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A Trip Around Wynbridge With Heidi Swain

Posted on 8th July, 2017

This week, to celebrate the forthcoming publication of Heidi Swain's latest novel, Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage, she and I have got together to bring you an interview with a difference: a walk around Wynbridge, the delightful setting for Heidi's books.

 

Welcome to Wynbridge everyone! I’m delighted you have been able to join me on a little trip around the pretty town which has provided the backdrop for all of my novels so far.

 

Let's get a sense of the size of Wynbridge. Is it big enough to have its own secondary school or do the teenagers go elsewhere every morning?

 

The population of Wynbridge is hovering around the 18,000 mark now and the town not only boasts its own secondary school, but also a small college and attached horticultural unit. I’m delighted to say that the school places a high value on the importance of understanding the countryside it is set in and has both a well subscribed allotment and poultry club.

 

How about shopping? Boutiques and independents or high street chains? With a nod to my friend Jen Gilroy, I have to ask - does Wynbridge have a good shoe shop?

 

Wynbridge, like most market towns, has quite a mix of shops. As you may recall from Mince Pies and Mistletoe, there is a modern out of town retail-park but the little streets around the market square, where The Cherry Tree Café is located, has enjoyed something of a revival in recent years and has a number of small independent boutique style shops. What with the quiches and cakes on offer and the unique shops, the town centre is the perfect place to look for unusual gifts and pretty treats.

 

With regards to shoe shopping, I’m afraid, when it comes to footwear, the townsfolk are generally a practical bunch and the local stores sell far more wellington boots than kitten heels. However, I’m fairly certain there’s a budding design student at the college just waiting to spread their wings and establish their own brand of more stylish footwear!

 

Where do Wynbridge folk go for coffee and a natter? (I think we all know the answer to this one!)

 

For coffee and a catch-up it has to be The Cherry Tree Café of course. It doesn’t matter whether you turn up on your own or with a group of friends, a warm welcome is always on offer along with a variety of Jemma’s mouth-watering bakes.

 

What about eating out? Anywhere romantic? Good place for families? Decent pub food?

 

The Mermaid, run by Jim and Evelyn serves up great pub food and has its own restaurant area as well as a small garden which makes it popular with families. The menu is pretty much as you’d expect but Evelyn insists on using local, seasonal ingredients wherever possible and her cooking is top shelf. The pub also offers entertainment in the evenings and has even been known to host the occasional Christmas dinner!

 

If it’s a romantic evening out you’re planning then I would head to the little Italian in the arcade. It has been run by the same family since it opened its doors in the seventies and is hugely popular. It is always fully booked and families are as welcome as smooching couples.

 

Is Wynbridge a place the youngsters grow up wanting to get away from.... and if they do leave, is it somewhere they end up wanting to return to? Indeed, can they return? Do house prices permit it?

 

Lots of youngsters go off and spread their wings but there’s something special about the place that pulls many of them back. It’s something of a haven I guess, not too big to get lost in but not quite small enough to feel claustrophobic.

 

There’s a fine line between cosseting and gossiping and, as with anywhere where everyone knows everyone else, that line does become a little blurred sometimes, but by and large Wynbridge is a wonderful place to live… and love! Both Lizzie and Ruby headed home when times were hard and their hearts were soon mended.

 

In line with the rest of the country house prices are rising all the time but the council is very much in favour of providing affordable housing and the surrounding villages have even tougher regulations than the town when it comes to new build quotas. I would like to think that there was a home to suit everyone’s pocket in Wynbridge but in reality that may not be the case.

 

How old are the oldest houses? Is there new development? Was Wynbridge mentioned in the Domesday Book?!

 

Wynbridge did get a mention in the Domesday Book. In fact, it was already quite a large village by 1086 with both farmers and fishermen utilising what the area had to offer. I’m not sure how old the oldest houses are but there are some fine Georgian properties dotted throughout the town as well as some not quite so picturesque new developments. Meeting the needs of an ever increasing population has meant that building comes at a cost and Wynbridge has consequently lost some fine architecture down the years. Fortunately however planners are taking a more measured view of what can be bulldozed now and hopefully any future development will be more sympathetic.

