Hello Rachel. Thank you so much for inviting me to visit your wonderful blog and on today of all days. I’m hugely excited as my third novel, Mince Pies and Mistletoe at The Christmas Market is out today and I can’t wait to go and see it sitting on the festive shelves!
Q1. Care to tell us a little about your path to publication so far?
I’ve written forever (or so it seems), but the actual path that led me to publication once I decided to take my writing seriously has been an absolute whirlwind.
My debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café, was selected by the wonderful Books and The City team at Simon and Schuster following their #oneday open submission day in 2014 and it was published in June 2015. There have been two more novels since then, Summer at Skylark Farm (July 2016) and Mince Pies and Mistletoe at The Christmas Market (November 16) and a fourth is now almost ready to be published next summer. Phew!
Perhaps that explains why I haven’t got around to looking for an agent yet, but I will soon.
Q2. Your festive novel – what time of year did you actually write it? What did you use for inspiration writing out of season?
The first draft was written in the spring, but the editing was all undertaken in the height of summer.
There are quite a few special festive bakes gracing the pages of the book so having some oranges and cinnamon sticks on the table and a jar of mincemeat in the fridge to occasionally sniff really helped with the scents of the season and of course the obligatory festive tunes played a big part in helping extend Christmas into August. Writing a winter landscape in thirty degree heat is no mean feat so I was pleased the first draft was finished when there was still a modicum of frost around.
Q3. Can you tell us about the plot of your Christmas novel?
I absolutely loved writing this book. Returning to the town of Wynbridge is always a treat and this festive tale follows the story of Ruby who we first met working part-time with Jemma and Lizzie in The Cherry Tree Café. I always knew that with her sassy attitude and winged eye-liner she had a tale to tell and this is it…
Ruby has finished with university and is heading home for the holidays to save up for her trip around the world in January. Against her father’s wishes, she takes on a stall at the local market, and sets about making it the best Christmas market stall ever. There’ll be bunting and mistletoe and maybe even a bit of mulled wine.
But with a new retail park just opened on their doorstep, the market is under threat. So together with all the other stallholders, Ruby devises a plan to make sure that Wynbridge is the first port of call for everyone’s Christmas shopping needs.
The only thing standing in her way is Ruby’s ex, Steve. It’s pretty hard to concentrate on saving the world when he works on the stall opposite, especially when she realises that her feelings for him are still there…
Q4. What traditions do you like to follow in your home at Christmas?
Even though the kids are now grown (21 and 16), we still keep Christmas in much the same way as we always have.
The top of the tree is adorned with every wonky eyed angel creation which was expertly crafted at primary school and I bake mammoth batches of mince pies and sausage rolls which never make it as far as the freezer.
We all have a stocking to hang on Christmas Eve and I bemoan the fact that every year I try to sit down with a sherry to watch Carols from King’s and everyone talks through it. Always.
My husband reads The Night Before Christmas before bed on the 24th and we always stand together outside to track Santa as he mingles with the stars in the crisp night sky.
Q5. What’s next for you in 2017?
Having had two books published this year has kept me on my toes and I haven’t really had the opportunity to look too far ahead. My head is buzzing with ideas for novel number five but until the fourth is safely put to bed I’ll be striving to stop it from taking over!
So, for now, I’m focused on the summer 2017 publication day and I’m also going to dip my toe in the water and see if I can secure an agent.
Q6. Can you tell me the worst thing about being a novelist in your opinion?
Fortunately the good things outweigh the bad a million to one but the worst, for me, is the fear that I won’t be able to do the story justice. Some books are ‘easy’ to write. They just flow out of the end of the fingertips and on to the screen but there are some, which I know in my head are wonderful in themselves, but I worry I won’t be able to turn them into what I imagine? What if I literally can’t find the words or the right ones anyway?
I have spoken to lots of authors about this and no-one has the answer. Confidence is hard to come by whether it is the first book you’ve written or the twenty third and perhaps that’s how it should be. That fear of failure keeps us on our toes, striving to produce the best possible book we can for those much loved readers who are prepared to part with their hard earned cash to read what we have to say for ourselves.
Q7. And the best?
There are so many good things about being a novelist and every time I take part in an event or reach a new milestone I think to myself, ‘this is it. It can’t possibly get any better,’ but of course it does.
I thought the author experience had peaked this year when I held my own paperback for the first time, but then I saw it sitting alongside JK Rowling on the Sainsbury’s bookshelves and then readers started getting in touch to tell me they had taken it on holiday… and loved it. After that came a magazine feature and some accompanying short stories and that was all thrilling and new and exciting!
I don’t honestly think I’ll ever know what the best thing is because for the most part it’s all brilliant!
Q8. Finally – do you have favourite Christmas reads of your own?
Every year, without exception, I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Along with hanging the advent calendar, Mr Dickens provides that first hint of the excitement that’s to come and I know as soon as the book is added to the pile on the table next to the bed that we’re in for a fun few weeks.
Invariably I also turn to Trisha Ashley and cram in as many festive reads as I can into November and December.
Thank you so much for welcoming me. Merry Christmas everyone!
Read on to hear more about Heidi and her books…
A bit about me…
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.
She now lives in Norfolk with her wonderful family and a mischievous cat called Storm and writes commercial fiction for Simon and Schuster.
Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café was published in June 2015 and Summer at Skylark Farm followed in July 2016.
Mince Pies and Mistletoe at The Christmas Market is available from today!
Mince Pies and Mistletoe: