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Author Interview – E.M. Swift-Hook

6 min read

A series of author interviews where Claire Buss has a slice of cake with an indie author (republished from her blog, But I Don’t Like Salad).

This week I am delighted to be having a slice of cake with fellow indie author E.M. Swift-Hook.

In the words that Robert Heinlein put so evocatively into the mouth of Lazarus Long: ‘Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.’ Having tried a number of different careers, before settling in the North-East of England with family, three dogs, cats and a small flock of rescued chickens, I now spend a lot of time in private and have very clean hands. 

What kind of books do you write?

I write one series and co-author a second. The books I co-author with Jane Jago, the Dai and Julia Mysteries, are detective novels set in a modern-day Britain – but one where the Roman Empire still rules. These alternative history whodunits are great fun to write, especially as Jane is such an awesome co-author.

My solo series, Fortune’s Fools, is a triple trilogy spanning several decades in time and a galaxy in distance. It is a dark and gritty, set in a galaxy where humanity is divided between those who enjoy the fruits of high-tech living and security and those who must grapple against casual brutality. Although each trilogy is a complete story, the whole is a sweeping saga which follows the fortunes of a handful of characters caught up in and striving to overcome the manipulations of powermongers. Exploring different planets and cultures, from medieval-style primitive to ultra-high-tech, it deals with themes of friendship, trust, justice, betrayal and retribution against a dangerous backdrop of deception.

Can you describe your writing why?

That is a very tough question. In truth I have no idea what motivates me to write. It is something I have done since early childhood and I think is as much a part of me as breathing. At school I was always filling notebooks with stories and poems – so much so that I was given an extra exercise book just to write in. I am fundamentally a storyteller and writing is the medium I use to tell stories. That said, I do enjoy the sheer delight of weaving words simply to create impressions. But I think if I dig down far enough, my true motivation is rooted somewhere deep in my love of reading, the magic of the reading experience.

Share with us your favourite passage from the book you enjoyed writing the most.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing all my books and the one I most enjoy is always the one I am writing at the moment, so it would be rather difficult for me to do this. But this is a passage from my most recent book (at time of original interview posting – Sept 2018) Mistrust and Treason:

This, he guessed, was going to be where the locals lived, preferring the idea of these homes-in-boxes to living like troglodytes in the underground heart of their settlement.
He approached them openly and saw a child sitting on the steps of one cabin, who looked to be about eight or nine, the same age as his youngest niece.  She was holding some kind of doll, with half her attention on that while the other half was on some screen she was watching. Then she saw him and stopped with both, giving him her full attention.”You are very tall,” she observed.
He took the hint and crouched beside her.”I just kept growing,” he said. “Not much I could do to stop it where I lived, even if I’d wanted.”
“Did you want to?” She was scrutinising him with interest.”Some days, yes. I got a lot of teasing from the other kids about it, things like asking me what the weather was like up so high. But some days it was useful. Like when I could reach down the storage boxes from the high shelves in the kitchen and get at the things my aunt had just baked.”She seemed to think about that for a moment, then asked.”What’s ‘baked’ mean?”
“It’s when you hand-cook food making pies and cakes.”
“We don’t do hand-cooking,” she said, sounding almost proud.”I don’t either,” he admitted. “But my aunt did when I was your age and my twin still does.”That made her eyes go big.
“You have a twin? Like a clone? So there’s two of you?”He laughed.”It’s a bit like that. But we’re not clones as such, just it turned out that way when we were born.”
She seemed to view him with a new respect as if having a twin made him somehow more significant as a person.
“I’ve not even got a sib,” she confided. “It’s just me and Ma now.”
“You’ve got each other so that’s got to be good. Some people don’t have anyone.”She nodded, her eyes suddenly troubled as if she was thinking of something that upset her. He was wondering if he could find a way to ask her what he needed, when she asked:
“So what you doing here? You a tourist?”
“I was trying to find someone I was told might live here. I’ve got a message to deliver.”
The girl surveyed him critically, as if suddenly assessing him against a whole new set of criteria in her mind.
“I know everyone who lives here. I could tell you where to find them.”
It was a risk, but coming here in the first place had been a risk. He put up a remote screen and put Baldrik’s face on it, watching the child not the screen as he did so. Her eyes widened involuntarily then something shut down and she shook her head. They had taught her young.
“He’s not someone here,” she said. But the tone carried much more than just a simple denial. He was clearly someone of real importance in her world. Poor kid, with a role model like that she was set up for the very worst possible start in life.
“What’s your name?” Grim asked the question to try and break her mood a little, but it had the opposite effect. She stood up and turned away quickly, going back into the demountable and slamming its door.

Tell us about your latest project (at time of original interview posting – Sept 2018)

Of course, my latest project is my new book, the seventh Fortune’s Fools book, the first of the final trilogy – Iconoclast: Mistrust and Treason. It picks up the story a couple of years after the end of the previous trilogy Haruspex and introduces some new characters.

I have also recently engaged the amazing Ian Bristow to make new covers for my Fortune’s Fools series. He has re-covered the first two trilogies with wonderful photo manipulation art and the third trilogy has covers which are his stunning original artwork.  

What is your favourite cake?

I’m going to cheat here because more than cake what I really love is…… ginger biscuits! But if you pushed me against the wall and insisted, I’d have to go with lemon drizzle cake.

Keep up to date with EM’s Fortunes Fool series and her co-written Dai and Julia series on Facebook.  You can follow her on Twitter @emswifthook. Subscribe to her writing blog, co-written with Jane Jago, at Working Title Blogspot. All her books are available on Amazon.

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