Friday, January 21, 2011

Interview with Deborah Swift, author of The Lady's Slipper

Hello everyone! Today I have the pleasure of hosting Deborah Swift, author of The Lady's Slipper, an intriguing novel of an elusive orchid and the risks one woman takes to claim the orchid for her own purpose (read my review here.) Thank you Deborah for giving us all a deeper look into your delightful novel!

pic. by Jonathan Bean

When did you first discover The Lady's Slipper orchid and how did its discovery inspire you?
I was out for a walk with a friend and completely by surprise we came across a man in a white tent who was guarding the "Lady's-slipper"orchid. I had never heard of it, for at that time there was just a single flower remaining growing wild. The british conservation agency "English Nature" had put a guard on it whilst it was flowering to deter vandals and collectors. When we stopped in front of it, I was taken with how beautiful and showy the flower was, and it occurred to me that probably generations of people must have stopped exactly where I stood and gazed at it with the same sense of awe at its strangeness and fragility. I thought it so sad that it might become lost to future generations.
At first I wanted to write a poem about it, but then I began to imagine a woman in long skirts standing on that very spot - and the idea for a novel was born! I chose the seventeenth century as it was a time of great conflict in every strata of society.

Ella was such a conniving and manipulative character. Did Thomas ever understand her true motives towards the end?

In the novel I leave this ambiguous, for the reader to decide. My own view is that he did finally come to understand her, but only when it was too late for him to act to repair the damage she had done. And I don't think Ella herself truly comprehends yet why she is so angry with the world and her place in it - it was something I wanted to explore more fully in another book.

At the end of the book, Alice found that her precious orchid was not so rare in the new world. How rare is The Lady's Slipper today?

The site of the original plant is still a closely guarded secret, but scientists at Kew Gardens here in the UK have finally managed to clone and propagate the original plant from seed, after many years of trying. I have followed the process with interest as new seedlings were grown in culture solution in the lab. More recently they have been planted out by lady volunteers (in honour of their name) in carefully assessed limestone habitats. Nowadays though the slugs are as much of a menace as greedy herbalists, and have to be kept away with pellets! By a strange coincidence the trial batch of the new generation of plants began to come into flower the very weekendThe Lady's Slipper was launched in the UK - a very special moment.

So yes, still rare. It will be many more generations before the Lady's-slipper colonies are established enough to look after themselves.

What can readers expect next from you?

My new novel The Gilded Lily will be published by Macmillan in the UK next year. It tells Ella's story directly following the events of The Lady's Slipper. In it we get to know more about Ella through the eyes of her younger sister Sadie. Set in the smoke and coffee houses of Restoration London Ella and Sadie begin in the fashionable world of glitter and glamour. But soon they fall on hard times in one of England's harshest winters, and have to fight their way through a hostile underworld of robbery, prostitution and murder in pursuit of safety, love and happiness.

This being your debut novel, do you have any fresh advice for aspiring authors?

Just to keep writing, that's the hardest part - to keep writing, enjoy what you write and believe in yourself. I loved researching and writing both The Lady's Slipper andThe Gilded Lily, and I am now enjoying writing my third. These days it is hard for new novelists to get published so you might as well love what you write and entertain yourself! Networks of other writers to support you can be helpful too - tr
She Writes Good luck!
Writers can contact me on my blog The Riddle of Writing or find me on my website

Copyright © 2011 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.


Mystica said...

I won this book in a giveaway and was delighted with it. My review is up on my blog. Do please visit.

Blodeuedd said...

Great post, I have seen this book around and it does sound good :)