Four months on from 'The Cherry Tree Cafe' with Heidi Swain

Happy Monday, beautiful book folk!
Today on Becca's Books, I'm absolutely delighted to be welcoming the fabulous Heidi Swain, author of The Cherry Tree Cafe, to Becca's Books. We're going to be chatting about life four months on after the publication of Heidi's debut novel which has been, by all accounts, a complete success!

Welcome, Heidi! I'm thrilled to have you here today!
Hello lovely. Thank you so much for inviting me. It is always a pleasure to chat with you, but especially about all things bookish!

So Heidi, four months on from the publication of 'The Cherry Tree Cafe'. How are you feeling?
Exhausted, elated and amazed pretty much sums up the emotional range I think. 

You've recently stormed the charts with your fabulous debut novel, reaching #1 in numerous categories, and securing a spot in the top 5 of the Kindle store! Did you ever imagine that would happen?
Absolutely not! Featuring in the Amazon Autumn sale has had a huge impact on sales and visibility and for that I am incredibly grateful. I had always dreamt of seeing The Cherry Tree Cafe riding high in the charts but nothing prepared me for how I would feel when it bagged #2 in the Kindle store. As a debut author it is always a concern that readers will pass you by but so far so good! I've been very lucky.

Since publication, you have your first ever launch party! Tell us a little about  that. What was it like, who came by, was there cake and fizz?
The launch party, a couple of days after publication day, was an absolute dream. Held in Arts Desire, a lovely little crafting cafe in Norwich, there was cake, fizz and bunting in abundance, a photographer from the press, and a whole host of old friends, local authors and family. It was a lovely opportunity to thank everyone for their support and encouragement.

I have also recently held my first solo author event at the Virgin Lounge in Norwich. This was a little more formal and included a reading and Q and A session however, we did of course round the morning off with tea and cake! Different to the launch party but also great fun and with standing room only I think everyone enjoyed themselves. 

I've seen exciting tweets about progress being made on your second novel. Are you able to tell us a tiny bit about it? Who can we expect to meet? Or is it top secret for now?
I'm delighted to now be able to tell you a little about my second novel which I am absolutely in love with! Summer at Skylark Farm will be published next June, is now available to pre-order and follows the story of Amber.
Here's the blurb...

Amber is a city girl at heart so when her boyfriend Jake Somerville suggests they move to the countryside to help out at his family farm, she doesn't quite know how to react. But work has been hectic and she needs a break so she decides to grasp the opportunity and make the best of it.

Dreaming of organic orchards, paddling in streams and frolicking in fields, Amber packs up her things and moves to Skylark Farm. But life is not quite how she imagined - it's cold and dirty and the farm buildings are dilapidated and crumbling.

But Amber is determined to make the best of it and throws herself into farm life. But can she really fit in here? And can she and Jake stay together when they are so different? 

The novel was great fun to write and just like The Cherry Tree Cafe includes some of my favourite things and yes, Jemma and Lizzie do feature but I can't say more than that!

Finding a publisher who adores your stories so much is a dream come true. Tell us about the people you work with. How have they impacted your journey?
I am so lucky to be working with The Books and The City team at Simon and Schuster and I love them all to bits! Their enthusiasm, professionalism and support is second to none and I know, from conversations with other authors, that this is not always the case. They are always on hand to answer my questions, no matter how silly and knowing I have an approachable team to turn to has had a huge impact on my confidence and I am sure, The Cherry Tree Cafe's success. Without their encouragement I wouldn't have had the guts to talk on BBC local radio (twice) or set up the Author Event. They are all truly wonderful and I am incredibly lucky to have them in my corner!

Have you come across any difficulties since the publication of 'The Cherry Tree Cafe'?
Not really. Writing Summer at Skylark Farm was a little daunting because I wasn't so sure I could do it all again but I'm already working on Novel Number 3 so I must be getting the hang of it!

Reviews are a huge thing for authors. How do you cope with the bad ones, and how do you celebrate the good. Do you have any tips perhaps for people just starting out?
This is a perfectly timed question as this week I received my first 1 star scathing review. Needless to say it did hurt but as my husband said ‘you will never write something that pleases everyone’, and lovely Clare Hey reminded me that I needed to focus on the 70+ 5 star reviews and not let that one take the edge off the majority. Having that support network in place made a huge difference so I would suggest, if you are just starting out,  that you surround yourself with positive people and take all reviews on board but don’t let the bad ones eat you up otherwise you’ll never write another word! If you really want to share your words with the world you have to be prepared for punishment as well as praise!

Is becoming published everything that you imagined it would be? Is it harder than you realised?
To be honest it’s even better than I imagined and yes, in some way it is harder but totally worth it. Juggling the family, the day job, social media, writing blog posts and of course not forgetting actually writing the novel makes for a very heady cocktail. Certainly not for the faint hearted but I love it!

Do you set yourself a daily word goal? How much time are you able to spend writing?
No, I don’t set a word count and how much time I spend depends on where I am in the writing process. If I’m writing a first draft I will fit in around half an hour before work, then forty five minutes at lunchtime and then type up what I’ve written in longhand in the evenings. If it’s a designated writing day (currently Thursday and Friday) I write on the screen all day.

At the moment, having just finished editing Summer at Skylark Farm, I’m taking a few days off before diving back into Novel Number 3. Well, when I say days off I mean catching up with blog posts etc. There’s no such thing as time off when you live the writing life, is there?

Tell us a little about your planning process. Are you a note-maker? Or do you like to see where your characters will take you?
As a committed list-maker I do like to have a plan because I find it helps make the whole 100,000 word count seem a little less daunting, especially in the beginning. However, when the characters decide to take charge I always breathe a sigh of relief because for me that’s the moment the story had developed its own heartbeat.

How does it feel to be working on your second novel? Do you feel more confident this time round, taking into consideration what you may have learnt during the editing process of your debut?
To be honest I found writing my second novel daunting to begin with. When I wrote The Cherry Tree Café I was writing it with no publisher, no pressure and no time constraints but second time around I was worried I might not be able to do it all again. However, when the enthusiastic email from my editor arrived after she had read the first few chapters I knew everything was going to be fine and raced ahead.

Who are you main supporters? How have they helped you through your journey?
My husband Paul has always been my main supporter and continues to be so. He works long hours and is often away from home but this means I can work part-time and have dedicated writing days. This set-up was in place long before I was published and I am hugely grateful for that. He has always believed in me and I love him to bits.

My school chum Claire Leckie is also hugely supportive, she was one of the first people to read The Cherry Tree Cafe and now of course you lovely bloggers and readers are walking the path with me! I still get that tingle whenever someone tells me how much they love my writing!

Would you be able to pick a favourite part of creating your stories? Would it be your characters? The settings?
Settings definitely come first for me but populating them is also great fun. I always write about places I would love to live or work in and I could quite easily walk around The Cherry Tree Café and Skylark Farm with my eyes closed. My settings become real to me very quickly and then it is just a case of having another look round to discover who is living there and what their story is! 

We all have those days when our faith in ourselves drops a little. How do you manage to reignite it?
I never give those feelings opportunity to take hold. There simply isn’t enough time! if I’m feeling a little crushed I will do something completely different – dream up a new blog feature, take some nice photos for Instagram, anything that will pull me out of the fug and plonk me back on track.

Could you tell us where most of your inspiration comes from?
I love pretty things and pretty places. I can’t help it. You only have to look at my Pinterest boards and Instagram account to see the kind of world I live in and so I guess that is where my inspiration comes from. I write about places I would love to live in and about people I would love to be or know. My rose sprigged Cath Kidston / Country Living / Vintage world isn’t for everyone, but that’s fine. It works for me and I will continue to wrap myself and my readers in it! 

If you had to sum your debut (and soon-to-arrive second novel) in three words, which three words would you pick?
Cosy, comforting, romantic!

Crafting and cupcakes play a major role in ‘The Cherry Tree Café’. Are these hobbies and passions of yours in real life? Why did you choose to incorporate them into your novel?
Yes, they are. I love to ‘bake and make’ and although I’m not particularly proficient at either I’m very much a champion of the ‘just have a go’ mind set.

Addicted to the Bake-Off and Sewing Bee I simply couldn’t resist incorporating them with the Café and I also hoped that people reading might be encouraged to ‘have a go’ themselves. This was also a theme in the Blog Tour with some lovely baking and crafting posts to get folk in the mood. 

Can you describe to us how it felt for you on publication day? Was it a bit surreal?
It was totally surreal. I was home alone all day (my poor man didn’t even make it back that night), and I spent the entire day on social media thanking everyone for their shares, likes and support. It was exhausting but amazing!

When publication day for your second novel comes around, how will you celebrate?
Predictably fizz and cake are the only two items on the list so far but I’m sure by next June I will have conjured up something a little more exciting. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Are we to expect plenty more stories from you, Heidi?
Yes, you can certainly expect lots more stories from me. Wynbridge is absolutely brimming with interesting characters who all have exciting tales to tell and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she finally plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

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 family and a mischievous cat called Storm.

You can find Heidi Swain on Facebook | Twitter |
You can pre-order Summer at Skylark Farm here.
You can find The Cherry Tree Cafe on -

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