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!

Cherry tree cafe green cover-1

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!

Skylark Farm final cover

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.

Be kind.

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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Judy Folger began her writing career in earnest four years ago after her retirement as an Executive Director in Healthcare. So far she has published 16 lesbian romance novellas, but has actually written 40; the others are waiting in line for editing in order to be published on Amazon.

What is your latest book?

Lesbian Yuletide Love Stories.

Is your recent book part of a series?


What are the special challenges in writing a series?

I have not written a series, but I have written a few sequels.

What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?

My greatest challenge in writing a short story is that I can see where it would make a good novella, but also being able to recognize where it needs to stop in order to be a short story. I have to restrain myself and hold back in order to keep a story at a proper short story length.

Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?

Yes, I write under a pen name for privacy.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

The genre I write in chose me. Being a lesbian, it was a natural for me to write lesbian romance novellas. Most of my books have subplots that deal with social issues, such as lesbian domestic violence, transgender, incest, and paranormal, to list a few.

If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

“Love is Love”

What else have you written?

I have written 16 published books. Right now the most popular are, The Plumber and The Pianist, Family Pride, Black and Blue Love and Crash Landing.


What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

Perhaps that they are all not worthy of being published so have resorted to self publishing.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

While I am in the process of writing a story, I often find the character(s) taking over and saying something I hadn’t quite expected! But then that is part of the great fun of writing: to see where the characters lead me.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I enjoy starting a new book and getting to know my book’s characters. The least? That’s when the story ends; it’s always so difficult to let my characters go as I have come to love them. It is exciting to watch my characters grow, mature, and resolve their problems.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I write the scenes in order, as I don’t have a plan laid out for the story. It develops as I go along. That is the fun of writing a novella and watching it come to fruition.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I always have a working title, but sometimes it changes for publication. I have a pretty good idea how the story will end, though sometimes it might change a bit as the end nears. The characters have a tendency to take over the story and I enjoy being a part of the ride.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I do some editing as I go along. When the book is finished, I go back and reread my hard copy and make any changes then. Then I send my manuscript to my editor for the final editing.

After working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?

I write novellas, not full-length novels. Therefore, I believe I don’t ever lose my objectivity. I am able to stay very focused on my story line until the very end.

Over the years, many well-known authors have stated that they wished they’d written their characters or their plots differently. Have you ever had similar regrets?

So far I have been satisfied with my books and their characters and plots. Perhaps because I am able to remain very focused on my goal.

How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

I do some thinking about my characters’ names before I start writing. I try to find names that I think will suit their personalities. Therefore, I don’t change them once I’ve started the story.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

I’ve written characters that I have not liked very well, but that’s fun. I can do all sorts of things with them! Sometimes fun things, sometimes not-so-fun things.

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

I suppose smart marketing has a lot to do with sales, along with a good bit of luck. Being a talented author no doubt helps!

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Never, never give up! Writing is an ongoing learning experience. First-time authors should be aware that having an excellent editor is of great help in learning the writing craft.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

My wonderful friend and editor, Debra Stang, actually talked me into publishing my first book on Amazon, The Unfinished Letter. To my amazement, it has done well from the beginning. I was able to write this novella in 30 days; however, the additional days it took to complete this process took longer as my editor’s efforts at editing the manuscript added to the time it took for the actual publication.

There are so many conflicting opinions out there about everything related to publishing: e-book pricing, book promotion, social media usage etc. How do you sort through it all to figure out what works best for you?

I’m still not sure what works best, but at this time I prefer Twitter. My editor and I take a look at the current going rate for novellas and then decide what price point to ask.

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

I don’t enjoy having to deal with social media. It’s something I have to do in order for my books to be seen. I’m very active on Twitter. I’m also on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, and I will soon add Tumblr and Pinterest.

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

Ha! I have numerous pet peeves, such as knowing the difference between your and you’re, for example, but thank goodness, I have an excellent editor!

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

The books I like best to read are those that can draw me in and arouse my curiosity. What I like least are those books that seem to be full of unnecessary “filler” paragraphs that go on and on and on….

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

My most current book, Lesbian Yuletide Love Stories, did not require any research on my part. However, I’ve written so many books, it’s hard to say about each, but let me just say, I usually revert to Google for research.

Do you have any secrets for effective time management?

My “secret” for effective time management is, I live alone! I can make my own schedule for writing. But, it also takes a certain amount of self-discipline.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I don’t let anyone read a work in progress, because too much input can be confusing, but I do have helpful chats with my editor along the way.

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

I love to receive feedback from people who read my books. Such as the women who have taken the time to let me know that they appreciate the fact that my stories are about mature women. Thankfully, I have enjoyed many positive reactions.

