"Lucas, you must return home."
Twenty two year old Lucas Bywood abandons his Grand Tour in response to those words from his father. Everything is not well at home and he finds himself in a bit of a fix. A little warning that his father had made tentative arrangements for his marriage would have been nice but Luke really wishes it had been anyone other than the young lady chosen. After all, Phoebe Ramsey had always been an annoyance and any time they had spent together had resulted in physical injuries for one of them.
Just when Luke thinks he's escaped that particular future, he finds himself courting a young woman he doesn’t want, a furious best friend who wants a duel to satisfy honor, and the responsibility of finding who and why someone had caused an accident for his mother.
This was not his idea of what the summer was going to be like.
I appreciate Swafford sitting down with me to talk about her newest release, as well as her other books and her interest in writing. Let's hear what she has to say.
1. How did you get interested in writing?
As a child, I had the bad habit of reading all the time, even when I was supposed to be doing schoolwork or chores around the house. My parents’ most effective punishment was to take my books away. The loophole I found around that was that anything I wrote didn’t get taken away. My sister, in turn, loved to read my little stories, so I started writing more for her.
2. What inspired you to come up with this story?
Not My Idea came about because of two things: a bad day and a song from one of my favorite childhood films. I was having one of those days where nothing was going right, so much so that when it was over, it was just hilarious to think of just how many things had gone wrong. I began to devise a plot wherein a character had a series of misunderstandings and problems come his way.
The song is This Is My Idea from The Swan Princess. The two main characters are children and they do not get along through most of the song even with their parents trying to get them together. Many stories have that kind of situation and end the same way it does in the song: they are adults and fall in love. I thought it would be fun if the exact opposite happened. Two people, enemies in childhood, and they still don’t get along as adults.
3. Tell me about the main character, Lucas Bywood, and what inspired you to create him.
Lucas is a young man who really wants to be independent. He has a family who has their own ideas about what he should do with himself.
4. What characters, other than Lucas, did you find enjoyable to write as you progressed with the book?
That would have to be Mr. Ward. He was a minor character in A Chaotic Courtship, so it was fun to bring him back, especially since he will be a key figure in the second book. He is the example of a good friend to Lucas, in comparison to another person who was not so loyal.
5. What are some of the themes you explored in writing the novel?
The most important theme I explored was loyalty to family versus independence. From all sides, Lucas has people trying to influence him or tell him how to behave, what to do with his future, etc. Does he stay true to his own sense of self or let his friends and families change him? I think this is something everyone has faced in their life.
6. What things did you learn along the way as you wrote and edited the book?
I learned I cannot force the words onto the page and that I have to take time for myself. Too often, I would start crying during edits because the pressure to make it the best it could be was too much. If the words weren’t coming, I learned to walk away, do something else for awhile, and then come back to it.
7. Your other books had female lead characters – how did writing a book with a male lead character compare to those two?
I found I had to look at things differently. In my other books, my female leads were definitely more emotional. With Lucas, I had to think in a more logical, straightforward way. I also chose to put less focus on what people were wearing, since how likely would it be that a young gentleman could name the exact style gown, the fabric, and adornments of each young lady?
8. What else differed in writing this book compared to your other two?
Well, it’s the first in a planned series, so there were some things that are left a little vague at the end. I wanted to have something to tie this to the books that are to follow. It was something that was a bit difficult to explain to each editor.
This is also a book with very little romance compared to my other books. In fact, Lucas does everything he can to avoid it! While he does admire a young woman, nothing is done about it because it is the wrong time.
9. Let’s talk about A Chaotic Courtship for a moment – what inspired you to come up with the main character, Diana Forester.
For A Chaotic Courtship, I wanted a portray a normal woman. Not a lady or wealthy heiress, since there were not that many in the Regency era. I wanted to write about a normal young woman with uncertainties, doubts, normal interactions with her family and friends. Diana is also the closest I think I will ever come to a self portrait.
10. And regarding Emily’s Choice, what inspired you to come up with the main character, Emily Lawrence?
When I began writing Emily’s tale, I had in mind a kind of retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It changed so much in writing, it is nothing like that fairytale. But Emily is still very much like the Belle of Disney’s 1991 animated film. She loves to read and she has little patience for those who don’t approve of books.
11. What do you find is the right environment for you to write?
I can write pretty much anywhere, but my favorite place is at my desk with my noise-cancelling headphones on. I can’t stand silence, so there is always something playing in the background, whether it’s music or just a youtube video.
12. Are there specific programs or tools you find useful to help you with the writing process?
I like using Google docs, since I am in a car a lot of the time. The Google Docs app on my tablet lets me have any of my projects with me wherever I am. Then, when I’m back home, it saves it to my cloud and I can pick up on my laptop.
13. What have you found to be useful methods for promoting your writing?
Promotion is the thing I hate the most, and I’m still learning how to do it now. I have the most fun with book blog tours, and I think they have drawn the most readers.
14. What are some of the famous books or authors you have enjoyed or inspired you?
Definitely Jane Austen. I love how her books focus on the lives of her characters, what they think and feel. Mr. Tilney from Northanger Abbey is my favorite hero, and I used him as inspiration for Lucas’ personality.
15. Any aspiring or independent authors whose books you’ve read that you liked and want to mention to others to check out?
Wendy May Andrews has some fantastic Regency stories. I think I have every book she’s written, be it in eBook format or a physical copy of her first book.
I’m also fond of fairytale retellings, and Jessica Kaye has the best Rapunzel retelling that I have ever read.
16. What advice would you give to those who want to write a novel before they actually get started?
Research so that you can defend any part of your book. You may not need every detail you learn for your story, but it sure comes in handy if anyone questions a decision you make in the narrative.
17. I see you’ve done a lot of book reviews at your website – what do you enjoy about doing book reviews?
I rely on reviews to let me know whether a new author I’ve found keeps their book clean or not. Too often, though, there were no reviews to tell me. I began leaving reviews so that other readers who care about whether a book is clean aren’t caught unawares like I have.
18. Other than romances, are there other genres you particularly enjoy reading?
One would have to be mystery. I was 7 yrs old when I read my first Nancy Drew mystery, and I fell in love with the skill of finding clues and putting them together to figure out ‘whodunit’. Then, I moved on to Sherlock Holmes and was blown away by that detective’s skills.
My other favorite genre is Historical Fiction. I like history and the lessons we can learn from what has happened before.
19. I can tell from your website you like Sherlock Holmes – what makes him so appealing?
I could talk about Sherlock Holmes for hours! If there is one thing I love in a character, it’s intelligence. In the original stories, Holmes was so acutely aware of society and how things work, that he could see the things that are out of place. He was ahead of his time, and the friendship between him and Dr. Watson is perfect.
20. Who would win a battle of superhero skills: Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman?
Since I know the most about Superman, I think I’d have to go with him. He’s from a different planet, has some incredible powers, and he wants to protect Earth from evil. Seems like a winner to me.