The Writing Life with Historical Novelist Joan Schweighardt

Joan Schweighardt is the author of several novels. In addition to her own projects, she writes, ghostwrites and edits for private and corporate clients.



Twitter: @joanschwei

What’s inside the mind of a historical fiction author?

I’m calling my book new book, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun, a historical novel because I haven’t been able to come up with a better classification. Actually the story is based in part on the true history of the times I write about and in part on legends that grew out of the same time period. Because I had these rich materials to draw on, I did not have to work as hard at being creative as I would have if I were making up the whole story. But where I got off easy regarding that end of things, I had the challenge of having to do a ton of research and then being able to blend historical and legendary materials so that they would come together seamlessly.

What is so great about being an author?

If you love to write, being an author is great, just the way that it’s great if you love horses and get to ride all the time.

When do you hate it?

I complain a lot about how hard it is in these times to draw attention to books that are not published by one of the five big publishing houses that are able to throw money and clout behind their titles. I’d love to have a wider audience for my work. Not having the audience I want sometimes makes me question why I bother. But then I think about all the reasons I bother and go back to writing again

What is a regular writing day like for you?

I am at my desk every weekday by 8:00 a.m. But I don’t work on my own projects until I’ve finished client work. Sometimes I have no client work for days on end and can work on my own projects.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?

Well, there are two kinds of authors. There are a handful of authors who have made it big and there’s the rest of us. I would think those of us in the latter category probably don’t have big egos. I don’t know about the others.

How do you handle negative reviews?

Nowadays most of the reviews a body gets are from the public at large, as opposed to professional reviewers. Some people are used to reading very uncomplicated books with unrealistically happy endings. So, if they accidentally purchase something a little darker or more challenging, they may say bad things about it. That can be hurtful to an author.

How do you handle positive reviews?

Everyone loves to get a positive review. But in these times I think some people are more interested in the number of reviews they get than in whether they are negative, positive or somewhere in between. If you have 600 reviews on your amazon page, readers will think they’re missing out on something and want your book. That’s why lots of people “buy” reviews. I still can’t get my head around the idea of every “buying” a review, but I understand where the people who do buy them are coming from. We all want to sell books.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

I’m much better at talking about the books I write for other people than I am talking about my own books. So I usually talk about my ghostwriting and editing projects for clients.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

Since I write for a living as well as for my own pleasure, I am pretty much always writing. I take a break on weekends. Sometimes if I have having trouble with a project, whether for a client or myself, I tell myself that if I want I can get a book and go lie down on the sofa and read until I fall asleep. That’s my escape valve. Knowing I can do that if I want to keeps me from ever actually doing it (mostly).

Any writing quirks?

I’m sure I have plenty but I don’t know what they are. When I’m writing fiction, I do the dialogue between characters out loud, often saying the words with the intonation they would. That doesn’t feel quirky to me, but if my husband is home and happens to overhear me, he’ll raise an eyebrow and give me “the look.”

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

I’m happy to say the people who mean the most to me take my writing seriously. If they didn’t, I guess I would just have let it go.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate? 

I’m shrugging. I never “hate” writing. I do dislike many things about the publishing process, such as the need to market your work on social media and the fact that there are so few professional reviewers these days, and the ones that exist are inundated with review requests. But as for the process, I have no complaints.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

We all need money to pay the bills. While you can derive immense pleasure from doing the thing you love—whether it is writing or knitting or making flower arrangements—if you can sell your book or sweater or bouquet to someone who appreciates the love you put into it, so much the better.

What has writing taught you?

Writing taught me to think at another level. I don’t know if it’s a deeper level or just another level. I do a lot of lucid dreaming, where I am asleep and awake (or at least aware) at the same time. I think that comes from writing all my life, from trying to grasp the thoughts behind thoughts before they slip away.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

My best advice for first time writers and writers who just want to write better is read, read, and read. And don’t just read books in your genre of preference. Read everything, all the time.

Title: The Last Wife of Attila the Hun

Genre: Literary/Historical Fiction with a Legendary Component

Author: Joan Schweighardt

Publisher: Booktrope Editions

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

Two threads are woven together in The Last Wife of Attila the Hun. In one, Gudrun, a Burgundian noblewoman, dares to enter the City of Attila to give its ruler what she hopes is a cursed sword; the second reveals the unimaginable events that have driven her to this mission. Based in part on the true history of the times and in part on the same Nordic legends that inspired Wagner’s Ring Cycle and other great works of art, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun offers readers a thrilling story of love, betrayal, passion and revenge, all set against an ancient backdrop itself gushing with intrigue. Lovers of history and fantasy alike will find realism and legend at work in this tale.

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