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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Helen J. Rolfe writes contemporary women’s fiction. She enjoys weaving stories about family, relationships, friendships, love, and characters who face challenges and fight to overcome them.

Time to chat with Helen!

What is your latest book?

Handle Me with Care is my latest book. It’s a book about second chances and here’s the blurb…

Does true love come along more than once in a lifetime?

Maddie Kershaw doesn’t think so. She lost the love of her life in the 9/11 attacks, and since then has hopped from one casual fling to the next. But when she delivers an erotic cake to a one-hundredth birthday party by mistake, she meets Evan and starts to believe in second chances … until she realises there’s a risk of getting hurt all over again.

Evan Quinn is serially single, yet when he meets Maddie he feels an instant connection, so much so that he confesses on their first date that he may have testicular cancer. Was it a mistake to tell her? He wants Maddie more than he has ever wanted any other woman. But he doesn’t want her pity.

With the odds stacked against them both, finding love won’t be easy. But beneath the Australian sun, a Happy Ever After could be worth fighting for.

Handle Me with Care

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

I think the genre chose me because I love to read the same sorts of stories. Romantic fiction has always been my go-to genre, whether it’s in the form of a book or a film.

For me, there’s always a romantic thread in the stories I write and I think that will always be the case, but the story isn’t just about that romance, it’s about real men and women who are faced with everyday challenges. I like to explore deep themes sometimes, which means more research, but I enjoy creating stories that my readers will relate to.

What else have you written?

My debut novel was The Friendship Tree. I set this novel in Australia too, where I lived for fourteen years. The Friendship Tree is about facing up to problems rather than running away.

Tamara Harding leaves her manipulative ex behind in London and heads to Australia to get away from him and spend time with family. She is soon drawn in to the small community of Brewer Creek where she becomes the coordinator for an old fashioned Friendship Tree – a chart telling people who they can call on in times of trouble. Things get complicated for Tamara when she meets Jake, a man with secrets of his own.

Again, The Friendship Tree is romantic fiction with a little bit of suspense thrown in when the past catches up with one of Brewer Creek’s residents.


The Write Romantics are a group of writers who met via the Romantic Novelists’ Association and we blog together about writing, reading, our books and everyday issues. Last year, with the help of other published writers, we put together Winter Tales, an anthology of winter and Christmas stories that raised funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. My story, Christmas in July, was based in Sydney’s Blue Mountains and again there’s a featured romance. The story is currently featured for free on my website.

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

All the time! I plot my books beforehand but I know it’s important to stay flexible because once I start writing my characters evolve in ways I didn’t predict

In The Friendship Tree for example, I didn’t originally plan for Mr Wilson or Danielle to have any significant involvement with Tamara, but the friendships formed as I wrote. It was fun that way and I guess teaches us that friendship sometimes surprises us and age is no barrier. Mr Wilson is elderly but he and Tamara have a bond and understand each other. He’s the first to see that she’s in Australia because she’s hiding something about her ex, and she finds herself confiding in him. Tamara also bonds with Danielle, who is, I think, someone Tamara can relate to. Danielle sees Tamara as brave and independent, and I think she helps Tamara realise that what she’s actually good at is hiding the way she really feels.

In Handle Me with Care I had no idea until I started writing, what journey Evan would follow with testicular cancer. I didn’t want the book to be about the nitty gritty of cancer and medications, but more about the emotions that come to the fore when you’re faced with the disease. I wanted to be able to highlight the importance of early detection and the importance of leaning on people when you need to, and with these goals in mind, my character evolved as I wrote. Sometimes it’s hard to know how characters will work together until you actually get them on the page, side by side. Then they often surprise you!

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

It sounds strange but I enjoyed all of it. The research was fun because it gave me the confidence to pen characters who were realistic and to whom readers could relate to. I enjoy the first draft because it’s so free…the story can go anywhere you like!

The editing is fun too, because it means the first draft is complete. This is the chance to turn it into a better story and as that happens it’s really satisfying.

