Anne Louise Bannon is the author of the Freddie and Kathy mystery series set in the 1920s, the Old Los Angeles series, set in 1870, and the Operation Quickline series, starring Lisa Wycherly and Sid Hackbirn. Today she joins us to discuss the significance of one of her favorite holiday traditions in the first book in that series. Learn more about Anne and her books at her blog.
A Fave Tradition Comes to Life in My Novel
Way back in the 1980s, when Sid Hackbirn and Lisa Wycherly first started coming to life, I was fascinated by the dichotomy of a young, devout woman sharing a house with a man whose hobby was sleeping around. I had to give Lisa a good reason for sharing Sid’s place – he recruited her as a spy.
But I also had to give Sid a good reason for his sexual appetite, one that would make sense and keep him from coming across as slimy. So Sid was raised by a Communist hippie who taught piano lessons and was also an atheist. In Sid’s universe, sex was just something you did, and he grew up utterly bemused by people’s attitudes and hang-ups. He also grew up not celebrating holidays, particularly Christmas.
Being the good, devout little Catholic girl that Lisa is, she, of course, is horrified. She brings Christmas into Sid’s house for the very first time. It was important to show Lisa having an effect on Sid’s life, given the effect he’d been having on hers. What better way to do that than have Lisa engaging in what has always been my favorite tradition – getting and decorating the Christmas tree.
It’s the memories that spring to life every time I get a whiff of that tree smell. My dad charming the tree lot guy into knocking a few bucks off the price. Hanging the ornaments that I’ve been hanging on Christmas trees since I was a small child. Just seeing them in the box gives me a feeling of rootedness and peace. My first tree as an adult, which I decorated with my ex in his apartment. My now-husband and I choosing a new ornament every year to document our then-new life together with my daughter.
In my family, we waited until at least the second weekend before Christmas to get our tree. I was always grateful that my parents didn’t hold to the old tradition (based on celebrating Advent) of waiting until Christmas Eve to get and decorate a tree. My mom often tried to do the whole color-coordinated thing. But I always protested and it was one of the few times I won. There were years she got a more “tastefully” decorated tree but I’m pretty sure she appreciates the more eclectic mix of ornaments because she kept those old ones until I was old enough to commandeer some for my own household. Please note, Mom does not keep things easily, so if she really didn’t like eclectic, she would have gotten rid of the old ornaments.
This year, sadly, I will most likely not be decorating a tree. We have kittens. Two adorable fluffy seven-month-old terrorists who would only see a nice, bright jungle gym with all sorts of fun, shiny things to bat at. With previous cats, we had put the unbreakable ornaments on the bottom and even tied the breakable ornaments to the branches. The problem, in this case, is the climbing. These two love climbing and are surprisingly good at jumping to get what they want. There’s only so much you can do to stabilize a Christmas tree, and with the one kitten turning into a decidedly larger cat, it’s just not worth taking the chance.
But as I walk by the tree lots, I’ll still be snorting that evergreen scent, and I will find some time to put some carols on softly, and sit back and reflect on the holidays and how blessed I truly am.
It’s why Lisa looks at the tree and reflects on the message of the evergreen – that love doesn’t change from one season to the next. Which may be why decorating the tree is my favorite tradition.
That Old Cloak and Dagger Routine
In 1982, Lisa Wycherly was broke, out of work and desperate. So when Sid Hackbirn offered her a job as his live-in secretary, she jumped at it, little knowing just how dangerous it would be. Living at Sid's house was scary enough, given Sid's tendency to fool around and Lisa's unexpected attraction to him in spite of their directly opposed values regarding sex. Sid was a spy for an ultra-top-secret agency and had recruited Lisa to work as his associate. Sid knew he was turning Lisa's life upside-down. He had no clue what she'd do to him.
As Lisa learned the spy biz, things got rocky almost immediately. Lisa wasn't used to being in danger and didn't always react well. Sid tried to maintain his usual emotional distance but soon found that Lisa was not going to let him. It took the kidnapping of a college professor to force the two to really talk, and Lisa to face her own fears.