Cupcakes for Two at The Cherry Tree Cafe

Posted on 11th September, 2014

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know how much I've loved reading The Cherry Tree Cafe by Heidi-Jo Swain on Wattpad. Today I'm delighted to welcome Heidi-Jo to my blog to talk to us about her book, the Wattpad experience and her writing in general.


Heidi-Jo, welcome! This is my first blog interview so I'm quite excited about it.

Hello there! Thank you for inviting me. I’m delighted that you have chosen to interview me and even more thrilled that you have enjoyed what you have read of The Cherry Tree Café on Wattpad so far.


Before we get to The Cherry Tree Cafe, let's talk about your writing. What got you started? Were you a child writer?

I can’t pinpoint exactly what kicked off my writing career but yes, I was definitely a child writer. I can distinctly remember reading bits of stories I’d written to school friends as a teenager and furtively scribbling away when I should have been memorising the periodic table and the life cycle of a frog.


Did you dabble in other genres before finding your niche?

Not with my novel writing but my short stories and flash fiction are much darker and quite often have a sinister, unexpected or thought provoking twist. I like to think that the light and shade from both balances nicely and helps fulfil all of my writing ambition and urges.


Plotter or pantster?

Bit of both to be honest. When embarking on a new novel I spend a fair bit of time composting. I always know where the story is going to begin and end and I do find it comforting to have at least the first third planned out in reasonable detail. Beyond that I’m fairly free and easy and willing to let the characters dictate.

At various points I’ll regroup, have a chat with the main players and immerse in more paper planning before returning to the keyboard.

I don’t like the idea of assuming I’ve got the whole thing sewn up before I start. I need to be flexible and let the story take on a life of its own. After all, I’m just the conduit really.


You're a member of the RNA New Writers Scheme. Has that been a help to you?

Yes, a huge help. When I submitted my application at the beginning of the year I’d pretty much finished writing The Cherry Tree Café. My alpha readers loved it, I loved it but I needed a professional opinion. I knew the manuscript wasn’t ready for public consumption and the critique I received confirmed that.

There were some parts that needed work and others that needed ripping out completely. I worked methodically through the suggestions and the novel is a far better read for it.

My one regret about my membership is that I haven’t made it to any of the parties or the conference. 2014 has been quite a year in the Swain household what with moving house and one thing and another. However, I am meeting up with the Norfolk Chapter group soon and I’ve run a summer long Path to Publication feature on my blog which has put me in touch with lots of other NWS members, so I’ve made the best of it!


Over the summer holiday from school, you clocked up a phenomenal word count. How did you organise yourself?

The summer holidays were manic. As well as running the blog feature I also had a spot on the Novelicious blog and The Write Romantics. All these things take time so I had to be super organised.

I’m a compulsive list maker so that certainly helped as did the fact that my kids are both well into their teens and can quite happily sleep until lunch time. I made sure I was up at six every day and I just got on with it. I was determined to write as much of the first draft of my next novel, The Skylark Serenade, as possible and I managed to get down around 65,000 words. The planning was all done, I knew my characters inside out and I had six weeks to make the most of. I wouldn’t have been able to cope with the guilt if I wasted that precious block of time. Looking back it was well worth the effort of a few early mornings!


For anyone who hasn't read The Cherry Tree Cafe on Wattpad, could you tell us a little about it?

The Cherry Tree Café follows the story of Lizzie Dixon who finds herself suddenly single on her birthday and is left to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and start again.

Needless to say there are plenty of twists and turns along the way as she helps her best friends Jemma and Tom renovate the Café and launch a new business of her own.

Finding love is a central theme of course but as you would expect Lizzie doesn’t have it easy!


As a needleworker, I loved the sewing element in the plot. Are you a crafty lady? (meaning needlework, of course!)

I’m not as ‘crafty’ as I’d like to be. My wonderful mum and sister-in-law Laura are the real sewers in the family. Their skills are far and away beyond mine although I can knock up a decent lavender bag and the odd patchwork cushion if push comes to shove.