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’d definitely get my first draft down first. My first draft is full of question marks and italics with notes to go and check on this and that, instructions to refer to research. That way I’m not thrown out of the story. Also, I think if you obsess too much about getting each bit perfect, not only do you lose momentum, but you lose some of the passion for the story you’re writing.

I guess different methods work for different people though!

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 think this always happens. I think it’s important to put a novel aside and have time away from it. This is usually when I pass it to at least 2 beta readers and they flag up any major issues or criticisms. Then the novel goes to an editor and once it’s returned I’ve had enough time away to look at it afresh and make changes that’ll help it be a better story.

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 think it’s a tough job to do, being an author. And it’s much tougher than most outsiders give you credit for! To a lot of people, an author’s life is all about long lunches and sitting at a table signing books. They don’t realise that 9-12 months, often much more, of hard work has gone into that book and then equally as much work must ensue to promote it.

I also think the marketplace is crowded now and it’s hard to get books noticed. There’s a lot of advice out there although I think if you obsessed about it too much you’d never write anything else.

Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed with it all, the cure for me is to get away from obsessing about rankings and sales and write something else. This is when I’m at my happiest. 🙂

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

In writing Handle Me with Care, there was a bit of research particularly around the topic of testicular cancer. I wrote articles for health and fitness magazines a few years ago and I approach my research for novels in the same way as I did then for non-fiction. Firstly I trawl the internet and read up, from reliable websites, to get a feeling for the subject matter. This also helps me devise a list of questions that I need answered.

Next I find an expert or two, depending on how many questions I have and what level of detail I need. For Handle Me with Care I interviewed the Cancer Council in Australia and they sent me booklets that usually go out to patients. These were particularly helpful when trying to deal with the emotions of cancer and develop my character, Evan.

I also interviewed a doctor who specialised in testicular cancer and I was able to expand what I’d already found out. As I was writing, I could also email him to check I was along the right lines with my character.

Interviewing specialists / experts also gives you confidence when you’re writing. For example, an editor had queried the chemotherapy aspect in my novel as they didn’t think it sounded as in depth as it should be. I was able to go through my interview transcript and check that I was correct with how my character had experienced chemotherapy, and to double check, I reconfirmed with the doctor too.

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 tend to keep it a secret – the title, the subject, everything, until I’m well on the way to having it ready. I’m not sure why but I think it helps me work it out in my own mind first so that my writing isn’t clouded my anyone else’s opinions on how I should or shouldn’t write the story.

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

Yes, I type at about 75 wpm! It was probably one of the best things I ever did, learning to type. My Dad brought home a library book teaching touch typing when I was about 14 and I learned on one of those old-fashioned typewriters. I’ll never forget it … the ‘a’ key stuck all the time and you needed to give it quite a whack with your little finger to make it move.

Being able to type was a godsend at University, typing a 10,000 word dissertation, and then in temporary jobs during school holidays where I could be an office assistant.

And now, of course, as an author it’s great to be able to type quickly, particularly when the ideas are flowing!

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

A long walk or an exercise class really helps. Anything that’s time away from my desk really. The other day, my plotting for novel number 4 was painful. All day, I tried and failed to really get going with it. Then, waiting in the car for my child to do their gymnastics class, the ideas just kept flowing!

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

I have just returned to the UK after living in Australia for fourteen years.

If I had to live in another country then Australia would have to be first choice. I fell in love with Melbourne, where I spent 9 years, and Sydney was pretty spectacular too. It’s an amazing country with lots of space, brilliant weather and so many opportunities. The only thing missing from Australia was family. 🙂

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

It’s a tough choice…crisps or chocolate! My least favourite food is avocado!

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

Trustworthy, loyal, and easy to laugh with.

If you had a million dollars to give to charity, how would you allot the funds?

That’s a really tough question. I think I’d divide it between ten charities but it would be so hard to choose.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

In 2000 I resigned from my job in the UK, bought a one-way ticket to Australia, and not knowing a single person there and having never been to the country myself, I moved to Melbourne.

It was the best experience ever!

What was the most valuable class you ever took in school? Why?

English for sure. I still remember my teacher saying she’d wanted to be a journalist and that I should never give up on my dream. Her words kept me going when I doubted I’d ever become a published author.HelenR6