Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Interview with Linda Swift

Our RWA guest today is Linda Swift whom I first met in 1999 when she regularly attended our Flying Ducks meeting in Harrogate while her husband was temporarily working in Hull. She says that when she returned to the US, she left a huge chunk of her heart behind and hopes to return again some day. She also wrote an article for the Romance Writers of America (RWA) comparing it and American authors, with RNA and English authors, and apparently gave the RNA the highest rating! Thank you for that, Linda. I’d love to hear how you first came to hear about the RNA.

I met Valerie Wood at one of her book signings and she had Linda Acaster call me about the RNA meetings. Then Valerie and her husband Peter invited me to travel with them to Harrogate to my first meeting. I attended others and became friends with Sylvia Broady and Ruth Pattison as well and have kept in touch with all of them.

Can you work anywhere, or do you have a favourite place to hideaway and write? 

My husband and I spend winter months in Florida and summers in Kentucky. In both homes, my writing space is in the guest bedroom. I use the guest bed for an "open" file cabinet, which then requires putting everything in drawers when we have guests. I need quiet to work, and prefer to have a block of several hours at one time without interruption. Who doesn’t?

Are you a plotter or a panster?

I am definitely a panster. I have a "loose" idea of where my story is going. I usually make a list of chapters and one thing that may take place in each. But I don’t always adhere to this framework. When I get the characters talking with each other, they often take their story in a different direction than I had planned. At that point, I feel more like a recorder than the author. It always works better if I get out of their way than if I try to maintain control.

Have you had rejections and if so, how did you deal with them?

I’ve had many rejections in my career. They are part of the publishing process. First form letters, then rejections with notes from the editors, then offers to take another look if I’d change this or that. Finally the moment when something is accepted. I have learned that it is true there are many reasons for rejections and it is my story, not me that is being turned down. Still, a rejection is a disappointment. But I was born under the sign of Taurus and I suffer from "dog with a bone" syndrome so I get up and attempt to break through the "wall" again. And again.

Do you use prologues or epilogues? Do you like flashbacks? How do you think they might help a novel? 

I use both prologues and epilogues when the story calls for it. My recently released Civil War story needed a lapse of time at the end to allow certain parts of the story to reach a satisfying conclusion. Another book released this year, had a prologue scene of a funeral taking place and only near the end of the last chapter did the reader learn who died. The beginning of Chapter 1 might have seemed tedious without this suspense. I do have a tendency to start slowly and gradually gain momentum and I know this is not very acceptable these days. I’m not fond of flashbacks and use them sparingly if at all.

Can you remember which craft tip helped you most?

Several tips from different people comes to mind but the first and one of the most important was from a college English professor who was teaching an adult ed class. I had begun my first short story of any worth and read the beginning to him. I was elated that this story had taken on a life of its own (my first experience with how the creative process worked) and he was obviously bored. But he pointed out that the narrator should never talk above the educational level of the characters in the story. And I had been narrating in my own voice. It made all the difference. And that story went on to win the Fiction Skills Scholarship at the Indiana University Writers’ Conference that year. (Thanks to a bored professor!)

Is a sense of place important in your writing? How do you set about researching it? 

Sense of place is vastly important in everything I write. But since I set my stories in many of the places I have lived, or visited, I often don’t have to do extensive research. If the story is set in another time period, that requires more effort but if I am familiar with the location, I can still make the story real.

Do you think it important for a writer to take time off? How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing? 

I think there is a good argument for taking time off and for also keeping your nose to the grindstone. I don’t like to leave something I’m in the midst of. I lose momentum and have to make a greater effort to get back into the story. However, when I finish a book, it is nice to reward myself with a short period of non-writing activities. My husband and I do ballroom dancing every week. We also walk a couple of miles a day. And in Florida we use a pool. I enjoy traveling, including flying. And exploring as much of England as we could was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done. We traveled with National Holidays most weekends and were the only Americans onboard. As most authors, I also relax by reading and losing myself in a book.

