymore, yet I’m sat at my desk working on the revisions and edits of The Mince Pie Mix-Up. I’m writing about snow and mince pies when my mind is on sunshine and ice creams. My characters are shivering while I’m sweltering. They’re treating themselves to hot chocolates with marshmallows and whipped cream while I’m trying to cool down with cold drinks with ice cubes and the only cream I’m reaching for is of the Factor 50 variety.

With a severe lack of festive spirit in the air, I had to create some of that magical atmosphere myself. Figuring dragging out our 6ft Christmas tree and boxes of decorations was a step too far, I made do with a little silver Christmas tree ornament, which I hung from my pin board. It may have been small, but it provided a visual reminder of the season I was hoping to emulate as I sat at my desk.

And my festive recreation didn’t stop with the little silver tree. I popped on some festive tunes because, to me, nothing says Christmas quite like Slade and Wizzard. I have a nice selection of CDs, plus there are online radio stations that play Christmas music throughout the year. I mainly used Accuradio as they have a wide selection of festive channels to choose from. I also dug out a festive mug to make my all-important tea in and I had a Christmas candle on standby. I didn’t even have to light the candle – a quick sniff at the festive scent was enough to transport me to a winter wonderland full of tinsel, snow and, of course, mince pies.

‘I wish I could live your life. I’d happily swap lives with you.’

’Tis the season to be jolly but for Calvin and Judy the usual festive bickering has already begun! Judy’s convinced that her husband has it easy – no glittery wrapping paper, no playground gossip and absolutely no Christmas baking.

Calvin wishes he could trade in his obnoxious boss and dull nine-to-five job to spend more time kicking back with his kids – how hard can Judy’s life really be?

But after a magical mince pie mix-up, one thing’s for certain – by Christmas Day, life for Judy and Calvin will never be the same again. Perhaps the grass isn’t always greener after all…

Jennifer Joyce lives in Manchester with her husband and two daughters. Her three novels A Beginner’s Guide to Salad, Everything Changes But You and The Mince Pie Mix-Up, and free festive short story, are all out now.

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