Thursday, 17 May 2012

Author Spotlight: Linda Swift

A warm Scottish welcome to American author, Linda Swift, who is a prolific writer in different genres and for different publishers. Linda is well travelled in Britain and her latest novel, Maid of the Midlands, reflects her interest in the UK, where she lived for a while, and her love of history.


When Mary, Queen of Scots, is sent to Hafton Castle, Matilda becomes her waiting-lady. The comely maid loves Jondalar, a stalwart castle guard who returns her affection but places his greed to succeed above all else. After Matilda nurses the queen through a fever, she rewards the maid with a valuable ruby. Jondalar plots with the young lord of the castle to rid the Crown of the captive queen in return for a promotion in the guard.

When Matilda discovers the plan, she risks her life to warn the queen. As Mary journeys toward her next destination, Matilda and Jondalar separately travel the English countryside in pursuit of her. Jondalar had a change of heart and also seeks to warn the queen but Matilda is unaware of this as they dodge each other enroute. When Jondalar almost loses the maid he loves, will he realize what really matters?

[Note: Although this book is set in England, I have "borrowed" the name of Hafton Castle in Scotland. My husband and I spent a memorable week in this castle near Dunoon a few years ago and the name seemed perfect for my story. When we had earlier toured the real location of the book, I visualized a young servant in the courtyard sitting on a bench that encircled a large old tree. This maid in my mind was the illegitimate child of the castle lord and that is how the story began. But even though the descendants now lived elsewhere I wasn't sure they would take too kindly to an American author creating an imaginary skeleton in their ancestor's closet. So I changed the names of the family, the castle, and the village to protect the innocent from my imagination!]
Maid of the Midlands:
Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery
Available from Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK):

Thank you for answering the following questions, Linda.

I’m pleased to see you also write in a variety of genres, Linda. Do you have a favourite type of writing?

I do write in several genres and the particular genre that I write at any given time seems to reflect stages of my life. I wrote a group of short stories and one short novel of suspense when I was grieving the early death of my father. I didn't realize that I was writing out my grief until a close author friend pointed out to me that each story came to a place where it could go either way and it always took the negative conclusion. This was a reflection of the way my father's death occurred so it made sense. And at this moment, my favourite type of writing is historical, any period, and I foresee many more books in this genre in the future.

How do you decide whether to write a contemporary or historical novel?

My choice of contemporary or historical novels depends on the phase of my life at the moment. In other words, I let my emotions determine what I write. Not very professional, I suppose, but it works for me. I don't write from an objective "Now I will write a story about this or that because it is popular right now" decision. I write what I am interested in, what has touched my heart, what I feel passionate about.

What is your favourite period in history?

As an American living most of my life in the South, the Civil War has always fascinated me. And I finally wrote my own family saga about it. This Time Forever was released last year just in time for the first year of commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

While living in England, my husband and I visited many castles and it seemed the presence of Mary Queen of Scots hovered over many of them. Then on one trip to Scotland, we were again reminded of her presence there. So her story haunted me until I wrote Maid of the Midlands, my version of a small segment of her captive years. I am not an historian and although I did research the subject, I know I only skimmed the surface of the actual historical facts. I did try to remain historically accurate with the events mentioned and only took poetic license in allowing Queen Mary to speak in this book. The story is really about a lady-in-waiting and a castle guard but the queen plays an important role.

Oh, I've strayed from the question, haven't I? I suppose I'd have to say I like most periods of history and can't really pinpoint a single time. I hope to write a Regency someday. I plan to write at least one story about each of the World Wars the US was involved in. I have another post-Civil War sequel in mind and also I have almost completed a sequel to Maid of the Midlands, set in the next generation in England.

Has the ebook revolution made a difference to your writing career, and do you prefer it to print?

