Teaching assistant turned bestselling author brings out festive novel
PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 December 2018
Copyright: Archant 2018
Sunday Times bestselling author Heidi Swain tells reporter Sophie Smith about her transformation from teaching assistant to author, and her latest festive offering.
In 2014 Heidi Swain had been a teaching assistant in Long Stratton for a decade, and would sneak off to her car at lunchtime to practice writing.
This Christmas the Sunday Times bestselling author is celebrating the release of her seventh novel, Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland, and close to finishing her eighth.
Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls tells the story of Hayley, housekeeper of Wynthorpe Hall, who moves to her workplace following a disastrous engagement party, and meets a handsome stranger.
Described by Heat magazine as “more Christmassy than a week in Lapland”, this is Mrs Swain’s second festive novel.
Mrs Swain, 46, said: “The story is their journey, and how Hayley gets over her heartbreak and learns to trust again. Obviously it’s got a happy ending, which you would expect with a commercial women’s fiction book.
“I’m very mindful of the seasons when I write, if I’m writing a Christmas book I’ve got Christmas in the room big time.
“For a Christmas book, you’re writing in the summer so you’ve probably got a fan going around your legs because it’s so hot. But you’ve got various things to keep the spirit going, I always joke about keeping a jar of mincemeat in the fridge so you have a seasonal sniff.
“I also have scented candles and a bit of Christmas music sometimes. I think if you’ve done your planning and you’ve really thought about that book during the festive period it’s not too difficult to conjure it up in the heat of August.”
Mrs Swain is contracted by publishers Simon and Schuster to write two books per year.
The mum-of-two said: “We found lots of people take on big titles. In terms of branding we always want to be ahead of the game so we’re changing. Next is Poppy’s Recipe For Life and that’s coming out May time. The final edit came back in November and then I move on to the next one - it’s relentless!
“It’s fine as long as you know what you’re writing, as long as you’ve always got at least two books in your head there’s no need to panic.
“When I first joined Simon and Schuster, they had a one day call in 2014 for unsolicited manuscripts, and I submitted The Cherry Tree Cafe. Out of about 10,000 it was one of the three that got picked.
“I got a two book deal with them and it was going to be e-book only to start with and then they both sold so well they asked me for another contract and brought the first two out in paperback. I haven’t looked back since really. It’s very exciting, you get that email sitting there in your inbox.
“When I was working in the school I used to get up about 5am and write long-hand for an hour before I went to work, and then come rain or shine I would sit in the car and write for another hour at lunchtime just to keep the flow going really, and then in the evening I would type up what I’d written.
“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a writer, ever since I was really tiny. But sometimes it takes you a long time to work your way up to these things and pluck up the courage to do it.
“A lot of people say, ‘do you regret not writing seriously earlier, when you where younger’ and I don’t really because if I had done that I wouldn’t have had this wealth of inspiration to draw on.
“Things happen when they are meant to happen, and there’s no way I could have produced two books per year when my children were small, it just wouldn’t have been a possibility.”
Most of Mrs Swain’s books are based around the fictional town of Wynbridge, but her next offering, Poppy’s Recipe For Life, will be set in the also fictional Nightingale Square in Norwich, the second novel to be set there.
She said: “We moved to Norwich, and that was quite a leap of faith because everybody was very invested in Wynbridge, but people have loved it.
“Wynbridge is a fictitious Fenland market town, similar to the towns I grew up with. My family farmed in Guyhirn area for generations in Cambridgeshire. “Even though I moved away to university I think childhood influences and places become a part of you, more than any other time in your life. When I was looking for where to set the books I headed straight back to the Fens.”
Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls in the Winter Wonderland is available for £7.99.