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

I am a fast typist. I think fast and I type fast, which helps me to produce a number of pages every time I sit down to write.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

Sometimes for my own enjoyment, I will write a short paragraph or two about something romantic on my mind. I find this to be an enjoyable exercise in creativity.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

I feel I was born to write. I messed around with writing ever since childhood and into adulthood, but I never had the time to be serious about writing until I retired a few years ago.

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

I do dread writing a synopsis. But thank goodness, I have a wonderful editor who does it for me.

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?

IF I were to write a non-fiction book, it might be about my life. I believe everyone’s life would make an interesting book. Everyone has both a great love story and a great tragedy in their life.

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?

I would advise a new author to seriously consider self-publishing on Amazon. Self-publishing is a great way for new authors to get their start in publishing and to feel the enjoyment of seeing their book out there for the public to notice.

What have you done to market your novel and what did you find the most effective? The least effective?

I rely primarily on using Twitter to market my books. As I gain more and more followers, I gain more and more readers. The least effective is doing nothing to promote one’s book.

I’m sure you’ve read many interviews with your fellow authors. In what ways do you find your methods of creating most similar and dissimilar?

It seems to me that a lot of authors work like I do, without an outline. Sit down and start writing, and enjoy the ride.

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

My personal favorite might be “The Plumber and the Pianist,” but it’s hard to choose, kinda like choosing which child is a mother’s favorite!

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?

I’m still trying to learn this one myself! Ha! Actually, such as in my case, with a number of 5* reviews and perhaps one lower-star rating, that one is very possibly a “troll” who enjoys writing negative reviews and therefore not worthy of my attention.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

I get up usually around 3 am, eat a light breakfast, and then begin writing. I like to get up early before the rest of the world is awake.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

I’m sure the book covers do affect a person’s immediate attention to a book. I am in the process of updating my book covers and I am finding that the more attractive covers do make a difference in sales.

Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?

Sometimes my characters take off on their own. I delight in their individuality.

Do you miss spending time with your characters when you finish writing them?

I desperately miss my characters when I finish writing a book…until I start a new book! Then I become enthralled with my new set of characters.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?

Fortunately, I have never suffered from writer’s block. I am so focused on my story line that I am constantly thinking about my story, even when I am away from my computer.

Have you ever started out to write one book and ended up with something completely different?

Not so far.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I currently live in the Kansas City area.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

The most important trait I look for in a friend is honesty.

Care to brag about your family?

My son, Mathew Curry, has written and published an excellent mystery book: “Spellbound: The Ascension,” on Amazon.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I have always wished I had studied music.

What was your favorite year of school? Why?

My favorite years of school were when I was attending college. I loved the non- regimented schedules.

What makes you angry?

I am very laid back and easy going, but I can become angry when I see someone treating another person without respect.

What music soothes your soul?

I enjoy listening to classical and golden oldies.





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Ray spent 10 years as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, traveling to 27 countries, and 28 years as an aeronautical engineer for a major aerospace firm. He loves to write science fiction and to create unique heroes and heroines facing unusual challenges. Many of the current Sci-Fi stories are missing something, for example ‘how did the evil computer start?’ as in his series SIMPOC. If aliens invade Earth, Ray will likely write from the alien point of view. His protagonists include, clones, robots, computers, aliens, and yes men and women.

Time to chat with Ray!

What is your latest book?

My latest book is Earth II-You Have No Honor. Which was released a little over a month ago. Recently I’ve been converting my work to Audible files and two of my novellas SIMPOC-The Thinking Computer and SIMPOC-Human Remnants have just been released. Two others Virus-72 Hours to Live and Gemini will be released on Audio in January. The remainder of my work will be released through-out the spring.

Gemini Book Cover V4

Is your recent book part of a series?

Earth II is actually the end of the first Epoch in a long story and it focuses on all of the characters in the SIMPOC and Virus series. I did something a little unusual with these series. SIMPOC focused on two very advanced computers, SIMPOC is a ‘good’ computer and ‘Julius’ isn’t. Their story emerges as the world is struck by a suspicious virus and the two novellas focus on the computers. The human story is described in the Virus novels and the computers are among the characters. Earth II brings all of the characters together and the story reaches a major milestone and prepares them for a follow-on series.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

One of my series, Virus is complicated with a long list of characters, each with their own story line. I found it challenging to keep all of the stories in sync and moving towards the same points where they would interact with each other and ultimately conclude. I like series because good stories are huge and have many perspectives. I like to show different parts of the story and how they eventually come together and play out to the conclusion.

Virus 72 Hours to Live (688X433)

What else have you written?

