December 1999

Elise Primavera

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They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and four years ago, author Elise Primavera was in need of a Christmas book for a very young friend. I wanted something that dealt with the Santa Claus/North Pole aspect that makes the actual theme of the holiday more real. A lot of Christmas books almost try not to be terribly, terribly Christmasy. Primavera is a huge fan of the holiday and decided, after her fruitless search, maybe she should write a Christmas book, something that takes the magical, fun aspect of the holiday and presents it in a way that’s not cliche. Something that you could sit down with a child a couple of weeks before Christmas and the story gets them really excited about the holiday. Something that elaborates on Santa Claus, the elves, the North Pole, and what goes on up there. I went home and decided I would try to do this. The result is Auntie Claus, a book that reveals some of the mysteries behind the daily operations of Santa’s shop. By answering some of those questions, however, a central theme emerges: it is far better to give than receive. This Christmas, Saks will feature Auntie Claus-themed windows; next Christmas, a live-action film adaptation starring Rosie O’Donnell will premiere.

Primavera notes that later that same day, she took a shower. I’m not kidding. I get great ideas in the shower, and I was thinking about what makes a really good Christmas book. A lot of it is found in the title. A play on words, a play on a song, or an expression, so I started fooling around with titles and words and I’m taking a shower, right? Then I thought about Santa Claus. And I played with words that rhymed: Aunta Claus, Santy Claus, Auntie Claus. And as soon as I said it, the whole character came to mind: an eccentric woman who keeps her Christmas lights on all year long. She says that at this point, she jumped out of the shower to write all her ideas down so that she didn’t forget any of it. The whole idea was, Is she real or is she not real? And that’s all I had at that point. Then I thought, maybe she’s the force behind Christmas, the helper or the mastermind. From there I built on that and came to Sophie and the rest of the family. That came a lot slower, but the initial, immediate thunderbolt was definitely the character Auntie Claus. As demonstrated in her shopping and showering experiences, Primavera’s writing process is not necessarily deliberate. Sentences come to me. And never when I want them to. For example, I’ll get the idea and keep it in my head for a while, and sometimes when I’m trying to go to sleep, a paragraph will come to me and I will write it down. Primavera also illustrated Auntie Claus. Using a technique that she learned and developed as an art student, Primavera covers a piece of illustration board with a specific gesso/pumice stone mixture. She lets it dry, then sketches her illustrations in charcoal and quickly blocks in her shapes with gouache. Pastels are light, so it’s hard to get dark, rich colors. Sometimes, Primavera goes back and re-draws, and then layers with chalk and pastels.

Auntie Claus contains several odd elements diamond keys, canine butlers, bratty children, an overbearing elf. Are these setting the stage for future Kringle family adventures? There’s going to be a sequel, which I’m working on now. I think what’s interesting is that you have this family who, even though they’re not living in the North Pole with Santa Claus, all have Christmas-related jobs. Well, are there any other famous relatives in the Kringle family? You’ll have to wait and see. That’s for me to know and you to find out, she smiles.

Clearly, Auntie Claus and Primavera are keeping a few secrets to themselves.

Get the Book

Auntie Claus

Auntie Claus

By Elise Primavera
Harcourt Brace
ISBN 9780152019099

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