With the increasing popularity of ebooks, how do you think digitisation might help or change your own career as a writer? 

Digital publication has changed my writing career completely. I became an ebook author in early 2008 and I currently write for seven digital publishers. I wrote paperbacks for a NY publisher in the mid-90s so I have a good basis for comparison. I prefer digital pubs in every way except one--they don’t pay an advance and earnings are less overall. I am still in awe with the speed in which the entire process takes place. My first ebook was accepted and I had a signed contract in less than eleven days. Compare that to the two years I once waited to hear from a well-known NY publisher who had asked to see a complete. And then after the long wait, I got a form rejection letter!

Do you enjoy writing sequels or series? If so, what is the special appeal for you? 

I’m not sure that I enjoy writing sequels. I have a sequel to my published historical and it is still mostly in my head after several years. And I have a sequel almost completed to my contracted but unpublished shorter historical but this one has taken much too long to write. I’ve never done a series and don’t plan to. They bore me. And it seems to me they often get weaker as they trickle down. I suppose the original excitement is gone for the author as well as the reader.

Do you write under a pseudonym? What do you find to be the pros and cons for using one?

I write as Linda Swift which is my maiden name. My legal name is Linda Swift Reeder but that is too "cutesy" to be believed. And my agent at the beginning of my publishing career suggested that I shorten my name as the letters could be larger on the book cover. For the same reason--name recognition-- I usually request block letters and colors that are easily visible. Cover artists are sometimes reluctant to give up their vision of fancy unreadable script but I usually remain polite but firm on this point. My only problem with using my maiden name professionally is that sometimes people refer to my husband as Mister Swift which irks him a bit.

What are the particular difficulties you have found in writing about real historical figures? 

Obviously, writing about historical figures requires careful research. I have only written two such people into my books. The first was Mary, Queen of Scots. And I read Lady Antonia Fraser’s book by that title word by word, then went back often to check as I wrote the story. I did put words in the Queen’s mouth but felt I knew her well enough to do that after absorbing the book. In the book’s sequel, I have given life to Guy Fawkes who was a cousin of my imaginary character. My first historical, THIS TIME FOREVER, an American Civil War saga, has just been released by Canadian publisher, Champagne Books. A second historical, MAID OF THE MIDLANDS, set in 1573 England and including Mary Queen of Scots in the plot, is coming soon.

To find out more about Linda and her work, please visit her website http://www.lindaswift.net 

Interviews on the RNA Blog are conducted by Freda Lightfoot and Kate Jackson. If you would like an interview, please contact me at:freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk

39 comments:

Linda Swift said...

Good morning, Freda. Thank you for inviting me to be your guest today. I hope to meet many new readers here as well as some familar ones. I'm going to get busy and post on the loops I belong to an invitation to visit with us here. It's a cold,dark, rainy day where I live, typical November weather. It will be a good time to stay close to my computer, drink hot tea (yes, I learned to love it during my stay in England) and chat with guests.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the Q&A, Linda. Thanks for the invite. Good luck with your new publication.
Janis Lane
Sandpiper Affair

Miriam Newman said...

What a great interview, Linda. I wish you luck with all of your books. They sound like something I will like to read. Couldn't agree with you more on the vast difference between digital and traditional print publishing. I thought I was going to have posthumous publication if any with print, so digital has been a blessing although, as you say, the monetary rewards are less. Still, if you want to get your books out there before the public, they are invaluable.

Jennifer Wilck said...

Great interview! I like having my things spread out around me too--my husband is not a big fan (especially when my writing things are spread all over his desk!). Never thought about using the guest room bed though. I just cleaned it out--might be the perfect time to appropriate it! ;) I enjoyed "meeting you" with this Q&A. Best of luck to you.

Linda Swift said...

Thank you for visiting today, Janis, and for your good wishes. It's nice to meet you here.

Linda Swift said...

