Okay…Bethanne here with our Guest Blogger for November 11th. I have to admit something. Today, I listened to “Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer.” Partly circumstantial, once I had the song going, I actually enjoyed myself. *gasp* So, it’s fitting that all those wonderful Christmas books are coming back out of the woodwork. And today, Karen Swan is here to answer a few of our pertinent questions and tell us about her Christmas book. So pull up a chair and your favorite cold weather beverage, and Enjoy!
A little something personal….
1. What were you doing the last time you really had a good laugh? Skiing. I say skiing. I mean belly boarding on a sheet of ice down a Swiss mountain, eating snow and laughing my head off. My children now think I’m a legend.
2. What is your favorite curse word? Bollocks. It’s got that very British Richard Curtis / Blackadder vibe to it and it’s a hugely satisfying word to enunciate, perfect for stubbed toe moments.
3. Do you still have your tonsils? I do. But not my wisdom teeth, my virginity or my sanity.
A little something professional…
4. What sparked the idea for this book? It was prompted by a feature I read in an Interiors magazine about a chic Textiles Designer in Venice. They photographed her on the balcony of her apartment which was all distressed plaster and chandeliers, a plate of figs before her and she was top-to-toe in Marni and Prada. I was intrigued: Her hair was dark and bobbed, mine is long and blonde; she looked enigmatic, I looked girl-next-door; she eats figs; I eat apples. She grew up with a canal outside her window, I grew up with an oak tree outside mine. I wondered how much each of us was products of our upbringings and environments. Would I have been more like her if I’d grown up in Venice? Would she have been more like me if she’d grown up in London? It made me start to think about whether you can ‘shift’ identity with place? If I was to put the same woman in three different cosmopolitan cities, like New York, Paris and London – would she remain the same in them all?
5. Did you experience times when the story didn’t go the way you planned? What did you do? In every one of the eight books I’ve written, there’s always been a surprising development that I didn’t forsee and the books never end up being exactly as I imagined at the beginning (although that’s generally a good thing.)
I always start writing with a good idea of the broad strokes of the story – who, what, where, why – and I usually pinpoint three or four major scenes that I have to work the story towards, but what I can never be exact about is how I’m going to get the story to and from those points.
I deliberately don’t try to plan it too much in advance. Getting to know your characters is like getting to know real people and it takes time. You can’t rush or force it, else it feels contrived and it’s those ‘bridging’ scenes that really develop flavour, colour and emotion – and that’s where the surprises tend to come in. It’s not unusual for me to write something that, even four seconds earlier I’d had no idea I was about to write. When it happens, I tend to take myself off for a cup of tea and ring my husband to get his opinion but invariably, I take the view that if something’s a surprise to me, it’ll be even more of a surprise to the reader.
6. When did you first consider yourself a writer? Only when I wrote my first scene and it actually looked and read as though it belonged in a real, proper book. It gave shape to the narratives and daydreams that filled my head and I realized I’d been telling stories all my life – I just hadn’t brought them out of my head. I couldn’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me before then. Of course I was a writer!
7. What inspired you to write your first book? I had worked as a journalist and written a couple of non-fiction books. It was my agent for those who kept urging me to give fiction a try. I kept resisting – I’d never done any courses and hadn’t particularly enjoyed creative writing at school, although I’m an obsessive reader. But then, one afternoon, I suddenly and unexpectedly had some free time. I was at a loss, unsure what to do with myself, so I took my laptop down to the library and stared at the screen. I had no great inspiration: no characters, no plot, no start point, no hook, no twist. No idea. But then, gradually, this image began to form in my mind of two women sitting in a garden in London, watching their toddlers play, talking about their marriages… I jotted down their conversation and realized, as I read it through, that it was really rather funny and sharp. I could hear their voices, their tone, so clearly; I inherently knew their background and pasts and in the space of an hour, they had become real to me. All I had to do then, was give them a story in which to inhabit, a framework in which to exist.
And just for fun!…
Leather or lace? Leather
Black or red? Red
Satin sheets or Egyptian cotton? Egyptian Cotton
Ocean or mountains? Mountains
City life or country life? City Life
Hunky heroes or average Joe? Hunky Heroes
Party life or quiet dinner for two? Party Life
Dogs or cats? Dogs
Author Bio: Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism before giving it all up to raise her three children and an ADHD puppy, and to pursue her ambition of becoming a writer. She lives in the forest in Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the Downs. Her first novel, Players, was published in 2010, followed by Prima Donna and Christmas at Tiffany’s in 2011.
In the wake of a heartbreaking betrayal, a young woman leaves the Scottish countryside to find her destiny in three of the most exciting cities in the world—New York, Paris, and London—in this funny and triumphant tale of fulfillment, friendship, and love.
Ten years ago, a young and naïve Cassie married her first serious boyfriend, believing he would be with her forever. Now, her marriage is in tatters and Cassie has no career or home of her own. Though she feels betrayed and confused, Cassie isn’t giving up. She’s going to take control of her life. But first she has to find out where she belongs . . . and who she wants to be.
Over the course of one year, Cassie leaves her sheltered life in rural Scotland to stay with her best friends living in the most glamorous cities in the world: New York, Paris, and London. Exchanging comfort food and mousy hair for a low-carb diet and a gorgeous new look, Cassie tries each city on for size as she searches for the life she’s meant to have . . . and the man she’s meant to love.