I’m delighted to welcome Heidi Swain to the Hot Seat today. Heidi’s Christmas story is released today and she’s here to tell us a little more about it.
Heidi, what was the inspiration behind your book? Can you tell us a little about it?
I wanted to take my readers back to Wynbridge for Christmas again this year, but this time with the addition of a completely new setting. A couple of years ago I wrote a festive short story (just for fun between books), which featured a small village school and an elderly lady who was finally retiring from her job as a Teaching Assistant. Having worked in a primary school myself, I always felt that an educational environment would make a great book setting – especially over the festive season – and The Christmas Wish List is the result!
The book features the wonderful friendship between elderly Dolly who is finally preparing to retire from school and her young friend, Hattie, who is poised to move to the other side of the world with her boyfriend Jonathan. Dolly invites Hattie to stay with her in Wynbridge during the run up to Christmas and once there, she immerses her friend in all things festive and introduces her to soft-hearted school caretaker, Beamish.
Typically, the festive tale features all of the things my readers have come to love about Wynbridge, including trips to wonderful Wynthorpe Hall as well as new characters to get to know. It really was a joy to write.
How did you decide on the names for your characters and the setting for your book?
The setting was always going to be Wynbridge, but the school was inspired by my own experiences. A school is a truly wonderful place to be in December and I hope I have conveyed that festive excitement and eager anticipation for the big day in the book – in both the adults and the children!
With regard to names, I’m always listening out for anything unusual and Beamish (the school caretaker) was garnered from Normal for Norfolk – a fascinating documentary series about the owner, family and staff who live and work at Wiveton Hall. One of the garden staff was called Beamish and the name went straight to the top of my list!
What is your writing day like?
My writing day is very structured as I’m a real stickler for routine.
Writing and editing always takes priority and more often than not I will be at the screen by 6.30am. I then work through until lunchtime (with a break for breakfast). Afternoons are spent on admin, writing blog posts and interviews, catching up on social media and replying to emails and reader comments which come via my website. I try and finish before 4pm if I can, but will carry on with social media conversations in the evening.
This is predominantly a Monday to Friday routine, but if I’m up against it, I will work on Sunday mornings. That said, I am happy to take time out during the week for RNA lunches, author events etc – as long as a deadline isn’t looming – otherwise, it’s all work and no play!
What was your journey to publication?
I always knew that I wanted to be an author but forty was looming large on the horizon before I found the courage to take my literary ambitions seriously. Having written one novel, I then embarked upon another, The Cherry Tree Café. This was submitted to the RNA New Writers Scheme and then to the Books and The City #oneday #digitaloriginal call for unsolicited manuscripts in 2014. Exactly a year after submission it was digitally published and I have been writing two books a year for Simon and Schuster ever since.
My fifth book, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells reached number five in the Sunday Times Bestseller chart and all nine titles have been published as audio books as well as in paperback and e-book format. Some are also available in German and Italian.
It’s been a very hectic five years and I am extremely grateful to the New Writers Scheme for giving me the confidence to submit The Cherry Tree Café!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
There are SO many things I could write in response to this question, but I think chief amongst all of them is to start writing! It sounds obvious, but if I had a penny for every time someone told me they were waiting to start until they had more time, I could have retired long ago.
Newsflash folks – There will never be more time, only different demands on the time you already have. If you really want to be an author you simply have to grab what you can – even if it is only ten or fifteen minutes here and there – and make the most of it.
Read widely, join the RNA, attend events and don’t be afraid to tell the story you love are also right up there.
Can you tell us what you are working on now?
Right now, I’m working on a new book which will be released on April 30th. It’s called The Secret Seaside Escape and features a completely new setting, the coastal village of Wynmouth on the Norfolk coast.
The story follows Tess who, struggling with her career and having discovered an unsettling family secret, has returned to the village in the hope that she can recapture some of the happiness she felt there during her childhood holidays. She isn’t in Wynmouth long however, before she realises that nothing is as she remembers it and she isn’t the only one struggling to make some difficult decisions.
It’s proving an exciting book to write and I hope my readers will love Wynmouth every bit as much as Wynbridge and Nightingale Square.
Thank you so much for joining us and making us all feel Christmassy! I’m looking forward to reading it, and Wynmouth sounds just perfect.
About the Author:
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 vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster.
Her debut novel, The Chery Tree Café was published in July 2015 and since then she has had a further seven books published, becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. She is currently preparing to celebrate the release of her 2019 Christmas title, The Christmas Wish List, while working on her next project.
Heidi is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in Norfolk with her wonderful family and a mischievous cat called Storm.
Where you can buy Heidi’s books:
Where you can keep up with Heidi
About the Interviewer:
Ruby Moone lives in the wilds of Lancashire with her husband and writes historical and contemporary romance. At school, her teachers said that she lived with her head in the clouds and if she didn’t stop daydreaming she would never get anywhere. She never did stop daydreaming, and after years of happily living in the clouds, decided to write the stories down.