Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.
A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes contemporary fiction and enjoys the company of a whole host of feisty female characters.
She joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in 2014 and is now a full member. The manuscript she submitted for critique, The Cherry Tree Café, is her debut novel and was published by Books and The City, the digital imprint of Simon and Schuster in July 2015.
She lives in Norfolk with her wonderful husband, son and daughter and a mischievous cat called Storm.
Time to chat with Heidi!
What is your latest book?
My debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café, was published by Books and The City, (the digital imprint of Simon and Schuster), on July 16th 2015.
It follows what happens to flame haired Lizzie Dixon when she is unceremoniously dumped on her birthday and moves back to Wynbridge, the small East Anglian market town she grew up in.
There are cupcakes, crafts, love and friendships and of course, bunting in abundance!
I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?
Yes, I have phenomenally exciting news! I have recently signed another two book deal with S and S and both novels will be published in e-book and paperback format this time around. The first will appear on the shelves in time for Christmas and the next in summer 2017.
I am absolutely delighted that I will be having two novels published this year, (Summer at Skylark Farm will be published on June 2nd), and seeing the announcement in The Bookseller really was a dream come true for me.
What else have you written?
Summer at Skylark Farm, my second novel with Books and The City will be published in e-book format this June and follows the story of Amber who decides to leave the hectic city life and career she has established and help her other half, Jake, turn around the fortunes of Skylark Farm.
The farm is located in the countryside around Wynbridge, the town where The Cherry Tree Café is set, so readers can expect so see some familiar faces from the first novel popping up again! Summer at Skylark Farm isn’t a sequel but a few of the characters were determined to nudge their way back in!
Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
I always write scenes in order, but with one eye on what is going to be happening further down the line. Consequently I carry a notebook at all times and have paper to hand when I am typing, so if an idea materialises I can jot it down and include it later. I find some of my best ideas and plot twists come to mind when I am ironing or taking a walk and I am always amazed when I look back through my original planning that the plot has taken on such an energetic and fluid life of its own.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
This is a great question and the answer is, I imagine, unique to everyone. What works for me might be anathema for another author!
Personally, I find it too easy to get caught in that ‘editing as I go along’ trap. If I’m not careful I can find myself reading and re-reading a chapter when I know full well that I just need to get the words down and work on them after I’ve typed The End.
Discipline is required and lots of it. I work three days a week which I find really helps when I’m writing a first draft. Those brief snatches of time before work and during my lunch break, when I write longhand, are hugely productive because they have to be. Some days they are the only time I can write so I just have to keep moving forward.
Do you have any advice to a new author if they asked you whether to pursue the traditional route to publishing or to start out as an independent writer?
When I was starting out and considering the best route for me, a fellow author reminded me that the path I was on was my own and that if I was serious about my writing then I should just get on with it. It was quite simply the best thing I could have been told at the time!
After hearing that I was adamant that The Cherry Tree Café was going to be my first published novel and that I wasn’t going to wait any longer to get things moving. I had a cover designer and independent editor all lined up and then my publisher came knocking. All I needed was that one little nudge to take myself seriously, stop procrastinating and get the ball rolling!
Personally I think both routes have their pros and cons, just don’t sit around waiting for one or the other to happen. Make a plan and stick to it because at the end of the day, you are in control and you are the one who can champion your work best and make it happen!
Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?
Negative reviews are the pits. Fortunately I haven’t had many, but one I read last December was simply horrid and of course those absolute stinkers are the ones that come back to haunt you in the darkest watches of the night.
‘You’ll never write something that pleases everyone,’ is a little nugget of truth courtesy of my husband, while my daughter goes for the ‘but look at all the five stars you’ve had!’ train of thought.
At the end of the day, if I’m feeling that downcast I’ll log on to Amazon, have a look at the reviews of an author I admire and take heart that not everyone loved everything they had written either.
It’s tough out there and you have to face the fact that some people seem to relish writing bad reviews, a quick look at other reviews they have written often proves that point, so don’t give them too much headspace or you’ll never pen another word!
Do you know anyone who has ever received any auto DM on Twitter (with a link) who was happy about it?
Nope. When will people learn? Unfollow. Move on.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
An original oil painting called The Moon and The Hare by Norfolk artist Hannah Giffard. Hannah’s paintings are simply mesmerising and highly sought after so when my husband presented me with this beautiful canvas I was absolutely stunned. I had spent hours sighing over it in a little gallery in Wymondham, Norfolk, just up the road and wishing I could afford it. The prints were lovely, but nowhere as spellbinding as the real thing. Fortunately I now have the real thing hanging in my house and I would never part with it!
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Be the very best version of yourself that you can possibly be, every single day.
Don’t waste time. Life is too short. Chase your dreams wholeheartedly.
What simple pleasure makes you smile?
Reading, gardening, spending time at home with my family, oh and Galaxy bars. Never underestimate the pleasure chocolate can bring!
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