Indie author Leslie Swartz has just one mission: To write something that renowned film director and producer Ridley Scott would want to direct. Speaking with the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction, the author of the acclaimed The Seventh Day Series states, ‘Since I saw the movie Legend about thirty-five years ago, I have fancied writing something that Ridley Scott would want to direct.’ The forty-year-old author, who has done distance learning through The Institute of Children’s Literature in Connecticut, goes on to add, ‘I knew that making up stories was what I wanted to do with my life, but it wasn’t until I saw the movie starring Tim Curry that I developed the clear goal.’
Currently residing in Indiana, the US, Ms Swartz, who mothers three children, lets us know that she started writing little paragraph-length stories at the tender age of four. Quite interestingly, she had learnt to read using newspapers when she was all of three years of age! ‘It was later that year I read Black Beauty and was hooked,’ she says.
Six Books Out and One in the Making
Talking about The Seventh Day Series, which currently comprises a total of six books – Seraphim, Nephilim, Elohim, Cain, Alukah and Cohen, Ms Swartz, who generally writes on weekends, says that the story follows a family of archangels, including Lucifer as they deal with supernatural threats and various Apocalypses.
‘It is graphic and violent, but at its heart, it is the story of this kind of twisted family and their relationships with each other, romantic partners, and themselves. It is a character-driven series with a lot of twists, and as you read through it, you see how things are connected and involved. It definitely needs to be read in order,’ she explains, making known that the seventh and the final book in the series will most probably be released later this year.
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Inspired by Anne Rice
Ask her if she has the plot in mind before she starts working on each of her books, and she says she has the character bios besides the general idea. ‘Then, I write down ideas as I get them for scenes, and when I think I have a full idea of how the story will go, I make a chapter-by-chapter outline. I start writing the first draft after. As I am writing, though, new ideas come to me, and things change. So, I will update the outline accordingly,’ she lets us know.
Ms Swartz, who has derived inspiration from the likes of author Anne Rice right since she was a teenager, tells us that she got ‘very heavily into writing vampire stories’ after reading The Vampire Chronicles. ‘Queen Allydia, who is the vampire queen in the Seventh Day Series, started off as a character from a short story I wrote when I was fifteen. She has changed dramatically since then, but Anne Rice’s books definitely inspired me to write paranormal creatures with more humanity than I had previously,’ says Ms Swartz, who is fond of singing and painting apart from, of course, reading and writing.
Music and Scribbling to the Rescue
She, however, clarifies that although she writes almost exclusively on weekends, if she is not feeling it, she will try to listen to music to get in the right head-space or just start scribbling in the hope of getting into it. ‘But if it does not come, I do not force because chances are, I will end up having to go back and rewrite everything I just did, anyway. If my brain does not corporate, the words are not good,’ she lets us know.
Asseverating that she wants to become a full-fledged author, Ms Leslie tells us that she has notebooks full of ideas for more books and screenplays. ‘The first order of business after the seventh book is done is to adapt it for television and try to sell it as a show,’ she reveals.
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Determination Key to Attaining Success
Upon being asked if she has something to tell budding authors who lose motivation in the starting phase of their career, Ms Swartz points out that selling is hard and that half the job of an indie author is marketing. She stresses, ‘Once you are sure your cover and blurb are good, it’s all about ads, social media, and promotion of all kinds. It is the toughest and most stressful part of the job, in my opinion. It takes money and a ton of time and effort. Finding your readers can be the most difficult thing in the world, but with enough determination, you will find them, eventually.’
Be that as it may, she suggests that in the meantime, authors ought to keep writing. ‘Hone your craft. Enjoy your work. I had a dream once where Freddie Mercury gave me some advice that has stuck with me. He said, “Don’t give up on your dreams, darling. The only person that can stop you is you.” I think about that a lot,’ she says.
All Perspectives Matter
As the conversation comes to a close, we ask her if there is something that she would want to be changed in the world. Answering the question, Ms Swartz, who, as a matter of fact, writes about nine hours on what she calls typical writing days, tells us, ‘If I have to narrow it down to one thing I would like for people to be able to see past themselves more. It seems like half of the people here in the States have this odd, self-obsessed mentality where they feel like if something is not a problem for them, it is not actually a problem at all. I don’t understand it. It’s not just a lack of empathy, which is bad enough.’
Elaborating further, she adds, ‘It is like people don’t know things even when the problems are staring them in the face. I wish people could put themselves in other people’s shoes and see different perspectives and reach some understanding.’
There is little doubt Ms Swartz is a woman of strong opinions, for she avers that if more people had a broader sense of the world around them, things like racism and sexism and xenophobia would be way less of a problem. ‘But, as long as people don’t believe those things are actual issues because they don’t experience them themselves, I do not know how those problems will get solved,’ she stresses, signing off.