Miriam, I think you have expressed the main focus of most writers I know, including myself. Our goal is getting our work out there to be read by others. (The publishers, most of whom are also writers it seems, are aware of that, aren't they? In many cases, writers are willing to pay them to be published) But writing without being published is like talking to an empty room. We all want to be HEARD.

Danielle Thorne said...

Wonderful interview. I always enjoy learning more about you, Linda!

Linda Swift said...

It's nice to meet you, too, Jennifer. And it helps if your work area is also in the GBR so that you can just swivel your chair around and "lay hands" on your stacks of paper with little effort. I felt a bit embarrassed to have a "bed filing cabinet" until I heard that Kathryn Hepburn kept her things on a bed instead of in drawers for convenience. If it's good enough for her......

angela britnell said...

Great interview Linda. I'm an RNA member and fellow Desert Breeze author so it's particularly interesting to find out more about you today.

Linda Swift said...

Thanks for your support, Danielle. I appreciate your friendship from my first days as an ebook writer in 2008. And I look forward to seeing more of you in person now that you have family near my KY home.

Linda Swift said...

Angela, thank you for your comments. I don't talk much on the DBP loops so I haven't met you before. But now I will look for your books there.

Freda Lightfoot said...

I enjoyed preparing your interview Linda. I particularly liked your upbeat approach dismissing rejections as part of the process. And up you get and go on. I wish you every success for the future

Michele said...

So nice that you can have input on your covers!
Great interview!

Linda Swift said...

Thank you, Freda. As I told you, I became familiar with and enjoyed your work while living in Hull and have one of your books here in Kentucky now. I truly do think romance novels that I have read by English authors are more comparable to what the US labels as "Women's Fiction." As for rejections, I often quote a former college professor who said the only difference between a published and unpublished author is lunatic persistence. I totally agree!

Victoria Roder said...

Linda,
You being the recorder of your characters is an interesting thought. Good luck with all you do.

Ute Carbone said...

Nice to find out more about you and your writing methods, Linda!

Linda Swift said...

Yes, Victoria, I really feel once I get the characters interacting and talking with each other, they "carry" the story. But sometimes it takes some effort to do that!

Linda Swift said...

Thank you for visiting today, Ute. I've just come from your new website and I like it very much.

Diane Craver said...

Great interview! I wish I had a guest bedroom - we have 3 daughters living at home! I learned more about you today, Linda, so it was very interesting for me.

Allison Knight said...

Loved your comparison with NY and the digital market. I waited forever not only for decisions but for payment. Thank heavens for the advent of indies and the digital market.

Linda Swift said...

Hi Diane. We haven't talked in a while on the loops. I think I envy you daughters still at home. My only daughter lives in anothr city. It is encouraging to know that you learned new things about me. I always wonder if I'm boring authors I already know by repeating myself.

Linda Swift said...

Thank you for stopping in, Allison. I think most of us are very grateful for the benefits of digital publishing and I'm just getting into the indie side of it and so far I am VERY pleased. If only I could figure out how to make it pay as well as those 30K print runs! And an advance would be nice, too.

Stuart Aken said...

I enjoyed this interview, Linda. Made me laugh and gave me a couple of useful pointers for my own writing. Coming from Hull, and living in the East Riding, with a sister living in Harrogate, I feel a certain bond with you. Good luck with your writing.

Linda Swift said...

Thank you, Stuart. I'm glad my words were useful And we can all use a laugh, can't we? I am honored to be here today as well as earlier when you invited me to be a guest on your blog. Now I'm wondering if your sister is a writer and perhaps attended the RNA meetings I visited in Harrogate. Small world,

Celia Yeary said...

Linda--And so, I learn a little more. I liked one of your statements that an editor said, that the narrator should never write above the educational level of the story's characters. That one requires some thought--very good.
Tell me when Main of the Midlands is released--I want to read it.
Celia

Linda Swift said...

Freda, Stuart just emailed me that Penny Grubb has just had three hardback crime novels published as paperbacks. She is also an author I knew and englected to mention. Congratulations and good wishes are in order here for Penny!

Linda Swift said...

Celia, I almost missed your post, sandwiched in between two others I'd commented on. I think Maid of the Midlands will have to wait until the first of the year. I can't do it justice with promo right now. And about the professor's advice on level of education of narrator's voice. I was writing a story about a good ole boy from the South in that story and the narration was coming from a teacher's vocabulary. It was inconsistent and the story wasn't flowing as it should. Make sense?

Laurean Brooks said...

Linda,

This was an interesting interview. I enjoyed learning more about you.

Congratulations on the short story winning an award despite the "bored professor's" reaction.

It sounds as if he did have a point, "don't narrate above the characters' level." I will remember that. Thank you for teaching me something new I can apply to my writing.

I really enjoy your writing style and voice. Here's wishing you God's best in all your endeavors.

jude said...

Linda and Freda,
Thanks so much for a great post. I identified in many ways, even down to the open file on the guest bedroom bed! My first ebook was released today and I am estatic. I, too, am a convert. Wish you well. Your books sound wonderful. I enjoy reading bout Mary, Queen of Scots.

Paula Martin said...

Wonderful interview, Linda! Love the fact that you used National Holidays to travel around the UK!
I really enjoyed your Civil War story and I'm already looking forward to your Mary QofS story!

Linda Swift said...

Hi Laurean, I'm glad you made it over and thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your nice comments. Yes, for a bored professor that man sure left me with a gem to remember and apply to all my stories and books that came after that class. I do appreciate his words but I can't even remember his name.

Linda Swift said...

Congratulations on your first e-book release, Jude. And may this be the beginning of a very successful career with digital books. I hope it is as rewarding for you as it has been for me. I've had more books published since 2008 that I ever dreamed possible and more contracted for 2012. It began slowly and this year snowballed into six new print releases. So don't be discouraged if it goes slowly as first. And keep that guest bed filled with lots of WIP and promo ops and whatever else it takes to further your new career. Good luck.

Linda Swift said...

Hi Paula. Yes, we loved traveling with National Holidays. On one of their tours, we met the English family that "adopted us."And when we returned for a visit in 2003, we booked a five day tour of Scotland with NH midway through our visit with these English friends in Hull.It was one member of this family who gave me Lady Antonia Fraser's Mary Queen of Scots that I used as my main reference book for Maid of the Midlands. Thank you for your kind words about This Time Forever. Maid is about a castle guard and lady in waiting who was charged with the queen's care when she was a castle "guest." It will be released in 2012.

Linda Swift said...

This is a cut and paste from a letter I got from Nikki Andrews, my Chapagne Books Ed. who became a good friend at end of the editing. She said she tried to post this and wasn't able to. So with her permission, I'm posting it now.

"Loved the interview! I tried to leave a comment, but Blogger doesn't seem to like me and wouldn't accept my comment. Bummer. But it's really nice to know there's someone else who files her papers on on the guest bed. I showed my husband your comment and he said, "Okay, I give in." The only problem I have with it is that my cat likes to sleep on the various files."

Linda Swift said...

Freda, I believe your guest blogs stay at the top for only a day so I'd like to say that I have really enjoyed being your a guest of RNA today. I'd like to thank all of those who stopped and left comments. And I wish all of you much success in your writing and to you and yours a happy and blessed holiday season.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Linda,
Great blog. You are certainly prolific, but your stories are always of the highest standard. I like the idea of commuting between two homes to follow the sun. Sounds like a perfect existence.

Regards

Margaret

Linda Swift said...

Hello Margaret, and thank you for visiting all the way from Australia today. Yes, we feel blessed to able to enjoy warm weather year round but it does have one drawback. We have to pack and "move" twice a year. That has its upside, too. One is forced to sort through almost everything to decide what to take.

Elaine Cantrell said...

I enjoyed your interview, Linda. Good luck with your books.

Linda Swift said...

Thank you, Elaine. It's good to hear from you again. And I wish the same for you.