I wrote three books for a NY publisher and then the market shrank and I was left an orphan for a few years. It was only after I turned to digital publishers that I found my niche. Digital publishing has given me the satisfying career I have now and I'm very grateful but I was burned badly when I made my first foray into this business. I submitted to a small ebook publisher recommended by an author friend and she took two of my books and was preparing to take a third when one day I went to the site and it said "Sorry. Closed." And that is the last I've heard from that. It took me two years to give it another try.

This time I studied the market, submitted to several publishers simultaneously, and got two contracts in less than a month. I now have contracts with seven digital publishers due to this "shotgun" approach. This may not be a bad thing as I've always been told not to put all the eggs in one basket. All of my available e-books except one are in print as well. I will never abandon print books entirely. I don't enjoy holding my Kindle nearly as much as a print book but I do love the convenience of taking with me when I travel a lot of books within this one small e-reader. I also like the price of buying e-books versus prints.

How do you market your books?

I do as many book signings as possible and for this I do have print books. I do not maintain a blog because I simply don't have the time but I often do guest blogs and interviews. I try to promote on a number of loops. I participate in contests and give away copies of my books. I took one ad with RT Magazine in March but I can't see a big difference in sales as a result so I probably won't do that with another book. I think it mostly boils down to acquiring a readership one satisfied reader at a time (I like that idea!).

Do you have time for hobbies?

I really don't have time for hobbies but I make time. I have a husband who helps me with all things technical and so I take the time to do some fun things with him. We do ballroom dancing, walk a couple of miles a day, and when at our home in Florida during the winter months, spend an hour a day in the pool in nice weather. And most days are nice and warm in Florida's winters (lucky you).

Any advice you could pass on to newer writers?

First and foremost, I would advise newer writers to NEVER give up. If you love to write, then write. Submit. Accept rejections and learn from them. And submit again. And again. If you have any talent (and you surely do or you wouldn't have a desire to write), and if you keep on doing this long enough, you WILL get published. So never lose sight of your goal. I have heard it said that the three things needed to succeed as a writer are talent, persistence, and luck. And you only need two of these to be successful. But how many of us can count on luck? We can develop our talent and we can keep on hitting our heads against those brick walls until we find an opening. So I opt for honing your skills and keeping on working toward your goal. Then if luck happens, it is a bonus. If not, you won't fail.

Excellent answers and tips, Linda - thank you.

Linda Swift divides her time between her native state of Kentucky and Florida. She is an award winning author of published fiction, poetry, articles, short stories, and a TV play. Linda holds an Education Specialist Degree from Murray State University with post-graduate work from U. of Alabama and was a teacher, counselor, and psychometrist in public schools in three states. She credits her husband and adult children for providing encouragement and technical support necessary for survival in the cyberspace world.

Linda's first two books were published by Kensington. She currently has ten e-books (nine also in print) available from the publishers and numerous distributors. Two books of fiction, a haiku collection, and four short stories are scheduled for 2012.

You can find out more about Linda on her website.


Joanna said...

This is such a positive, helpful and fascinating post. The book interests me, especially as I have an unfinished novel about Lady Jane Grey languishing in a file and this has inspired me to look at it again and maybe continue writing it when my current one is finished.

Thank you, Linda and Rosemary.

Paula Martin said...

Great interview, Rosemary and Linda. As you know, Linda, I really enjoyed Maid of the Midlands (and This Time Forever too). I really admire your ability to write in so mnany different genres, and in different time periods too.
Great advice to new writers, also I agree about not putting all the eggs in one basket, especially in the current economic climate.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Many thanks for your encouraging comment, Joanna! LJG sounds a good subject.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Paula - you must have have popped in while I was updating Linda's post with her note on the blurb (which I nearly forgot!). Thanks for commenting.

Linda Swift said...

Good morning, Rosemary. Please forgive me for being late. It is just past eight here in my world. Yes, I overslept due to rading a fascinating book on my Kindle till past the witching hour last night. I'm gratified to see that we have had visitors already and I will answer each and every one today. But first, I must prepare breakfast for my husband and self. You know we Americans put great store in our breakfasts, not just toast and tea. I'll be back to speak with Joanna and Paula shortly.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hello Linda - of course you're not late. I know what it's like having this time difference. I'm a breakfast person too and can't function until I have mine, with the first cup of hot tea of the day!