I have to ask you about Ben's beard. Do you like beards?

Yes, *blushes* I do have a fondness for beards. My husband is a bearded gent and I freely admit I’m partial to a man with a bit of dirt under his fingernails but perhaps that is a little too much information…


Friendship is an important theme in the story. Did that evolve or was it a choice you made?

When I was planning the novel I knew the two main characters were going to be best friends from as far back as childhood so it was a key theme right from the start. As the story unfolds Lizzie and Jemma don’t always see eye to eye but that is true of any friendship isn’t it?


My favourite scene in the 10-chapter partial on Wattpad is where Lizzie presents an astonished Giles with all the make-up and beauty equipment she used when she was trying to please him. Do you have a favourite scene (not necessarily from the Wattpad chapters)?

My favourite scene features in the penultimate chapter. Obviously I can’t reveal what it is but I’ve yet to read it and not shed a tear.


I recognised Lizzie's mum, because my own mother presented me with luggage with my name printed on it, using the surname of a man I subsequently didn't marry. Tell us about Lizzie's relationship with her mother.

Lizzie’s relationship with her mother has been tense and filled with frustration for years and it is more than obvious as to why in the first few chapters. Lizzie finds her behaviour exasperating to say the least but is that how the relationship continues? You’ll have to wait for publication to find out!


Your storytelling flows along. How easy do you find it to write?

Wow, thank you. That is a huge compliment. So far I think I’ve been lucky with my novel writing. I would say that more often than not the story tells itself. I picture the scenes in my mind and listen to what the characters are saying to one another then record what I see, hear and feel.

I always write about people I would love to know who are living and working in places I would love to visit and I think that is what brings it all to life in my head. I could walk around the Café and Lizzie’s little flat with my eyes closed now and I hope that anyone who reads the book will be able to do the same.


Why Wattpad? Why just 10 chapters?

My decision to publish the manuscript on Wattpad came about as a result of joining in with a discussion via the fabulous online Romance Festival in June. Uploading to the site has given me the opportunity to share The Cherry Tree Café with the rest of the world whilst deciding exactly what I was going to do with it.

By the time I reached Chapter 10 I’d made up my mind and it felt like a logical cut off point. It was never my intention to upload the entire novel.


What's next for The Cherry Tree Cafe?

The Cherry Tree Café will definitely be my first published novel. I love it too much to leave it languishing on a memory stick; however I can’t reveal any more details at the moment.


What else have you got in the pipeline?

I’m hoping to have finished the first draft of The Skylark Serenade by autumn half term and editing will begin over winter. A couple of The Cherry Tree characters have made their way on to the pages and I have a feeling the next novel could well feature an amalgamation of both the Café and Cowgate Farm which is the setting for the Skylark.

I also have an idea for a Christmas Novella rolling around in my head and gradually making its way into my notebook so that will no doubt be written at some point.


Finally, I've taken the precaution of locking all the doors and you won't be allowed out until you've given us an update on your new kitten.

Storm, our little bundle of black rescue kitten, is an absolute menace! She can go from comatose to the top of the stairs in less time than it takes me to blink and this afternoon has found a way to jump on the kitchen worktops. She is the Queen of ambush, a shredder of laces, a plucker of sofas and we absolutely love her!


Heidi-Jo Swain, thank you so much for allowing me to bombard you with questions. I wish you every good fortune with The Cherry Tree Cafe. (Yes, all right, I'll unlock the doors if you insist....)


Thank you for having me!










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Comments (3)

Congratulations on your 1st interview Susanna! It was really interesting with great questions and now I'm going to have to go and check out Wattpad ... if I can find 5 minutes! Jessica xx
Interesting interview. I especially liked the mix of the writing with the personal - kittens, beards! Wishing you every success with your writing projects, Heidi-Jo - and to you too, Susannah. xx