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An Exclusive Interview with Bestselling Author Karen Swan

What would the holidays be without another Karen Swan romance thriller to whisk us into a feeling that anything can happen, and love is in the air.  

Mystery, intrigues and a whirlwind romance are key ingredients in Karen's novels, and her new book The Christmas Secret is full of unexpected twists and turns, and of course a whole load of chemistry. 

So before you dive into this book by the Globe and Mail bestselling author during the holidays, here's something else you can sink your teeth into: an exclusive interview with Karen Swan herself. 

Does Karen Swan have a muse? What's her writing style like? Where's her favourite place to write? What are her Christmas traditions? (SPOILER ALERT: Christmas Eve = Gifting a Book) 

So many questions...and we have the answers. Just keep on reading this blog, to find out what makes Karen Swan tick. 

But just before we get to that, you just may want to make a note of this in your calendar. Did you know that Karen Swan will be in town next week (i.e. week of November 13, 2017) for an series of exclusive events just for her Canadian fans? 

Interested in meeting Karen Swan? 

What are you guys doing the Week of November 13th? 

Clear your schedules! Canadian Karen Swan fans are in for a treat, because the celebrated author will be here for a series of events. So block off your week and sign up early. Registration is required...just click on the links for full details.

An Evening with Karen Swan
Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.
Oakville Public Library, Central Branch
Tickets on sale now

An Evening with Karen Swan
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m.
Kitchener Public Library, 85 Queen Branch
Registration required

An Evening with Karen Swan
Thursday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.
Whitby Public Library Central Branch
Registration required

What drew you to Scotland and the island of Islay for this particular setting? How much time do you spend researching your locations?
Location is a really important consideration for all my stories and I had been wanting to set a book in Scotland for a while. My father is Scottish and I was married in the Highlands, so I wanted to tell a story that would allow me to tap into that dramatic landscape and rich heritage. The book’s heroine is an executive coach which meant the action would be set in a business environment and obviously malt whisky is a key player in the Scottish economy. There are several principal distilling areas throughout Scotland- Campbelltown, Speyside etc – but when I came upon Islay, I knew I had found my setting. A tiny snowy isle, cut off from the mainland, a close-knit agricultural community, crofts and kilts...The story almost wrote itself!

Where is your favourite place to write?
I write like I sleep – anywhere; I have written in my parents’ kitchen, at the cafĂ© beside my daughter’s ballet school, in the car during swimming lessons…I don’t think it helps to become too narrow-minded in terms of where you ‘can’ write; sometimes you’ve just go to get those words down, wherever you are. But I do prefer to work in my study because it’s a dedicated space that’s very calming and peaceful – psychologically, going in there I know I’m there to work and I have a small ritual of lighting my favourite scented candle (Sno by Scanda Navisk) whilst I’m writing to make the process seem more of a treat and less of an ordeal! And in the summer, I do edits in my treehouse at the bottom of the garden. It is surrounded by a white wisteria and set in two silver birch trees and being down there, with the light coming through the trees, really doesn’t feel like work at all.

What is your writing process like?
Pretty intense. It isn’t for everyone. I write two books a year so I don’t have the luxury of time to prevaricate or even really get writers’ block. I allow ~ 3-4 months to research a book (and recover from the previous one)  and ~ 2-3 months to write it. It’s a very demanding schedule that means I have to hit a specific word count every day in order to make my deadlines and occasionally, that pressure can feel paralyzing. But strangely, it does work for me. I’ve worked out over the years that I can’t really write well when my actual life is bigger than my fictional life and I have to literally and emotionally withdraw when I’m on deadline, to allow the characters and their world to become more vivid and real than my own.

Do you have a muse? Are any of your characters been inspired by people in your life?
No muse, sadly, but my husband is my go-to person if ever I have a plot knot or a writing block. A glass of wine and chat with him about it usually unblocks the problem; sometimes I notice how odd it is that we should dedicate an entire evening to discussing people and problems that don’t even exist!
In terms of people inspiring characters, I definitely don’t use friends or family. The requirements of the plot invariably call for situations that I wouldn’t want to envisage with people I know! But I do find I’ll recall someone I met briefly – maybe even years earlier – and who’s somehow left an impression on me, be it a name or a physical mannerism or a saying. But an impression is all I want from them – after a certain point in the writing process, if I’m doing my job correctly, then the character becomes their own person anyway.

What are some of your favourite holiday traditions and/or what is your favourite way to spend Christmas?

I’ve got a few traditions that I just won’t break: gingerbread houses baked from scratch that my three children then decorate on Christmas Eve as I stuff the turkey; some 1950s Hollywood Christmas songs playing on loop – for example Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney by Ella Fitzgerald and Snow by Bing Crosby and Peggy Lee. We also follow the Icelandic tradition of each family member giving another a book the night before Christmas. And lastly, but most importantly, my children wriggling into their stockings which I made them all for their first Christmases and which used to be like sleeping bags on them and are now, quite literally, more like socks! It’s the last thing they do before going to bed and we always take a photo with the dogs battling to get in on the action too – as much as anything, it’s a marker for how much they’ve grown that year.

Author Bio

Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism before giving it all up to raise her three children and a puppy, and to pursue the ambition of becoming a writer. She lives in forest in Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the Downs. Her books include Christmas at Tiffany's, Summer at Tiffany'sThe Perfect PresentChristmas in the Snow, Christmas on Primrose Hill and The Paris Secret. Sukasareads has reviewed two of Karen's books: The Paris Secret and The Rome Affair