‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2017 with Birdie Milano

‘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 this year’s participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Birdie Milano

Before writing her first novel, Birdie dabbled in the theatre, sold books at Waterstones, ran drama classes for children, and dispensed romantic advice to internet daters. She studied at two universities cunningly disguised as stately homes, taking a BA in Creative and Professional Writing at St Mary’s University, Twickenham and an MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University, and gaining first-class degrees in between looking for secret passageways and dodging peacocks.

Birdie is pro-body positivity, anti-bullying, and believes in kindness above all things. She lives in Surrey, where she writes despite the best interruptive efforts of her pets, Ziggy Starcat and Moppet the Wonder Dog. 

Author Links: TwitterInstagramGoodreads

I’ve always been big on gifts. I like receiving them, of course – who doesn’t enjoy an artfully wrapped notification that someone’s been thinking about them? I even have vaguely fond thoughts about the guy in the office Secret Santa who bought me a ‘supermarket basics’ pad of lined A4 one year, because he ‘knew I liked stationery’. It was a thought! It counted!

But mostly, I like buying gifts for other people. It’s not a selfless endeavour: I love picking through the offerings in my favourite shops, things too frivolous to buy for myself but which are too pretty not to be owned by someone. Finding perfectly surprising things for surprisingly perfect people is one of the best pastimes I can think of.

So what’s not to love about a holiday season that, for people of many faiths and none, lends itself to the mutual exchange of presents? Nothing, that’s what’s not to love.

This is the story of the most romantic holiday gift I ever got.

I was fifteen, and in a relationship with another girl. A long distance, online relationship with another girl, because at that time in my life I still wasn’t sure how you told girls you liked girls in ‘real life’, let alone how you met other ‘real life’ girls who felt the same.

I met Ari through the online fandom for a TV show. Note: online fandom has been responsible for several relationships and a startling number of the most important friendships in my life. When I use quotes around ‘real life’ above, I really mean ‘offline’. Online friendships are just as valid as the friends you make because you happen to be trapped in the same classroom or office. Moreso, sometimes: getting involved with the fan community of something you love is a brilliant way to meet people who share your tastes – though it can also be a way to accidentally lose touch without meaning to when the show gets cancelled and she moves on to stanning for some dire police procedural you have no time for.

The really important friendships that start in fandom can stick with you for life, though, trust me.

Anyway, this was a serious relationship for me. We’d been together for a few months, and had regular phone calls (5am for me, midnight for her) where we discussed the dream of meeting in person. Once we had disposable incomes of our own and jobs that hopefully paid more than my part-time career selling duvets in the local department store, it was definitely on the cards.

In the meantime, we held hands across the ocean by sending each other letters and gifts. And the holidays called for something special.

I carefully packaged up some specially commissioned fan art of her favourite character from our show, along with a necklace and a set of hair accessories. I added a galaxy covered notebook and a set of matching pens (because that’s the kind of thing you get someone who likes stationery, guy-at-my-office). Then I took it to the Post Office and sent it on a roughly two week journey to reach her.

Around two weeks later, I received a parcel myself. A box.

It clinked when I rattled it.

Having smuggled it away from the postman and the prying eyes of my parents, I settled on my bed to open the package up. Brown paper ripped back to reveal a more festive silver and then… brown again. Muddy brown.

Pulling away one side of the box, I tipped out a pile of mud, shards of glass and some lethal looking spikes, all with a red bow perched perkily on top.

It didn’t seem like a terribly romantic sort of gift.

It seemed like the sort of gift someone might receive in a horror movie, right before their stalky boyfriend murders their goldfish.

Shaking out the last of the box’s contents onto my bed sheets, I found a card and opened it, hoping it might shed some light on my heap of dirt and sharp things.

It was (had been) a cactus. She knew how much I love being surrounded by plants, and had heard about my terrible track record of keeping the things alive. Her gift was supposed to be the perfect solution. She’d put the nearly-unkillable cactus in a little glass pot, inside a silver-wrapped box, and sent it across the ocean to me. Unfortunately, she’d neglected to add any padding, and it looked like the journey had been rougher than expected.

Still, at least I got to say it wasn’t me who murdered it.

I know I received other gifts that year, but I can’t say that I remember a single one. And I’ve long fallen out of contact with Ari (though if you’re reading, cactus girl – call me) but I’ll never forget my lethally loving holiday gift.

Title Boy Meets Hamster
Author Birdie Milano
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Romantic Comedy
To Be Published June 14th 2018 by Macmillan Children’s
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.co.uk

Fourteen-year-old Dylan Kershaw’s idea of a dream holiday includes at least three things: beaches to bask on, cosmopolitan culture, and a chance for romance (or at least his first kiss) with another boy. Unluckily for Dylan, this year his mum’s treating the family to the least dreamy holiday ever: a £9.50 break at Starcross Sands, Cornwall’s Crummiest Caravan Park.

But Starcross Sands might not be so bad after all, especially if Dylan can win the heart of Jayden-Lee, the gorgeous boy in the caravan next-door. There’s only one thing standing in true love’s way: the park’s massive hamster mascot, Nibbles, who seems to have it in for both Dylan and his romantic chances. Dylan’s best friend, Kayla, claims that appearances can be deceptive: so is Jayden-Lee just as lovely beneath the surface, and what could be lurking under Nibbles’ furry face?

Boy Meets Hamster is the uproariously funny, sweetly romantic debut novel from Birdie Milano. This is the perfect first summer romance – with a twist.

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