Heidi-Jo Swain is a writer of romantic novels and decidedly darker short stories and is currently a Romantic Novelists Association NWS member. A passionate vintage collector, lover of fresh flowers and an avid reader with an interest in all things Pagan she lives in Norfolk with her husband and two delightful teens. Here she tells us a little bit more about how writing’s got her just where it wants her…
What inspired you to start writing and when did you start on your writing journey?
To be honest, I don’t think I ever felt inspired to start writing, rather I’ve always known that I have to write. For me (and probably almost every other writer on the planet) there was never a choice. The desire has always been there even though I’ve only really given in to the siren call during the last few years.
My focused and doggedly determined writing journey began in earnest about four years ago when it finally dawned on me that if I wasn’t careful I was going to live my entire life wondering ‘what if’. So I gave myself a good talking to, screwed my courage to the sticking place and went for it!
Have you completed any creative writing courses or joined any writing groups?
After the stern talking to I enrolled on a local creative writing course and I haven’t looked back since. I attended three in total, sharing flash fiction, short stories and even some poetry before a change in work pattern meant it was time to go it alone and tackle my first novel. I’m also a member of the online community Shortbread Stories and have enjoyed seeing my work read by thousands of people I would otherwise have never been able to reach.
Where and when do you write? Do you have any superstitions, like using a certain pen?
I’m a creature of habit when it comes to where I write. We moved house recently and it wasn’t long before I’d installed myself back at the head of the dining table only this time in the sitting room rather than the kitchen. I also write in my car during lunch breaks, although if it gets too hot I hunt around for an empty classroom!
I work part time and have the luxury of two days a week at home so I do my utmost to cram in as many hours at the keyboard as I can on those days and then make longhand notes and edits during work days to refine during the evenings. At weekends the house is generally packed with marauding teens so writing blog posts, endless lists and plotting in my head tends to take precedence over upping the word count.
I’ve recently discovered that the monotony of ironing often offers the solution to a plot problem or helps me develop an idea further as I play out different scenes and scenarios in my head. I’m not quite sure what that says about my writing routine and of course I’m not condoning ironing, simply passing on what works for me!
My novels, unlike my decidedly darker short stories, definitely fall into the genre of romance and chic lit.
I am thrilled with my first novel The Cherry Tree Café and can’t wait to see it published. One way or another it will be launched by spring 2015 at the very latest. I love the main character, flame haired Lizzie Dixon. She has been a real joy to work with even though she did find herself unceremoniously dumped on her birthday!
What made you want to join the NWS and what have you got from it so far?
There were two reasons why I was so keen to join the NWS this year. Firstly, I attended the Festival of Romance in Bedford last year and authors such as Miranda Dickinson, Mandy Baggot, Lorraine Wilson and Carmel Harrington were so supportive and full of encouragement that I felt duty bound not to let them down. Secondly of course was the critique on offer. I’d finished writing The Cherry Tree Café and almost completed a round of editing when my membership was confirmed and I knew the feedback I was going to get would be second to none.
What I hadn’t taken into account was the support and friendship of the wonderful women I’d meet during the year. That has turned out to be an absolute highlight and the start of some relationships that I think will last far beyond the year!
Do you have a work in progress? If so, can you give away any teasers and, if not, what are your plans for getting started on something else?
My current WIP is my second novel, The Skylark Serenade. Still in the planning stage, the story is set in the sometimes overlooked but nonetheless dramatic landscape of East Anglia and follows the story of Summer, a young woman searching for something, but she isn’t quite sure what…
Do you use social media a lot, including things like Pinterest, and if so, how helpful have you found it in your writing career so far? Is there any aspect of social media you have found it tricky to get to grips with and could you offer any advice to others starting out?
I do you use social media a lot. A little too much probably! It can eat up the minutes like nothing else, but I do love it. This time last year I didn’t even have a Twitter account and now I have well over a thousand followers, the majority of whom are writers, some published some not, gardeners, allotment holders and a fair few RNA NWS members. I also have a blog, Wattpad account, author page on Facebook and a Pinterest account which is a great source of inspiration.
Writing can be a lonely occupation so an active ‘social media life’ can make all the difference. I’m fortunate that I have a very clued up daughter so anything I have found tricky she has been able to help me through, with much eye rolling and head shaking of course.
What do you think the benefits of using Wattpad are and would you recommend to other aspiring writers?
I have only recently set up my Wattpad account and along with a couple of short stories I’m uploading one chapter of The Cherry Tree Café a week. I’ve received a fair few reads but not many comments however, the associated networking opportunities have been great! So far I’ve featured on the blogs of Jennifer Joyce and Liz Tipping both of whom I discovered on Wattpad. With the summer break in full swing I’m now planning to take a more active role in reading and commenting on other Wattpad users work.
Tricky question! I’ve spent half my life dreaming of seeing my books on the supermarket shelves with a big name publisher branded down the side but now I’m not so sure.
I’ve read a lot of blog posts and interviews with indie authors recently and I have to admit I am tempted. As far as The Cherry Tree Café is concerned I’m going to try the traditional route but if it doesn’t happen I’ll definitely self-publish, probably in eBook format. It’s a great story and one way or another it will be published. I’ve reached the point in my writing career now where I’m ready for Amazon chart domination and nothing is going to hold me back! *looks dreamily into distance*…
Would you encourage your children to be writers, if they showed an interest
Already happening! My daughter has her own blog and Wattpad account so she’s already on the path! I envy her. If Wattpad had been around when I was her age there’d have been no stopping me!
Thanks so much for stopping by the blog to see us Heidi-Jo and we’ll be sure to look out for you on those Amazon charts, be it by the traditional route or indie!
Find out more about Heidi-Jo and her books at the links below: