AN INTERVIEW WITH DEBRA SWIFT, AUTHOR,
"The Lady's Slipper"
1. What aspects of being an author do you most enjoy?
I love the research aspect of my books. There’s nothing better than a good excuse to visit old buildings, archives, museums and antique markets. I also love the beginnings of a new book when all possibilities are open to me.
2. What aspects of being an author do you least enjoy?
I suppose trying to market or promote the books. I am not a natural “seller” so I always find that aspect hard. I’d rather be writing or researching, or poking round ancient sites.
3. What moment as an author have you experienced that you are likely to remember 20 years from now (good or bad)?
I think the arrival of my first book in its gorgeous hardback will stand out as a moment for me. Unpacking the box and drawing back the brown paper to see the lovely cover with my name on it. I put it on the shelf next to books by other excellent and inspiring writers, and I just looked at it on that first day over and over!
- How many hours a week do you spend writing? I write every morning five days a week. The rest of the day is reserved for my other job and for research.(And for things like doing the washing, going to the shops etc!)
- How much research do you do? I find research inspirational, and it often prompts story ideas as well as being essential to get a sense of the age – so I do a lot. I have a period of general research before I begin to write, then after the first draft I go into a more intensive phase where I find out much more detail about the scenarios I have created in the book. There are a lot of re-writes at this stage whilst I try to blend historical accuracy with the plot. For example I didn’t know when I began The Lady’s Slipper there would be a scene on board ship, and I knew zilch about ships – so a whole new adventure of Maritime museums and looking at archives began.
6. Tell us about your latest book.
The book that’s out now is about an artist who wants to paint and preserve a rare orchid, The Lady’s Slipper of the book’s title. It grows on someone else’s land, so she steals it, thus setting in motion a train of events leading to murder and exile, and leads her also ultimately to love and a new life.
7. How long did it take to write?
The book was two years in the making – about eighteen months in writing and researching, and six months in the editing. It was a brilliant moment when I first saw the whole thing clunk out of my printer at home, and saw I had actually written a book!
8. What was your inspiration?
The novel was inspired by the English orchid itself which was reduced to a single specimen when I began the book. It was part of a species recovery programme which has been a success, and now to my great delight, the lady’s slipper is flourishing in selected fragile sites in the wild. It is still monitored though, because it attracted orchid thieves a few years ago. Now its main danger is slugs and deer!
9. If you could spend one week with one of your characters who would you choose? What would you do?
I would love to spend a week with Stephen Fisk, the young man in the book who eventually finds the courage to stand up to his father for his principles, and what he believes in. I would love to spend a week with him at his converted English manor house, The Fieldings, to see how he has used his father’s legacy for his own ideals.
10. What has surprised you the most about your experience of being published?
How long it all takes! I wrote the book in 2007-8, found a publisher in 2009, and it did not come to the shelves until late last year, by which time I had written a second. But also the biggest surprise is that I have been mostly ecstatic, occasionally horrified and sometimes plain baffled by reader’s reactions to the book. But I love to hear from different readers, so it has been great.
11. How much social networking are you into?
I have a blog – www.deborahswift.blogspot.com, and The Lady’s Slipper has a Facebook page. I try not to get too sucked into social networking, because too much of it eats away at my writing time, but I always have time to talk about my books to readers.