 

Apologies for the following question, but I'm biased. Speaking as someone whose house is five minutes walk from the sea, I'd like to know where would a Wynbridge family go if they wanted to head to the seaside?

 

Now that would depend on the type of seaside you were looking for. If it’s a bucket and spade, ice cream and funfair extravaganza which takes your fancy then it would have to be Sunny Hunny. That’s Hunstanton to anyone not in the know. But if you were perhaps looking for something a little more sedate and dare I say it, genteel, then a little further east would perhaps be more to your liking – Blakeney or Wells-next-to-the-Sea. They’re all beautiful places in my opinion, but I do have a bit of a weakness where Wells is concerned.

 

And finally.... what is it about Wynbridge that has so captured the hearts of your readers?

 

Firstly, I am immensely flattered you think that Wynbridge has captured the hearts of my readers. I am totally in love with the place of course, but to think that the town I have created would be somewhere other people would want to live is wonderful.

With regards to its appeal, I think it is down to lots of things. There’s such an interesting array of town and country folk – old and young alike – and I also think the semi-rural location is a real selling point. Wynbridge is a place where town and country are truly intermingled, where dreams can become a reality and where people can fall in love.

 

That’s a pretty irresistible combination, isn’t it? I know I would move there in a heartbeat!

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About Heidi:

 

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 Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster.

 

Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café was published in July 2015 and Summer at Skylark Farm hit the shelves the following June. Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market was a hugely successful Christmas 2016 release and her fourth book, Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage will be published on July 13th this year. She is currently working on her October 2017 release, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at The Christmas Fair.

 

Heidi lives in Norfolk with her wonderful family and a mischievous cat called Storm.

 

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Heidi's Links:

 

Follow her on Twitter

 

Her blog

 

Her Facebook page

 

Heidi's author page on Amazon

 

 

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that since the end of January, Kirsten  has been writing a regular post at the end of each month, giving us a sneaky look at her writer's life. Here is her final post, with a look back, not just at June, but at the whole six months.

 

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And suddenly June is over and here is my last guest slot on this wonderful blog.

It’s been an unsettling few months hasn’t it? And I hate good byes. Really hate them.

 

So, instead, here is a round-up of all the really wonderful writing-related things that have happened to me over the past six months.

 

  • Firstly, I’m really honoured to have shared this space with Susanna during the launch of her debut novel. I’ve spent the last couple of evenings curled up with The Deserter’s Daughter and am LOVING it. Well done Sue, you clever old thing. A huge achievement. A huge success.



  • Not strictly writing-related, but you may remember that, in February, my WIP ground to a halt because my lovely son was having some issues. Lots of you have been kind enough to ask after him and I’m really delighted to report that he’s much, much better. He’s just finished his A levels, is currently working at the Henley Regatta and is about to go to China for a few weeks! What a difference a few months can make. One happy mum!



  • Which leads me on to my WIP! Edits finished, I have duly sent The Space Between The Words off to the RNS NWS for a critique. I’ve also sent the full to two of the agents who requested it several months ago. Yes, I know, I know – I should wait for the critique to come back. I guess curbing my impulsive edge is something I still I need to work on ….



  • Writing this blog has confirmed that I need to change my name to protect the innocent! I want to keep the Kirsten because that’s me, but I need a new surname. So far the contenders are Dougal (part of my maiden name), Jones and Peters. Thoughts?



  • Writers really are the most lovely, generous and supportive bunch around. I knew that anyway, but the #authorsforgrenfell initiative really has been extraordinary. I’m sure you’ve all read about the joint bid of over £20K to name a character in the next Philip Pullman novel after a young girl who tragically lost her life in the fire. How heart-warming was that? I’ve been wanting to make a donation for a while so I bid for a novel critique by Alison May. I was pipped to the post at the last minute, but Alison has very kindly offered to critique my novel too. And how lovely is that?

So loads and loads of positives.

 

Thank you for following my ramblings over the past six months and particularly to those who have taken the trouble to leave kind, thoughtful or downright hilarious responses on the blog.

 

And thank you, again, Sue. It’s been a blast.

 

Onwards and upwards.

 

Over and out.

X

 

A Special Blog For Publication Week

Posted on 24th June, 2017

The Deserter's Daughter's publication day on June 22nd was just wonderful - such a happy and exciting day. I have shared some photos on the Welcome page if you would like to have a quick look, but mainly I'd like to direct you to a blog elsewhere:

 

To mark the publication of The Deserter's Daughter, I was asked to write a blog post for the Allison & Busby website about setting my story in a real place - Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester.

 

The link is here:  Setting the story in Chorlton  

 

I hope you'll take a look. I have included in it a couple of early 20th century photographs of local landmarks that feature in the book.

 

Many thanks to Catherine, Moira and Jen, who have already visited the blog and left a comment.

 

 

 

That Cherry-On-The-Cake Moment

Posted on 17th June, 2017

Well, there's less than a week to go now until The Deserter's Daughter is published. This time last year I didn't yet have a literary agent. In fact, it was during this week last year that Laura Longrigg finished reading my full MS and sent me the email that every unpublished writer hopes to receive, saying that she had enjoyed my book hugely and would it be possible to meet up..?

 

There have been so many high points since then:

 

...the book deal with Allison & Busby

 

...seeing my book in proof-form

 

...the beautiful, atmospheric cover illustration

 

...Isis Soundings doing the audiobook

 

...opening my box of author copies and actually holding The Real Thing in my hands...

 

Just when I thought that all the wonderful pre-publication moments had happened, along came another.

 

The first draft of The Deserter's Daughter was written some years ago and was submitted to the RNA's New Writers Scheme. If you're unfamiliar with that, it is a process through which unpublished writers can submit a novel for a critique by a published writer. The critiques are written anonymously, so generally speaking you never get to know who your reader was.

 

The reader of The Deserter's Daughter sent me a glowing and generous report. I was able to send her (I assumed it was a her) a thank you card via the organiser, but of course I've always wondered who she was.

 

Well, today I found out. And she told me (yes, it was a she) that The Deserter's Daughter was the best NWS submission she had ever read. Wow! Is that wonderful? And happening this week of all weeks, it feels like The Deserter's Daughter has come full circle.

 

 

My Proud Moment At The Library Catalogue

Posted on 10th June, 2017

Libraries are on my mind this week, ever since my sister-in-law posted on Facebook a photo The Deserter's Daughter that she had requested from her public library and which she had just been to collect. This was a couple of weeks before publication day, so it came as something of a surprise to me, as you can imagine!

 

Coming from a family of lifelong library-users, and speaking as a former librarian, I am delighted and proud to know that my book - my book! - is going to available on public library shelves; and I am enormously grateful to all those dear folks on Facebook who have told me they have put in library requests, not just in the UK but in other parts of the English-speaking world.

 

Oh, and that wonderful moment when I was in Llyfrgell Llandudno Library and I found The Deserter's Daughter in the catalogue! Bliss!

 

Was it big-headed to take a screenshot? I don't care: I'm so proud. And I know that my late mum and dad, who both joined the library as children and borrowed books all their lives, would have been chuffed to bits.

 

 

This week I am delighted to welcome back Kirsten, with her end-of-the-month round-up of her writing life for May.

 

 

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Were A levels this big a deal when we were young?

 

Regular readers of this column - doesn’t that sound grand?! - will know my lovely son has been having some issues so the fact he is even sitting his As is at once absolutely brilliant and fraught with challenges. But … all this study leave (did we even have study leave?!), driving them into school, knowing when to encourage, when to back off …

 

Roll on June 23rd!!

 

But this is a writing column and two writing-related things have been on my mind this month. The extent to which I compartmentalise my writing life and my attitude towards rejection.

 

This year I entered the Bath Novel Award for the first time. I knew there would be over a thousand entries and that I was very unlikely to be one of the thirty or so long-listed. Sure, a girl can dream, but I thought I had my hopes and expectations well under control …

 

The long-list was announced by email at noon a couple of Thursdays ago. That day I was meeting extended family for lunch at a restaurant 50 miles or so from home. I hadn’t seen some of them for a year or so. None of them knew I had entered the competition. I’d intended to arrive early and peruse the email at my leisure in the car park but, due to the vagaries of the M25, I was half an hour late and everyone was waiting to order. It wasn’t until a break between courses that I had a chance to escape to the corridor and check my emails. Heart pounding, I scanned the alphabetical list of long-listed titles (the competition is judged ‘blind’ so no names at this stage) and … mine wasn’t there. So I turned my phone off, went back to the table and continued the conversation I had been having with my lovely cousin. About A levels as it happens …

 

What’s the betting I’d have gone back to the restaurant squealing with excitement if I’d made the cut …?

