New and Debut: Izzy van Swelm00:00
My guest today is Izzy Van Swelm, author of mm romance series. Her first book, Soulmate for Sin (Amazon), was published by Wilde City Press in 2015 and she has also released a Christmas novella, All I Want for Christmas.
1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?
First of all, can I thank you for the chance to be on Ellie Reads. There aren’t many opportunities for new writers to promote themselves these days, as everything seems to depend on how much ‘traffic’ an author can bring to a review site…
To answer your question, I am English and have a gorgeous family who I love very much. I spent a decade at University studying English Literature and English Studies ending up with three degrees, including two post-grad. I love the written word in all its forms, and I hope I shared a little of that love with the students I tutored in English Lit. for several years.
I have always written little things (apart from essays!) and my first poem The Owl was published in a school anthology when I was nine – nothing has quite matched the thrill of that's probably why I still remember the title!
I started reviewing books about five years ago, and it motivated me to try it for myself I suppose. I did face-to-face pitching to editors at UK Meet 2014, which was terrifying, although everyone was very nice. Each time I finished a pitch I would be on my laptop to message Alexis Hall asking him what he thought it meant and which one should I take etc. I really had no experience and too much excitement, so Alexis grounded me a bit!
I was very lucky to be offered contracts from two different publishers for my first book Soul Mate for SIN and it was published in January 2015 by Wilde City Press. They have also published books by TJ Klune, Eric Arvin and Heidi Cullinan so I felt like a real author then
2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?
This is a really hard question, as my favourite books change all the time. Currently, in queer romance I would have to say Alexis Hall and Harper Fox are my favourite authors overall, and JL Merrow, such a good author for thoughtful, observational novels with brilliant British humour. There are some really good new authors coming along too.
Favourite books – well I recently read and loved Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean, what a marvelous debut novel. I don’t usually go for novellas, but two of my all time favourite works John & Jackie by TJ Klune and Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall are of course novellas and a short novel by JL Merrow, Muscling Through is another favourite of mine.
I also love the dramatic intensity of the Brontes, the social commentary in Jane Austen, the pomposity and thought provoking nature of Herman Hesse and the wonder of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I really enjoyed Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie and – oops sorry, I tend to ramble when talking books.
3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?
Most important to me is music and nighttime. I always make a playlist for my writing whether it ends up in finished form or stays in my WIP folder. I have very eclectic taste in music, so my inspiration can be Chopin, Medieval Babes, John Grant, Joy Division, Muse, Lady Gaga, Vast or Ryuichi Sakamoto etc.
Nightime because when the world is more or less asleep and it’s dark, everything seems possible. I’m a bit weird - I like looking out at the night sky and just watching tree branches sway in front of the moon, stuff like that *blushes*
I don’t think I could point to a literary inspiration, as I think we absorb something from everything we read, and there would be no point in trying to write like someone else. Certain authors inspire me to strive to be better, but I’m not sure that is the same thing.
4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)?
Mainly contemporary romance, but I like to add paranormal twists to my stories. Humans have such capacity for beautiful flights of fancy and imagination. It is quite easy in the depth of a silent night to believe an owl is in fact the soul of a warrior, a coincidence is destiny and an unconscious state can project us through time. I would like to write a romantic paranormal novel, maybe the next one ;)
5. Please, introduce your upcoming release.
At time of writing my new Xmas release is ‘too WIP’ to be seen by anyone but me, and even I’m not sure lol. However, I am tweaking and re-releasing my Xmas novella from last year All I Want for Christmas, so I hope to have two out.
All I Want for Christmas
The location, the play, and the sound of the children singing carols bring back memories and so much more…
So, Stuart is in church to watch the Nativity Play which includes his Grand-daughter, Olivia as a bunny rabbit, and is directed by his daughter Lottie. As he waits for the play to begin he is drawn back into the past when he watched the then four-year-old Lottie act in the Nativity, in the same church...
‘I wish that windbag would be quiet and let the singing and the play begin.’
‘Oliver, this is his biggest gig of the year. If you’re in his church, you have to expect the vicar to big his part up, he’s got a captive audience.’
‘Big his part up?’ Oliver almost snorted. ‘Well, I just wish he wasn’t quite so religious.’
Stuart looked at Oliver in amused astonishment.
