Today, I’ve interview Deborah Swift, author of A Divided Inheritance! We’ve set off on a a walk and a talk, which you can read below. If you missed my review of A Divided Inheritance, you can read it HERE. This book was fabulous and if you’re a history lover, you’ll agree.
Hello, Deborah, and Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I hear it’s getting quite dark and dank in the English countryside, which isn’t much unlike Ohio for me right now. What are your plans for the long winter days?
Deborah: I suppose my ideal spot would be in front of our log burning stove, curled up with a good book – but it probably won’t be quite like that! I have quite a busy life and lots of hobbies so I tend to be rushing from one place to another and hours of uninterrupted reading would be a bit of a luxury!
Erin: A lovely thought, though! If it isn’t TOO cold yet, I’d say we put on our wellies and take a bit of a stroll among all those historical buildings you live near. Where should we go first? Choose and tell me a bit about it.
Deborah: OK, we’ll go just a bit up the road and take a look at Leighton Hall, which is where I held my book launch for A Divided Inheritance. If you don’t mind, I’ll bring Diver (a little terrier – one of Elspet’s dogs in A Divided Inheritance).There has been a building on that site since the 12th century, but it was rebuilt in the 18th century and now there is what looks like a Gothic castle. All the crenellated top is a façade as there is really a Georgian building underneath. Even the bit that looks like a chapel isn’t actually a chapel, it’s just made to look that way. One of the owners found the Georgian style too plain and decided to remodel it. Diver! Come back! Sorry, he’s after that rabbit, I’ll just run after him.
Erin: So cool your book launch was there, what an ideal spot! Hi, Diver….(scratches behind his ears). As we have a look see, I’ll start with some questions also! If you see something interesting, be sure to stop me and point it out!
Q: How did you come up with your idea to write A Divided Inheritance? Is it based on real life historical people?
A: (Clipping Diver back on his lead) There are quite a few real-life people in the novel – men who studied at the fencing school in Seville, and the King of Spain, Felipe III. But these are not the main characters in the novel, my main characters are fictional. Having some real historical people in the novel helps to ground it in reality. My two main characters came from the premise that both Elspet and Zachary have in some way lost their inheritance, and in the end, despite their differences, it is their common experience of hardship that brings them together. The birth of a novel is a complex process and it was inspired by my love of crafts – like lace—making and the forging of a sword blade, along with the history of the Morisco expulsion in Seville that provided the initial starting point for the story.
Q: Did you place the setting of your novel in one of the historical places surrounding your home?
A: No, although I did use Levens Hall which is nearby as the setting for one of the homes in one of my other books, The Lady’s Slipper.
Q: Who was your favorite character to give a voice to in your novel? And why?
A: I enjoyed writing Zachary because he is a rogue, but there is a good heart underneath. His bad behaviour comes from the fact he has never known any other life than the example of his criminal elder brothers. And yes, Diver, I did enjoy writing about you too, but you’re hardly the main character. (Diver looks crestfallen) Go on then, you can have your stomach rubbed. (Diver rolls over)
Q: What do you feel is the “hook” to your book that will pull readers in? Is your book more for entertainment or to tell a historical story that might be used for education?
A: I think the hook is that a woman whose main ambition is to take over a lace-making business finds she is actually capable of much more – that she can expand her horizons not only to learn the skill of swordsmanship along with the men, but also to leave behind her narrow world-view.
I write primarily to entertain, but like to use little-known events that might open people’s eyes to unfamiliar aspects of the past.
Q: I know you used to be a costume or set designer for TV and film? And you’ve probably done a lot of research on the clothing of the time period. Can you explain some of it for us? Paint us a picture of what our wardrobe might have looked like?
A: Not very suitable for walking in this countryside, I’m afraid. Lots of trailing skirts to get in all this mud. We would probably have chopines (stilt-like additions to our shoes) instead of wellies, to keep ourselves above the filth. And with no synthetic fabrics we would be wearing very heavy and bulky wool cloaks with fur linings of rabbit to keep us warm. We would have to be careful our hats did not blow away by tying them down with a muslin scarf. But then we would have servants to walk the dog and assist us. (Oh dear, I shouldn’t have said that word ‘rabbit’, now Diver’s all excited again!)