 

For me, the disappointment kicked in on the journey home and I had twenty- four hours of being convinced everything I write is a complete pile of poo and that I am generally wasting my time. Moreover, how embarrassing. I thought I was a good enough writer to enter the competition in the first place, the judges must have been having a jolly good laugh at my expense and maybe I should delete everything I have ever written and take up crochet instead …

 

… Only I’d probably be crap at that too.

 

A day later, equilibrium restored, I was back to ‘how can I make my writing better?’ and ‘how long until I can enter the competition again?

 

Onwards and upwards!!

 

I hope you all have a brilliant June.

 

xx

 

PS Many congratulations to all who made the long-list – especially to the writer who made it twice! Very best of luck to you all xx

 

 

Sharing a Wonderful Moment With You...

Posted on 26th May, 2017

It's the last weekend of the month, which means you may be here expecting to read Kirsten's latest monthly round-up. I'm sorry to tell you she can't be here this week, but her absence does give me the chance to share something wonderful that happened today.

 

The postman brought an unexpected delivery....

... of my author copies of The Deserter's Daughter from Allison & Busby!

 

I knew I would receive a box of author copies, but I never expected them to arrive so far before publication day. In fact, when I saw the box, I assumed it was a computery thing my husband had ordered.

 

Woohoo! Holding my book - my book! - is just the best feeling.

 

One Month To Publication Day

Posted on 19th May, 2017

During the week of this blog falls May 22nd - and that means there's just one month to go until publication day! It hardly seems possible: this time last year I didn't even have an agent. In fact, I was still writing the fourth draft of the book, which was the draft that - finally - was good enough to be accepted.

 

Talking of writing, I am still hard at work on book 2. When I was a child, I had a recurring dream in which I was hurrying as fast as I could to get to a particular place; I can't recall what the place was, but I do remember that in the dream it was right ahead of me. But no matter how fast I went, I never got any closer. At the moment, I feel rather like that with book 2. No matter how much I write, the ending doesn't feel any nearer. Is it just me or do others out there ever feel like that about their writing? Is it having a deadline that's making me feel like this?

 

Other than that, what have I done in my Debut Novelist role this month? Well, I have appeared in my first blog interview. Usually in an interview, I'm the one asking the questions, but this time it was the other way round, with the questions being put by Tara Greaves for her Behind The Book blog. Many thanks to those of you who followed me over there and thanks also to those of Tara's regular readers who popped over here to take a look round my website. Judging by the comments on the interview, the main point of interest seemed to be the writing tips Tara asked me for and which was more important - rule 1 or rule 2? Don't know what I'm talking about? Pop over there and take a look!

 

I also had some wonderful news from my editor at Allison & Busby: The Deserter's Daughter is going to be published in audiobook form by Isis Soundings. I have been listening to audiobooks with great pleasure for years and Isis is one of the big names in the business and a name I am very familiar with, because of the many authors whose books I love whom they publish, such as Anna Jacobs, Ruth Hamilton, Lee Child and Lyn Andrews. For my book - my book! - to be an Isis Soundings audiobook is just wonderful.

 

And of course, this past month saw the cover reveal of The Deserter's Daughter.

 

I am hugely grateful to the talented Christina Griffiths at Allison & Busby for creating such a beautiful and atmospheric illustration that perfectly captures the spirit of the story.

 

Many thanks to all the lovely people on Twitter and Facebook who shared and retweeted so generously. Your kind comments had me glowing with pride - though really it should have been Christina gathering all the compliments.

 

There we are. That's the round-up of this past month as a debut novelist. A happier month altogether than last month. Next time I write one of these Debut Novelist blogs, it will be at the start of publication week itself. Wow! In the meantime, it's back to writing book 2...

