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Winter Holiday Fireside Moments: Interview with Author Kris Neri

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It’s that time of year when the chill in the frosty air brings us indoors to hunker down with thick comforters and mugs of steaming hot chocolate overflowing with fluffy marshmallows.  When holiday music and movies become the soundtrack to our everyday home lives. When we gather ‘round the fire for company, drink, food and love.  When we are celebrating and remembering those we treasure and hold near and dear.  When the real meaning of the season is family – by our DNA or by our heart.  When we reflect and give thanks for all we have. In a nutshell, unconditional love.

I’d like to welcome Kris Neri to share the beauty of the season with us.  Kris Neri writes the Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Hagerty magical mysteries, featuring a fake psychic who teams up with a Celtic goddess/FBI agent, and the Tracy Eaton mysteries, featuring the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars. Her books have been nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity and she’s a two-time nominee for the Lefty Award.

Favorite Holiday tradition?

Gift-giving, of course! I love finding the perfect gift for those on my list. I don’t mind dropping hints about what would make perfect gifts for me, either. I like that tradition, too.

Favorite childhood toy?

I was never much of a toy-loving kid. I always much preferred finding
a stack of books under the tree. Nancy Drews and Cherry Ames, and even
the Hardy Boys, were my favorites, but then, like now, I read everything. But when I did play with toys, I would always opt for some building toy — Tinker Toys, blocks, etc. — over a doll.

Favorite childhood game?

I did receive a cool  pinball game one year, which I guess was my generation’s version of video games. I’m sure I made everyone crazy with its bells and whistles for a while, but I became so obsessed with it, I played with it for hours on end.

Snow ball fight or making snow families?

No question — snow families! One thing I especially love about snow is how incredibly quiet it gets while the snow is falling. Snow ball fights are fun, and there are always lots of laughs, but building and communing with snow families just keeps the quiet going. (Well. it helps that they don’t say much.)

Sleigh rides, sledding or skiing?

Nope, I can’t decide — I have to have all three.

Favorite Holiday song?

Even though I bring great sentiment to the holidays, my favorite song is “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” There’s a reason why most of
the novels I write are humorous — I am both a softie and a smart aleck.

Favorite holiday movie?

At the risk of incurring wrath, I must confess I never cared for It’s a Wonderful Life. In recent years my favorite holiday movie is Love Actually. It’s both heart-warming and funny.

Favorite holiday story to read?

Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs. I love that series, and the holiday
connection makes this one extra special.

Snow on holiday eve or just a chill in the air?

Lots of snow! I would love to get snowed in.

Most memorable holiday memory?

I suppose it was when we were new marrieds, young and poor. We did buy
a small tree and a few small ornaments, but we decided we couldn’t afford to exchange any gifts. But that poor little tree looked so pathetic without any gifts under it, so I bought a gift for Joe, my husband, and wrapped it and put it under the tree. The next day, he put a gift for me under the tree. On and on it went until we had a bunch of gifts under the tree. We didn’t spend much on any of them, but we felt very rich when we shared those gifts. I think it was the
least we ever spent, but it was a very warm, memorable holiday for us.

Did you eat popcorn balls as a kid? If you did, do you still?

No, my family never did that, and neither did my husband’s, so we never developed that tradition. Not stringing popcorn or berries or anything else, either. It’s great that people have such colorful traditions, though.

Real tree or artificial? Green or white?

I always insisted on a real tree until I moved to Arizona. The desert humidity makes it into a pile of dead needles within days. I have reluctantly switched to an artificial tree, but it is green. And every year I wrestle with the idea of buying a real one again.

What do you do holiday eve?

We always buy some of what we call “us” gifts, which are gifts for the house or things for us to share, and after making a great dinner, we open our “us” gifts before the fire. We save the others for Christmas day.

What are your holiday plans this year?

Same as always…good food, good friends and family, and good gift-sharing.

What’s the one holiday dish your family can’t go without?

We always make a pudding cake my late mother-in-law used to make. She used to call it “ice box cake,” though for a mystery-lovers desert cookbook we were both published in, Desserticide, Joe renamed it Merfisa’s Cosa Nostra Confection.

Please share a Holiday recipe.

Here’s a recipe we’re making over the holidays, ELFIN FRENCH TOAST
MUFFINS, which is served in my latest humorous magical mystery,
Magical Alienation:

Elfin French Toast Muffins

1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping

1⁄2 cup butter, softened

1 tsp. baking soda

1⁄2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. vanilla, plus 1⁄4 tsp for maple syrup drizzle icing

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1⁄2 cup cinnamon chips, chopped into smaller chips

1 tab. cinnamon

1⁄4 cup maple syrup

1⁄4 cup milk

In a large mixing bowl, cream 1 cup sugar into butter. Add eggs,
vanilla, sour cream and blend. In another bowl, mix together flour,
baking powder and baking soda, and gently work into wet ingredients.
Fold in cinnamon chips. Pour 1/3 cup into a paper muffin liners in a
muffin pan. Mix together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top
of the muffins. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until
toothpick comes out clean. Blend together maple syrup, milk and 1⁄4
teaspoon vanilla. Drizzle icing over top of cooled muffins. Makes
12-14 muffins.

Holiday party tip?

Oh, gosh. Other people should give me tips. I do seem to drop some balls in party planning. I enjoy entertaining, but I’m not exactly Martha Stewart. I guess, start early.

Favorite holiday decoration?

Depends on the year. I have new favorites every year. I like to go to estate sales throughout the year, and find other people’s treasured holiday decorations, which I give new life to, adding them to our family traditions. I always find some new favorite each year.

Please share some magical holiday memories?

Here’s a little secret about my favorite gift-giving — I love to buy some toys that I donate to the Toys for Tots drive, and that’s always magical for me. I love knowing that I’ve helped to give a happy holiday to some kids who would otherwise not be able to afford it. A couple of years ago, I had a story published in an anthology, The Gift of Murder, that gave all its proceeds to Toys for Tots, and that was great fun for me.

Wrap, gift bag or bow & go?

Definitely wrap — I really find it fun. Despite how busy everyone is during the holiday season, I take one afternoon off from work every year just to wrap. It’s my gift to myself. Well, my full gift is wrapping and spiked eggnog.

Gifts or gift cards?

Gifts. But if anyone wants to give me gift cards, I’ll happily take ‘em.

Do you eat fruitcake?

Never! Ugh. I’ve never understood Its appeal. Now real cake…

Do you head to the movies on the 25th?

No, but I love that so many movies come out over the holidays. There
are always so many great ones I want to see.

What’s in your stocking?  *wink*

It’s way too early to start guessing. I need more hints.

What do you want in your stocking? *saucy wink aka swink*

If Santa wants to take me on a winter vacation to some beach somewhere, there’s bound to be a big smooch in it for him.

Do you head out on the 26th into the madness to exchange or shop for anything?

Neither the 26th or Black Friday. I want for the crowds to disperse first.

Thank you so much.

Happy Holidays from my house to yours!

Visit Kris Neri’s website.

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About Diane Morasco