Brenda Novak is the author of numerous bestsellers, ranging from thrillers to romances, and everything else in between. In her latest, TAKE ME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, former Mean Girl Sophia DeBussi returns to a lukewarm reception at Whiskey Creek after her lavish life falls apart. Desperate for work to support her daughter, Sophia takes a job as a housekeeper for Ted, a man whose love she once scorned. Ted's walls are up, but even his toughest defenses are not impervious to the holiday spirit. In her Holiday Author Blog, Brenda opens up about the first Christmas her family spent in Arizona after a move from Utah. She was struggling to fit in at school, but the holiday --- and the transformative magic of a book given to her by her grandma --- offered her an unexpected kind of salvation.
At 10, I spent my first Christmas in Arizona, and it was definitely not a white one. To me, it felt almost tropical --- very different from the cold, snowy holidays I had known in Utah. We had no family close by, either, and very few friends. Even the house we lived in was significantly different. In Utah, we had resided on the “other side of the tracks” in a humble, blue-collar home surrounded by a sea of other such houses, but there were a lot of kids and always something fun going on in the neighborhood --- some game or sledding or enjoying a neighbor’s new dog. Although the move to Arizona put me in a lovely home, it was built on a big parcel amid a handful of other big parcels outside a small farming community, and it was rambling and spacious and mostly empty at a time when my life felt pretty empty, too.
In those days I was a rather shy girl, struggling to make the adjustment to our recent move. I was attending a new school where there were serious racial problems, and I was often threatened because of the color of my skin. That made going to school almost as difficult as spending the rest of my time alone. But, despite my challenges, I went into that December with high hopes. Christmas was Christmas, whether there was snow or not, and it had to be spectacular anywhere.
As I imagined all the wonderful gifts Santa might bring, I anticipated some new clothes (hoping they might help me find acceptance), a new camera, a new radio (which gives away my age), or even a new Barbie (I hadn’t quite given them up, as the pretend world I’d created was about my only refuge). I did not, with the same eager anticipation, look forward to receiving a new book, but that’s exactly what I found under the tree. The funny thing is…I probably received some clothes and maybe even that coveted camera or radio, too. I don’t remember. My parents always did what they could.
The gift I do remember is THE SECRET GARDEN. Thanks to Frances Hodgson Burnett and my grandma, who had sent the book, I spent the long days of the holiday break hiding under the dining room table so I could read without being interrupted by my mother. I was afraid she’d commandeer me for some chore if she saw me, and I simply couldn’t be disturbed. For the first time in months, I wasn’t missing my old friends because I was completely enthralled with the friends I had found in this story.
I often think of that Christmas. It wasn’t my first positive experience with books, but it was one of the earliest and definitely contributed to my love of the written word and my respect for its transformative power. Now, when I go out to find something special for someone, I realize that with the right book, I’m giving far more than an object --- I’m giving someone an emotional journey he or she might never forget. To me, that’s as hopeful and magical as Santa himself.
Happy holidays, and I hope you enjoy my newest Whiskey Creek novel, TAKE ME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!