‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2016 With Janet McNally

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Janet McNally

Janet McNally’s first novel is Girls In The Moon, but she’s also the author of a prizewinning collection of poems, Some Girls (if you like myths and fairy tales, look it up!). Janet has an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, and her stories and poems have been published widely in magazines. She has twice been a fiction fellow with the New York Foundation for the Arts. Janet lives in Buffalo with her husband and three little girls, in a house full of records and books, and teaches creative writing at Canisius College.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

My father made me love Mannheim Steamroller.

This is not easy for me to admit. I love indie rock and the Beatles and sixties soul. I live in a house of a (couple) thousand records. I wrote a book about musicians, for goodness sake, and Mannheim Steamroller is decidedly not cool. Have you heard their Christmas albums? They’re contemporary interpretations of traditional Christmas songs, sometimes electronic and faux-classical, always intense and melodramatic. You might hear their “Deck the Halls” or “We Three Kings” in a shopping mall or the supermarket. The songs are cheesy, over the top and, let’s face it, kind of amazing. I mean, Mannheim Steamroller’s first album has close to five stars on Amazon and also no description that I can see, because IT JUST DOESN’T NEED ONE. Apparently.

When I was a kid, my dad used to work nights at a milk bottling plant, keeping the machines running. Several years in a row when we were very small, he had to work Christmas Eve. He hated being away from us on that night, hated having to work when most other dads were home with their families. One year, the story goes, he was driving home sometime between midnight and morning, Christmas lights still glowing on the houses. He must have been a little lonely. Maybe a little sad. It began to snow, and at that exact moment, Mannheim Steamroller’s “Silent Night” started playing on the radio. He was overcome.

This was one of the most memorable moments of my father’s life. I heard the story so many times when I was growing up, and I can’t explain exactly why it was such a big deal to him. He can’t even articulate it himself. I asked him last week to tell me about it again and he said he’d have to get back to me because it still “knocks his socks off.” If I had to guess, though, I think it was the synchronicity of those two beautiful things happening at the exact same time. The universe gave him a gift when he needed it, and it seemed like magic.

That song is attached to that story for him and for me, too. Songs are time-travel machines in the best way, and they demonstrate so well the power of story. Everything in our lives is ephemeral: the performance that created that song, the radio waves that played it through the car radio, the snowflakes that fell that night from the sky to the street. A moment happens and then it’s gone, but if it becomes a story, it keeps living. We can tell it to other people — the people we love — or just keep telling it to ourselves. When it becomes a story, it lasts forever.

My dad doesn’t work nights anymore. He hasn’t since I was a kid, and he had to retire early anyway (from a different, better job) after he was diagnosed with cancer five years ago. Sometimes, these past few years, he’s been pretty sick, sometimes he’s been all right. We’re in a good patch right this second, but I know something hard will come, eventually. Now, he’s grandpa to my daughters and my nieces. He’s still listening to that song.

A couple of years ago my husband found a copy of Mannheim Steamroller’s first Christmas album, the one with “Silent Night,” in a record store. He bought it for me, and each year when I hear that song I think of my dad and his drive home through the falling snow. I know now, especially after this last, difficult year, that we don’t get to keep everyone and everything. But here’s my advice: take whatever magic the universe wants to give you, and keep telling stories.

Title Girls In The Moon
Author Janet McNally
Pages 352 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published November 29th, 2016 by HarperTeen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Everyone in Phoebe Ferris’s life tells a different version of the truth. Her mother, Meg, ex–rock star and professional question evader, shares only the end of the story — the post-fame calm that Phoebe’s always known. Her sister, Luna, indie-rock darling of Brooklyn, preaches a stormy truth of her own making, selectively ignoring the facts she doesn’t like. And her father, Kieran, the cofounder of Meg’s beloved band, hasn’t said anything at all since he stopped calling three years ago.

But Phoebe, a budding poet in search of an identity to call her own, is tired of half-truths and vague explanations. When she visits Luna in New York, she’s determined to find out how she fits in to this family of storytellers, and to maybe even continue her own tale—the one with the musician boy she’s been secretly writing for months. Told in alternating chapters, Phoebe’s first adventure flows as the story of Meg and Kieran’s romance ebbs, leaving behind only a time-worn, precious pearl of truth about her family’s past — and leaving Phoebe to take a leap into her own unknown future.

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