‘What? I know it’s a church, but he must know we’re only here for the kids and the play.’
Stuart sighed. He wasn’t religious either, but he did feel in a church you had to…pretend?
Maybe Oliver’s honesty was better. This church was special though - when same sex marriage became legal, Oliver and Stuart had approached this very vicar, now expounding about the meaning behind the Christmas story, and been met with nothing but kindness and congratulations.
It was important to Stuart that they get married in St Lawrence. It was all tied up with acceptance and belonging for him, and he wasn’t an atheist, just angry at a church who mainly felt his love for Oliver was sinful. Oliver wanted it because Stuart did—he had no time for churches or religion.
Oliver had emerged from childhood a committed, happy atheist, or at most agnostic. No Christmas services and Nativities for him. A good Christmas was lots of television, friends, games, alcohol and overly full stomachs. The church hadn’t played any part in his life when he, and his siblings were young—so he continued this tradition by ignoring God and the institution altogether.
Yet here they were again, in church—for the second time. This evening, a Christmas Nativity service, but the first had been their wedding.
Initially, Oliver had been furious when Stuart proposed marriage—not the response he had hoped for of course.
‘Why?’ Oliver had yelled, as he paced around the room.
‘Why?’ Stuart’s knees were starting to complain, and he felt rather self-conscious kneeling in the middle of his lounge, arm outstretched, his hand holding a small jewellery box.
Oliver stopped his pacing and started to fiddle with the romantic display on the coffee table.‘Strawberries in chocolate?’
‘Lindt 70% dark, I dipped them myself…’
Pulling the unopened bottle of champagne from the ice bucket, Oliver read the label, ‘Bolly?’
‘Of course,’ answered Stuart trying to keep the strain out of his voice. He felt that if he so much as breathed too heavily, he would lose this argument.
He suspected that to Oliver this came under his oft-used phrase - ‘conforming to heteronormative values’. This was a society that had rejected him, and them many times. Stuart could see his point, but was it wrong if it made them happy? Surely, the fact that they were two men living together with their baby daughter was a two-finger salute to those values, and that society.
‘You did all this for me?’
Stuart had nodded.
‘Why, do you want to get married Stuart?’ Oliver’s gaze didn’t waver as he asked. So, Stuart cleared his throat quietly,
‘It isn’t why do I want to get married. The question should be why do I want to marry you? And that’s the easiest question ever—because I love you, because you are the last thought I have when I go to sleep, and the first when I wake up.’
Oliver’s screwed up ‘annoyed face’ had relaxed as his anger dissipated, so a heartened Stuart carried on…
‘I know, to you, it looks as though we are conforming, but it’s important to me that I tell the world how I feel about you and our family. I don’t want this to be a political act of defiance, or one of conforming under pressure. I want this to be a celebration of ‘us’ with our family and friends. Just once I want to stand holding hands with you merely as an expression of intimacy and love, and have everyone around us share that.’
Oliver took hold of Stuart’s hand, and pulled him to standing. Just as well as Stuart felt, he could no longer stand without assistance. With Stuart in front of him, and still holding Stuart’s hand, he said
Stuart started to grin—a smile wasn’t joyful enough. He picked Oliver up and swung him around laughing.
‘Just so you know I don’t want poncey pastel flowers, or pale grey suits and no hymns or religious crap…’ Oliver laughed too, as Stuart finally put him down.
‘Ok, no poncey flowers, check – no grey suits, check.’ Stuart bent and picked up a strawberry.
‘Oh, no God, no check?!’ Oliver cut in, as he went to bite the offered chocolate dipped strawberry.
‘It might be a tiny bit ‘religious’, if the wedding is in the village church,’ Stuart rapidly proffered another bite of strawberry… ‘Please.’
While Stuart opened the Bollinger with a flourish, Oliver nibbled on the soft fruity flesh and groaned, as he tasted the decadent combination of the strawberry and chocolate. Taking his glass of champagne,
Oliver lifted it in salute, ‘You wicked man. How can I refuse you?’
That night had been theirs. The strawberries, chocolate and champagne were no sweeter than the kisses and lovemaking that followed.
Lottie must have known the night was special, as their daughter didn’t wake them until 6am.
Purchase link: Amazon