I’ve got four short stories and three series. Two of the series SIMPOC and Virus are related. I wrote SIMPOC first and it is about a suspicious virus that almost wipes out Earth. During the turmoil two very sophisticated computers emerge. One is inclined to help and the other has its own agenda. The story was to show how an evil computer starts. Later in the story I introduced other characters such as astronauts from various space settlements and some key players in the US Government. Some of my readers commented that they’d like to see the back story of those later characters, so I wrote the Virus series which includes SIMPOC but focuses on the story line from the perspective of the astronauts and US Government. All of the characters from both series come together in a third series called Earth II which brings them to an interim conclusion. Separately, I’ve started a separate series Gemini about true aliens and no human characters. It’s a story of love, strife, battles and alien’s evolution to survive. The Raog are a naïve alien race that begins to investigate their solar system. What they find attacks them and for the first time in their history they have to develop survival skills. I have a young couple of aliens that fall in love, share a huge loss and grow to become leaders of their people.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I love playing with ‘the twists’ in my stories. My characters surprise me all the time. I never know what they’ll say or do until I get in the story. That might sound crazy to a non-writer, but I start with a concept of the character and as they development, they take on a life of their own and they are always saying and doing things that surprise me. Love it. I look for situations that would be fun to write about. I get tired of the same hero fighting the aliens and creating a bigger bomb. I like the subtleties of leadership and putting unlikely heroes and heroines in challenging situations. What I enjoy the least is when it ends. I get involved in the story and go through a binge phase while I write, when the story is done, it depresses me a little until I can get another story started. I miss the excitement of the story and I miss the characters.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I never know the ending. I might know how it will end, but I don’t know the details. For example, I might know that a good computer will beat a bad computer, but how? Once I get into the characters then I start building the tension and set up the conflict based on how they interact, then writing the ending is just a part of the natural flow of the book.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I go through a ‘naught’, ‘alpha’, ‘beta’ kind of process. My ‘naught’ is basically a brain dump. I’ll edit as I go, only to the point that I have a clear picture in my head. Then the alpha review might be multiple passes where I fill in the holes, and adjust the storyline. The grammatical editing continues with each pass through the story. Finally, when I have all of the story elements in place and my typing passes through a check with Grammarly and the MS Editor, I consider it ready for a beta read. Sometimes there are multiple beta reads as I adjust the ‘small’ pieces. Then it’s ready for prime time. Often, weeks might pass between each of the steps. They story has to ‘steep’ for a while before I go back to it, that way I can read it with fresh eyes and see it as a story; not my story.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Write, write, write, write. Then edit, edit, edit. Then sell, sell, sell, and when you’re done start over.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

Being an Aeronautical Engineer and an ex-military pilot with over 4,500 hours of flight time puts me in a position where I enjoy using technology. Most of the tech that I used is based on realistic science that is occurring today. I’ve had enough experience so I can take many of the cutting edge concepts and amplify on them with my imagination. I do enough research so I know what the concept is, then I use literary license to expand it in the direction that I want.

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

My last novel was Earth II which is the culmination of two series, Virus and SIMPOC. I enjoyed it the most because it brought together all of my characters and I was able to resolve much of the conflict. True, I’ve set it up for future conflict, but that’s what a series is all about. I enjoyed it, because each of the characters were able to emerge and become a complete story in themselves. My heroine lead makes a speech at the end which I love. I think it is one of the best scenes that I’ve done.

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?

I have been criticized by the best. Throughout my career as a USAF pilot and engineer in many levels of management, I was always evaluated and my ‘issues’ were pointed out. I remember being afraid to walk across a parking lot for fear that a Vice President who disagreed with me would run me over. When I get a bad interview I take some time to cool down, then I try to look at it from the writer’s point of view. Invariably there is some truth buried in the review and I try to find it. Sometimes the truth is relevant and sometimes it isn’t, the key is to make that decision.

Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?

The only analogy I can describe, is writing for me is like following a map. I know where I’m going, but there are a million paths to get there. The same goes for my characters. I know where they’ll end up, but their character leads them down various paths to get there. I don’t control that path, because the character usually leads the way. I might put in one or two sentences, that seem great at the time and it changes the entire path of the character. That is the fun of following the roads, along with the character, not leading them.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I’m lucky, I’m retired and I get to live where I want. Since retirement, my wife and I have traveled a lot. When I was in the Air Force I flew to 27 countries and I learned to love where you are and who you’re with. If you can do that, then you’ll be happy everywhere.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Planes definitely, I’ve flown them, grew up around them, designed them, built them and I love them.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Anything with my wife, that we shouldn’t have.

If you could duplicate the knowledge from any single person’s head and have it magically put into your own brain, whose knowledge would you like to have? And why.

Isaac Asimov. He had the ability to see how technology would affect the world in ways no one else did. He didn’t need to make the issue complex, he could take the simple parts of the technologies effect and write it into a story that everyone would read, smile and shake their heads a little when they were done.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Honestly and loyalty.

Care to brag about your family?

I don’t have enough space, but you asked. Aside from my wife, my daughters, their husbands and my first grandchild, I can’t think of anything else.


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