Linda Swift said...

I'm back, fortified with a bowl of oatmeal (porridge?) and home baked bread (yes, my husband bakes wonderful sourdough bread as well as being my in-house tech--he's a keeper)and coffee. And incidentally, I was READING a book in the wee hours, not rading. This is the price I pay for my first post before coffee. I was also remiss in not thanking you for having me as your guest today. I have visited your country three times and have such happy memories of it, especially the mountains we traveled.

Linda Swift said...

Hi Joanna, it is so nice to meet you. Thank you for your kind comments. And I would encourage you to dig out that LJG story and finish it. I'm currently making last minute edits on the sequel to Maid of the Midlands. Mistress of Huntliegh Hall continues the story with the daughter of Matilda. Guy Fawkes has a speaking part in this one. I can't seem to prevent myself from allowing these real historical people to have their say.

Linda Swift said...

Good morning, Paula, or afternoon to you. Thank you for visiting. And it is true that we are wise to cover our bets, or whatever that expression is, in today's uncertain world. As for writing in many genres, I don't recommend it unless your muse demands it. It is more difficult to build a readership because readers seem to expect "more of the same" when they look for your next book. I can't give them that, but they can depend on character-driven plots with honest emotion in all my books. That is all I can promise.

Lynn said...

Really enjoyed this interview. Linda, I collect castles, both pictures and replicas of real ones and the sand and fantasy sort, so especially enjoyed your remarks about castles. My English, Irish and Scottish roots may be showing - I also started with my cup of tea this morning. I felt very much "at home" as I read your interview and comments. Thanks for sharing.

Erin O'Quinn said...

Dear Linda,

I love the fact that you are erudite, yet warm and engaging. I'm sure your prose sits well in the ear and on the tongue as well.

I really like your comment that, after all, success depends on pleasing one reader at a time.

All the best to you, Erin O'Quinn

Linda Swift said...

Hello, Lynn, and thank you for your warm and witty comments. Your face and name are familiar to me so I think our paths have crossed in cyberspace before. Speaking of "at home" I definitely felt that way in both England and Scotland. Perhaps it was because my roots are there, or perhaps in another life??? I've tried to give the correct accent to my English characters but it is probably like an English author speaking American "Southern" and yes, we do speak differently in the South. I'm glad you visited today.

Linda Swift said...

What lovely compliments, Erin. I thank you. I don't think we have met before and this is one reason it is such a pleasure to visit a blog in another country and meet new authors. As for one reader at a time, I just hope they soon add up to enough to make a showing in book sales. Unfortunately, we do measure our "real" success in terms of numbers, don't we?

Celia Yeary said...

Well, I knew every bit of this, my dear friend. But I read every word anyway. You have that ability that keeps a reader admirable trait. I liked this story very much, even though it was way out of my element, or usual preferences. But a good story is a good story.
Well done, Linda. And I still love that cover.

Linda Swift said...

Yes, Celia, I think we have read every word of each other's "history" before, but the mark of a true friend is reading it again. So I do thank you. And I agree that Delle Jacobs did a wonder job on this cover. She has also done the cover for the sequel and it is equally beautiful. It is on my website home page already in case you want to take a peek.

Patsy said...

I think that writing what you're interested in and what suits you at the time actually is quite professional. If the writer isn't interested in and enjoying the story, my guess is the reader won't either.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Lovely to see such great support for Linda - thank you everyone!

Hello Lynn - many thanks for visiting and commenting. And for following!

Hi Erin - thanks again for your support here!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hello Celia - thanks for coming over, and for following!

Hi Patsy - very wise words!

Linda Swift said...