 

 

I've interviewed many writers here on my blog, but today is special because this time I've done it the other way round. My first ever blog interview answering the questions instead of asking them! I'm feeling a bit nervous but very chuffed.

 

Many thanks to Tara Greaves for featuring me on her Behind The Book slot and thanks also to Catherine Boardman for introducing us.

 

Come and have a look. Here's the link. I'll see you there!

 

 

This week I am pleased to welcome Mandy James to my blog. Mandy is the author of numerous short stories as well as novels, including the Time Traveller books published by ChocLit; Summer in Tintagel; and her latest book, published a fortnight ago, Behind the Lie.

 

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Mandy, welcome to my blog. I simply have to start with where you live, because moving to Cornwall was a dream come true for you. That's especially interesting to me because coming to live in Llandudno was my own personal dream come true. Can you tell us the story of your move to Cornwall?

Thanks so much for inviting me, Sue. Yes, I first came to Cornwall on holiday when I was four. I came with my family , not on my own of course :)  The memory of that holiday stuck in my head for years afterwards and as an adult, I visited many times. We moved from Sheffield to Bristol where I taught for about twenty years, then four years ago we moved to Cornwall! It was a big step and it mean a considerable downsize, but I wouldn't live anywhere else now. The whole family moved too! We don't live in the same house , no that would be a nightmare...

 

 

Does Cornwall provide inspiration for your writing?

Yes. My last three novels are set here, and any future ones will be, I think. Walking by the ocean frees my mind and spirit and then the ideas just come.

 

You were a child writer, weren't you? What were your stories about? Was time travel an early interest?

I always wrote poems, songs and a few stories. I can't remember what they were now, but I think they had themes of  adventure and derring do. No, time-travel wasn't really on my radar until A Stitch in Time. I was thinking of a catchy title for my novel and came up with the old saying. Then the whole story just happened in my head. I wrote it in six weeks!

You have had time travel novels published and more recently suspense novels. In suspense, have you found your true writing niche?

 

That's difficult to say. The first book I ever wrote was Dancing in The Rain, which was published after the time travel ones. It was originally called Severe Weather Warning and is about special powers and saving the world. I loved that book as it was inspired by our many trips to Monument Valley in Utah/Arizona. I do like a story with lots of mystery and perhaps a twist or two, but find it difficult to be pigeon holed into one genre. Last year I wrote a totally quirky book called The Calico Cat. It's  about a woman who hates to conform and decides to just quit her job and walk around the South West Coast Path. She meets lots of interesting people on the way. It was a book that had to be written, but I'm not sure it is mainstream enough to be published. So  a very long answer to your question is - yes and no!

Your latest book, Behind the Lie, was published two weeks ago. Tell us a bit about it and about the character Holly.

 

Holly has had a difficult past but has at last turned her life around. She has a loving husband who's also wealthy and she shares her time between a beach house in Cornwall and an apartment in London. She's also carrying twins and though there are one or two regrets in her heart, she is happy and ready to be a mother. Then the worst happens. One of her babies dies shortly after being born and this plunges Holly into despair. But then she becomes convinced that her son didn't actually die. Nobody believes her of course, why would they? Her son died and everyone knows it. They think she's just imagining things because of her grief and past depression. Holly can't accept it though and then something happens which gives her proof that he is still alive...against all advice she decides that she won't stop until she finds him. 

When you started thinking about the book, was there a breakthrough moment when you knew you had a cracker of a plot?

Yes. I was walking on the beach, - the one that Holly's house overlooks - talking to my husband about the plot as I often do. He said yes, no, right, okay, as usual. He has learned not to say anything negative. When I told him the twisty bit he seemed to think it would work. So it was game on! Where the whole idea came from in the first place is unknown to me. Plots appear in my head and have to be written, or at least given a chance to explain themselves

 
What's next for your writing?

 

More twisty stories set in Cornwall I think. I have a few ideas and some bits of novels waiting for completion, so there's plenty to keep me going for a bit.

 

Thanks so much for having me as your guest, Sue. I have really enjoyed chatting!

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You can visit Mandy's Author Page on Amazon