Erin comments: I don’t even know how they kept their hems clean!
Q: I read that you always dreamed of becoming a writer. When did you first fulfill your dream and what tips do you have for aspiring authors in terms of getting through the arduous process of completion?
A: My first novel was published in 2010, and I suppose my main tip is that you have to love what you’re writing, and live the story. At the end of the day you should feel like you’ve been there. Then it doesn’t feel like work, but like a pleasure.
Q: How long does it take you to write your novels? Do you use an outline or do you free write?
A: About eighteen months, including the research. They are all quite long complex books. I use a rough outline, but it is not very detailed – a few pages of A4 paper. Then I free-write within those parameters. After the first draft I do a time-line to check that all the fiction and historical facts are meshing together before I do my subsequent drafts.
Q: What other novels have you written and what are they about?
A: The Lady’s Slipper and The Gilded Lily. The Lady’s Slipper is a tale of one woman’s obsession with a rare orchid – an obsession that plunges her into a web of intrigue and danger. The Gilded Lily is about two sisters on the run in the glitter and glamour of Restoration London, and is about beauty, desire and ambition.
Q: What are some of the lessons you try to teach through the writing of your novels?
A: I try to tell a good story, and let the reader decide what the lessons are for themselves.
Q: What do you plan on writing next? Any in the works?
A: I have just finished a novel for teenagers set in the seventeenth century, based around a real character, and I am working on a novel based round Pepys’s Diary. (No, Diver, you can’t be in those books as well.)
Erin comments: I know a few here that might like to read your teen novel!
Q: Do you have women from history that have made an impression on you?
A: I can’t fail to be impressed with Elizabeth I. She kept supreme control over the country and her court and gave us the great flowering of culture and literature such as Shakespeare.
Erin comments: Such an amazing amount of history from her time….and all that intrigue.
Q: Where can readers and writers connect with you?
A: Via twitter @swiftstory or through my website and blogs at http://www.deborahswift.com
Q: Where can your books be purchased?
A: Bookshops if you are in the UK, and the usual online retailers if you are in the US.
Erin: Thank you so much Deborah for your time today, best of luck to you with all your writing! I certainly enjoyed the tour and the conversation! Let’s head inside and put on a pot of tea.
Deborah: Thanks Erin, I’ve really enjoyed our walk, and I hope you don’t mind imaginary muddy paws in your house. And the good news is – I’ve brought cake! – But sorry, that’s imaginary too : ( !
Erin: No such thing as imaginary when it comes to cake! 😉
A DIVIDED INHERITANCE, Synopsis~
A family divided by fortune. A country divided by faith.
Elspet Leviston’s greatest ambition is to continue the success of her father Nathaniel’s lace business. But her dreams are thrown into turmoil with the arrival of her mysterious cousin Zachary Deane – who has his own designs on Leviston’s Lace.
Zachary is a dedicated swordsman with a secret past that seems to invite trouble. So Nathaniel sends him on a Grand Tour, away from the distractions of Jacobean London. Elspet believes herself to be free of her hot-headed relative but when Nathaniel dies her fortunes change dramatically. She is forced to leave her beloved home and go in search of Zachary – determined to claim back from him the inheritance that is rightfully hers.
Under the searing Spanish sun, Elspet and Zachary become locked in a battle of wills. But these are dangerous times and they are soon embroiled in the roar and sweep of something far more threatening, sending them both on an unexpected journey of discovery which finally unlocks the true meaning of family . . .
A Divided Inheritance is a breathtaking adventure set in London just after the Gunpowder Plot and in the bustling courtyards of Golden Age Seville.
Author Deborah Swift, Biography~
She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park.
She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.
Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/adividedinheritancetour
Twitter Hashtag: #DividedInheritanceTour