Hello Patsy. I like your comments. So often when I read about these authors who plan and plot so well, I feel very inadequate just "winging it." But my writing has always been a pleasure for me, actually a sort of agony and ecstasy I suppose. And I'll keep on doing it this way as it is the only way that works for me.

Linda Swift said...

For those of you living in England, Scotland, or European countries, my publisher of Maid of the Midlands just announced today that distributors on those countries will now be able to sell this and other Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery books without the high shipping costs when bought in the US. This is very good newe!

Joan Fleming said...

Such and interesting post, Rosemary and Linda. I really like your emphasis on tenacity, Linda. It can be dispiriting when rejections pile up, but advice like yours encourages us to carry on.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Best advice to never give up is priceless. An overnight success is someone who made it after 20 pounds of rejections and 25 years of trying.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hello Joan - thanks for dropping in. Don't we just need all the encouragement we can get!

Hi Julie - lovely to see you here. And how true about that elusive success!

Linda Swift said...

Hi Joan, thank you for visiting and for your nice comments. I'm happy to meet you. I have long been known to suffer from "dog with a bone syndrome." A very dear friend told me long ago that the NY publishers might as well take my books because I wasn't going to leave them alone until they did. She was right. I didn't and they did!

myra duffy said...

How interesting to have another perspective on writing with a message we can all understand-never give up!

Linda Swift said...

Julia, how true your observation! I don't really believe in overnight successes. I have known a few authors who "lucked into" a first acceptance. But thosse people never have the incentive to follow through and usually become the "one book wonders." And the more difficult it is to succeed, the more we appreciate it when it happens. Thanks for visiting today.

Linda Swift said...

Hello Myra, thank you for stopping by and commenting. I have already "expounded" on my never give up theory above so anything else I would add here would be superflous. But I assure you, I don't just say the words, I live them. I find you have to continue to exert "gentle pressure" on publishers once you are contracted regarding release dates, cover artists, and many other things. I have learned to do this as I go along. Act like a professional and you will be treated that way.

Linda Swift said...

Hi Rosemary, I apologize for not checking in as often as I would like today. I am involved in prepaarations for a neighborhood garage sale, which I believe the English refer to as a jumble sale or even a boot sale. Here the entire neighborhood has a sale the same day and we have our "stuff" we are selling in our open garages. It's a grand way to get rid of accumulated things you no longer use and get a few dollars for your effort. So I'm off to do more pricing but I'll be back later. My, you have a nice following on your blog and I'm enjoying meeting new people.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Myra - thanks for dropping in! I think we all understand that 'not giving up' advice!

Hello Linda - you're very good at coming over to reply, so just drop in when you can. Yes, I have a lovely group of people following this blog and I appreciate each one.

My day has been exciting as I just became a grandmother for the first time. No doubt I'll blog about it in a few days, after I've seen my new granddaughter!

Linda Swift said...

Rosemay, that is such wonderful news. Congratulations. You are truly blessed. I would love to have at least one grandchild but I have had only darling grand-dogs.
What is the new grandbaby named? I am always interested in names.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thank you, Linda! Her name is Iona May - I'll probably blog about it all on Monday!

Linda Swift said...

Good morning, Rosemary, at least in Kentucky it is only6:35am. Our server, Comcast, was offline all day Saturday and I haven't been able to check in since Friday night. This made me realize how "Connected" I am with my computer and how much free time I have when I'm not in my cyberworld. I hope we have a few more weekend visitors before I say goodbye and return to the US. But it not, I've already had a wonderful time chatting with our visitors. Lovely name your your new granddaughter. I'm not sure how to pronounce Iona. Is it like Ina, what a silent "O" or "I-Oh"na?

Linda Swift said...

Oh, dear. Just proofed my message AFTE sending. Many typos. That's the the price I pay for posting before coffee and sending first, proofing after. A bad habit I have. Sorry.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Linda - many thanks for being such a lovely guest and for interacting with people so much.

I'm about to write a post now about little Iona ('I-oh-na').