Lee Ann Setzer is the author of Christmas Bus. She also has several published novels, including Gathered: A Novel of Ruth and the Sariah McDuff series.
LDSP: Hi, Lee Ann. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Lee Ann: My parents moved from upstate New York to the Mojave Desert in southern California before I was born, to get away from all the gloom and rain and snow. So of course they raised children who pined for clouds, and rain, and snow. Also houses with stairs. We thought those were cool, because we lived in earthquake country.
LDSP: Mojave Desert! I bet you don't have many white Christmases there!
Lee Ann: We get snow some years—and it was always a snow day when we did. But more often, people built “snowmen” out of tumbleweeds.
LDSP: Funny! I'd love to see a photo of that. Are you a big reader? What are your favorite books?
Lee Ann: I loved Ellen Raskin as a kid, so it’s fun to see my own daughter enjoying The Westing Game. I discovered fantasy when I checked out The Horse and His Boy, book 5 in The Chronicles of Narnia, because I thought it was a horse book. Well, OK, it was, kind of, but really it was a magical world, and talking horses were just part of it.
LDSP: Hmmm. Maybe C.S. Lewis was on to something there...use the title to broaden your reading audience. Who are your current favorite authors?
Lee Ann: Orson Scott Card, Patricia McKillip, Connie Willis, and Lois McMaster Bujold. I’ve obviously never recovered from the science fiction/fantasy bug!
LDSP: Me, neither! I love fantasy. What is the best book you've read this year?
Lee Ann: The Five Books of Jesus, by James Goldberg.
LDSP: I'm not familiar with that one. I'll have to check it out. When you're not writing or reading, what do you do for fun?
Lee Ann: We kind of follow the kids’ interests. We run a model railroad out in the backyard—big trains, but not big enough to ride on. My daughter’s currently into ice skating, so we go together once a week. Fortunately, my son won’t let me on his longboard, so I don’t have to find out whether I’m into skate boarding!
LDSP: Wow! I'm impressed! If I ever make it down your way, I may have to drop in for a visit and see that railroad. Any hobbies or talents you want to develop after your kids grow up?
Lee Ann: Someday, I will learn to play the banjo.
LDSP: Cool! It's good to plan ahead. Are you doing anything special for Christmas this year?
Lee Ann: For this year’s family Christmas newsletter, I am collecting good names for rock bands, and tongue twisters. “Sith Kittens” is the one entry so far that counts for both.
LDSP: Sith Kittens! Love that. What inspired you to write Christmas Bus?
Lee Ann: I’ve made it a Christmas tradition to write a story for LDSP’s contest…but heart-warming isn’t exactly my default writing style, so they always come out bizarre. There’s the Wal-Mart hired killer story, the mental hospital story, the vomit story. I’m excited and grateful the flophouse hotel story gets to see the light of day!
LDSP: Well, you know I'll be having another contest soon. I'd love to see some of those others! Aside from twisted Christmas stories, do you have other published stories or books?
Lee Ann: Gathered: A Novel of Ruth retells the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Old Testament. At Christmastime, I love thinking of their story of sacrifice and redemption, which also took place in the little town of Bethlehem. My Sariah McDuff chapter book series served as cheap therapy when my kids were small: I picked up those stories off the living room floor.
LDSP: One of your Sariah McDuff books is about a Christmas Detective, isn't it?
Lee Ann: Yes, it is. There's also one about a Primary Program Diva, a Valentine's Day Scrooge.
LDSP: That's quite a line-up. What are you working on now?
Lee Ann: Young adult and middle grade fantasy. There’s the ostrich on a fantasy quest, the Thimble of Doom story, and, currently, the story about an arcane plot to steal Abraham Lincoln’s finger bones during his Chicago funeral. Hmm…I guess bizarre isn’t just for Christmas anymore!
LDSP: Those all sound fun! Be sure to let me know when they come out. Tell us about your favorite Christmas.
Lee Ann: The first year we were married, my husband and I couldn’t agree about real vs. artificial Christmas tree: he’d grown up with fake trees, and I’d grown up going shopping as a family for the perfect real tree every year. After weeks of discussion, I finally agreed that probably his way made more sense…then came home that afternoon to a beautiful real tree in the living room! That year, I also told him that for Christmas, I wanted a wooden spoon and a rubber spatula. He got me a wooden spoon, a rubber spatula, and a gold necklace. He’s definitely a keeper ☺
LDSP: Definitely. Keep that many happy!
Lee Ann: I have a least favorite Christmas, too.
LDSP: Tell me about that one!
Lee Ann: I was three months pregnant, and somehow Christmas songs got mixed up together with morning sickness. It took a decade before I could hear “Silent Night” without wanting to throw up.
LDSP: Ha! I guess I shouldn't laugh, but you have to admit, it's funny. What’s your favorite part of Christmas now? I'm guessing it's not Christmas carols?
Lee Ann: I love to sit in a room that’s quiet and dark, except for the lit-up tree. Preferably, it’s snowing outside (but desert girls can make do without). It smells like pine and gingerbread, and somehow also like excitement, and anticipation, and peace—all bundled together.
LDSP: That sounds wonderful. Thanks for stopping by and I'm wishing you a white Christmas this year! Hope you get it.