Today it's my pleasure to welcome author Heidi Swain to talk about her debut novel The Cherry Tree Cafe which is published this Thursday.
A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes contemporary fiction and enjoys the company of a whole host of feisty female characters.
Heidi can be found at the keyboard at all hours of the day and night and quite often scribbling longhand in her car during her lunch break. She lives in stunning south Norfolk with her wonderful husband, son and daughter and a mischievous cat called Storm.
Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Cafe, will be published on July 16th, 2015.
Hello there Sharon. Can I begin by saying thank you so much for inviting me to feature on your fabulous blog and giving me the opportunity to share some thoughts about all things Cherry Tree.
Can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel The Cherry Tree Cafe?
Certainly. The novel centres around Lizzie Dixon and what happens to her after she has her heart broken by the man she had thought was the great love of her life. Initially reluctant to move home to Wynbridge, she soon becomes embroiled in her best friend Jemma’s plans to renovate The Cherry Tree Café and discovers that it is the perfect place to make her personal and professional dreams come true.
How did the title come about?
Do you know, I honestly can’t remember. It feels as if it has always existed. The courtyard and back garden belonging to the Café have cherry trees in them but which came first is a bit of a ‘chicken or the egg’ question now!
What made you want to combine a cafe with crafting?
I’m always happiest when I’m writing about things I love and my personal passions feature strongly in all my writing. I don’t profess to being a Master Baker of Crafting Queen but I do love both and the idea of combining eating cherry topped cupcakes while making strings of pretty bunting and drinking tea, simply made my heart sing.
Describe Lizzie in three words?
Flame-haired, feisty, fun
Your publishing deal came about after submitting your novel to Simon & Schuster during their #oneday submission day, can you remember what you were doing when you heard the news that they'd like to publish your novel?
Wow, what a day that was! I had already met Clare Hey and Sara-Jade Virtue at S and S Towers to chat about all things Cherry Tree and then, by pure chance, I won a ticket via Novelicious to the Creative Writing Masterclass the Books and The City team were holding a few weeks later.
I was only able to attend in the afternoon and it was then that Clare (my thoroughly fabulous editor), took me to one side and said the fateful words ‘we’d like to offer you a two book deal.’ Needless to say I was on cloud 9 and hard pushed to keep the news to myself!
Were there parts of the writing/editing/publishing process that took you by surprise?
No, I don’t think so however, I am incredibly aware of just how lucky I am to have been clasped to The Books and The City bosom. The entire team are always on hand to answer queries and questions and it is a real honour to be working with such a wonderful group of publishing professionals.
What can we expect from you next?
I’m currently working on my next novel and have a head full of ideas for at least three more set around Wynbridge. Someone has already asked about the possibility of a Cherry Tree Christmas so I think I can safely say we haven’t seen the last of Lizzie and Jemma just yet.
What essentials do you need to have to hand when you're sitting down to write?
If I’m writing longhand, which I tend to do quite a lot now, all I need is my trusty biro and A4 lined notepad however, if I’m in my Writing Spot I always make sure I have a bottle of water and a cup of tea to hand so I don’t have to move far when the words (hopefully), start to flow. I also have my notebook, pen and a pencil close by. I like to keep it simple and avoid all potential distractions. Kindle and phone are simply not allowed when I sit at the keyboard.
Do you set yourself a daily/weekly writing target?
My targets are more concerned with making the most of the time I have available as opposed to hitting a certain number of words. If I’m working on a first draft I’ll write longhand before work, during my lunch hour and then type up what I have managed in the evenings. I’m lucky enough to have two days a week to focus solely on writing and have become increasingly fierce about protecting that time.
What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
The best advice I have ever received came from Mandy Baggot. I have ‘known’ Mandy for a few years now, courtesy of social media, and she has always been so supportive and encouraging. She told me (months, possibly years, before I was offered a deal), to remember that the journey was my own and that if I wanted to get my work out there then I should do it by any means necessary. As soon as I began to relax and became more flexible about my expectations things began to happen. Her words were a timely reminder that there is always a way to achieve what you want and I think that can be applied to pretty much everything in life.
Are you going to treat yourself to something nice for publishing your debut novel?
Well, I’m absolutely in love with the Cherry Tree cover art so I’m thinking about having a copy mounted and framed and hung somewhere very prominent in the house. I’ll send you a photo when it’s up!
Have you anything exciting planned for publication day?
Believe it or not publication day, July 16th, is the very first day of my summer holidays so the timing quite literally couldn’t be better. I haven’t planned anything beyond a celebratory bottle of fizz for the actual day as I have a feeling I’m going to be spending most of the daylight hours on social media. However, I am having a little launch party on the 18th at a crafting Café in Norwich for family and local friends including the RNA Norfolk Chapter ladies. Needless to say, bunting will be in abundance!
Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Cafe...
Lizzie Dixon's life feels as though it's fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there's only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.
Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home. She has just bought a little cafe and needs help in getting it ready for the grand opening. And Lizzie's sewing skills are just what she needs.
With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago...?