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Monday, 5 November 2012

The Next Big Thing - A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift

I've been tagged in The Next Big Thing by fellow writers Gillian Bagwell and Debra Brown. Do click on their names to find out about Gillian's exhaustive research and Debra's new Victorian romance. I'm instructed to tell you all about my next book by answering these questions and then to tag five other authors about their Next Big Thing. So here I go!
What is the working title of your next book? 
A DIVIDED INHERITANCE, scheduled for publication next September.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Viggo Mortensen - Alatriste
Three things -
one was the idea of exploring how much of our inheritance we take for granted. Our inheritance such as our cultural expectations and identity, and what might happen if these were challenged. I wanted to show that a 17th century woman could survive in a man's world, despite the expectations of the age.

At the same time as I was mulling over this, I came across a fascinating book about 17th century fencing masters and thought it would be interesting to research women who fought using rapiers and to find out more about whether any women used these training techniques. I have an interest in this through practising swordplay through martial arts. The particular Spanish training method I was researching is an esoteric system designed to produce a kind of 'Renaissance man' - or in this case, woman.

I was also interested in a period of history in Spain where there was massive cultural change and Phillip II expelled a large population of Spanish citizens - an act that divided families and was to impoverish Spain for generations.So this seemed an ideal backdrop for my family drama.

What genre does your book fall under?
It is historical fiction - literary rather than romantic, but I hope a good page-turner too.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I was very impressed with the film 'Alatriste' which I watched for some of my research into the Spanish fighting arts, and so I'd go for Viggo Mortensen. I also loved him in Lord of the Rings. For the female lead role I would choose Anne Hathaway who when she played Jane Austen had the quality of Englishness appropriate for my female lead Elspet Leviston..

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A DIVIDED INHERITANCE is set in 1609 and is the story of a woman whose life is turned upside down when a cousin she has never met arrives unannounced at her house. It is a story of courage, hope and the triumph of kinship over adversity. 
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The book has already been sold to Pan Macmillan via my agent Annette Green.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About eighteen months, of which six months was solid research. I travelled to London to the museums and to get a sense of the early Jacobean architecture, and also to Seville where I was knocked out by the Alcazar Palace and the wonderful Moorish palaces and decorative arts such as ceramics. I visited museums and galleries there and then did lots of further research through archives and by writing to swordplay experts in Spain and the US. Once most of the background research was done I wrote fairly intensively every morning. At the moment the book is being copy-edited, and I'll expect more small points to be smoothed out at that stage, and after that it will be proof-read.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I've no idea! Other people compare my books to Philippa Gregory, Tracy Chevalier and Jane Harris - these are all very different writers, so I guess I'm happy to just be myself! I enjoy to read historical adventures such as Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and the C.J Sansom thrillers too, so perhaps there is some influence there, ans similarly, I write about ordinary men and women from the past who are caught up in extraordinary circumstances.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by the wonderful Moorish architecture of Seville, and its passionate flamenco culture. I wondered how an Englishwoman might cope in Golden Age Spain, which was a hotbed of religious dissent, and where people lived in fear of the Inquisition. I was also inspired by the idea of how deeds from the past might come to bear on one's children, even when they are grown up. And I wanted to explore how people with nothing in common can band together under adversity.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Well, here's the blurb so far - which I am working on at the moment. Condensing a very large book into 150 words is a difficult exercise!

~ London 1609 ~

Elspet Leviston hopes to follow her scholarly father Nathaniel into the lace trade, but already Nathaniel’s past is on its way back to haunt her. Her hopes are threatened by the arrival of her mysterious cousin Zachary Deane – a man who has his own ambitions for Leviston’s Lace.

But wherever Zachary goes trouble seems to follow. So Nathaniel sends him on a Grand Tour, away from the distractions of Jacobean London, and Elspet believes herself to be free of her interfering relation. But when Nathaniel dies, Elspet’s fortunes change dramatically and she is forced to leave her beloved home and go in search of Zachary, determined to claim the inheritance that is rightfully hers.

Under the searing Spanish sun Elspet and Zachary find themselves locked in a battle of wills,
But Seville is a dangerous place and soon they are embroiled in the roar and sweep of a tragedy that will set them both on a journey of discovery, and unlock for them the mystery of what family really means.
Here are some more lovely authors I've tagged to tell you about their Next Big Thing! 
Gabrielle Kimm 
Len Tyler
Katherine Clements
Charlotte Betts
Sue Millard


  1. I can hardly wait to read this, Dee!

    You've chosen an underused period location for the setting, and I think it will be a great match for your literary voice.

    1. Thanks Tim, I love the idea that I might have a literary voice. Just got to go and find it now!