Leslie Swartz is a forty-year-old poet turned novelist living in Indianapolis with her husband and three daughters. She draws inspiration from a variety of writers including Shakespeare, Poe, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Freddie Mercury, and Don McLean. She started writing stories at age four and when she saw Legend for the first time, she decided at five that her goal in life would be to write something Ridley Scott would be proud to direct.
In second grade, she won her first writing competition. She went on to win a handful of short story, poetry, and essay contests throughout her academic career and took a distance learning course at The Institute of Children’s Literature after high school. She wrote songs and greeting cards before discovering that her true passion was paranormal urban fantasy novels. She published her first book in The Seventh Day Series in March of 2019. Since then, she’s released the next six books, completing the series.
Wyatt is a typical schizophrenic firefighter with daddy issues when his life falls into shambles. His wife leaves him, he loses his job and the voices in his head are getting louder. Just when he thinks he’s finally made a breakthrough, a woman interrupts his therapy session, setting his life on a course more unbelievable than his hallucinations.
Gabriel is the Messenger of God and she loves humans. Like, all of them. Beautiful men, gorgeous women…and sometimes both at the same sexy time. But, when she’s called to save the world from a long-forgotten enemy, she drops everything and gets to work.
Four angels, born human, must join with Lucifer and the vampire queen to stop the sadistic Lilith from destroying the Gate between Heaven and Earth, enslaving humanity, and slaughtering millions.
Seraphim tells a disturbing, yet hilarious story of complex familial and romantic relationships on a backdrop of the Apocalypse. Set in present-day NYC during God’s rest.
Romelia: WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS ARE MOST LIKELY TO BE AN ACTIVIST, AND WHAT KIND?
Leslie Swartz: Funny enough, “Lucifer” is an activist of sorts. He’s enraged by bigotry of any sort but racism gets him particularly incensed. He doesn’t so much protest things, though. He usually just slaughters bigots.
Romelia: DO YOU PLAY MUSIC WHILE YOU WRITE – AND, IF SO, WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE?
Leslie Swartz: I make playlists for all of my books before I start writing, usually during the ideas and outlining phases. It helps to listen to certain songs that remind me of characters or scenes when I’m feeling stuck. Best writer’s block breaker in the world.
Romelia: HAVE PETS EVER GOTTEN IN THE WAY OF YOUR WRITING?
Leslie Swartz: No. Sadly, my dogs both died before I began my last series.
Romelia: IF YOUR BOOK WERE MADE INTO A MOVIE, WHICH ACTORS WOULD PLAY YOUR CHARACTERS?
Leslie Swartz: Tom Pelphrey was the inspiration for “Wyatt”, so he’d be my first choice to play him in a series. His face makes me cry and that’s the energy “Wyatt” demands. “Lucifer” was loosely inspired by Joseph Morgan, though not purposefully. He started talking and after a few scenes of banter between him and “Gabriel”, he just kind of became Joseph Morgan in my head.
Romelia: HAVE YOU EVER KILLED OFF A CHARACTER YOUR READERS LOVED?
Leslie Swartz: Yes. Lots.
Romelia: WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN ABOUT WRITING?
Leslie Swartz: Spend the money on a professional cover designer. After I updated covers, sales shot way up. People really do judge books by their covers.
Romelia: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST WAY TO IMPROVE WRITING SKILLS?
Leslie Swartz: Read and write. Reading helps you to “hear” what sounds right. Write some short stories, find your voice. Develop characters. Writing, like anything else, takes practice.
Romelia: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO HELP OTHERS CREATE PLOTLINES?
Leslie Swartz: Talk out your ideas with someone you trust. Brainstorm. Even if they don’t have anything to add, it helps to bounce ideas off of someone. Never underestimate the power of hearing yourself talk.
Romelia: WHAT HAS HELPED OR HINDERED YOU MOST WHEN WRITING A BOOK?
Leslie Swartz: The most helpful thing has been noise-canceling headphones. Tuly. They’re worth their weight in gold.
Romelia: DOES WRITING ENERGIZE OR EXHAUST YOU? OR BOTH?
Leslie Swartz: Both depending on which scene I’m writing.
Romelia: WHAT IS THE BEST MONEY YOU’VE EVER SPENT WITH REGARD TO YOUR WRITING?
Leslie Swartz: A second editor. My first editor for Seraphim butchered the manuscript. He put a bunch of periods where commas should have been, changed words, etc. It was a mess. I was so naive, I thought he must know better than me, so I went along with it. Hundreds of people bought the books looking like trash before I hired another editor who told me the first was not a real editor. He was a con artist, fake name and all. It’s been fixed, of course, but it still haunts me.
Romelia: WHAT ARE COMMON TRAPS FOR NEW AUTHORS?
Leslie Swartz: “Write to market.” If an agent or publisher advises you to change something to be more marketable, that’s a decision to make when the time comes. It may very well be worth doing, but don’t muzzle your own voice before anyone else had had a chance to hear it.
Romelia: HOW MANY HOURS A DAY DO YOU WRITE?
Leslie Swartz: On weekends, 10 or so. I don’t usually write through the week unless I have a deadline.
Romelia: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BLOGS OR WEBSITES FOR WRITERS?
Leslie Swartz: I love NayaReadsAndSmiles on YouTube. It doesn’t matter what book she’s talking about, I’m excited to read it. Her energy is contagious.
Romelia: AT WHAT TIME OF THE DAY DO YOU DO MOST OF YOUR WRITING?
Leslie Swartz: Evening into late-night. If the sun is out, it feels like, disruptive.
Romelia: HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH CHARACTER NAMES FOR YOUR STORIES?
Leslie Swartz: Honestly, for main characters, baby name websites. I’ll choose names that mean something that I associate with the character. For side characters, in Seventh Day, I used characters or names of things associated with the authors quoted in the beginning of the books. So, in Seraphim there’s Will, Dr. Stratford, Mr. Marlowe (one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries), Annie (after Shakespeare’s wife), etc. Just something fun for me. Most people don’t seem to notice.
Romelia: DO YOU PARTICIPATE IN WRITING CHALLENGES ON SOCIAL MEDIA? DO YOU RECOMMEND ANY?
Leslie Swartz: I have a few times, but I don’t usually for no other reason than I just don’t have time.
Romelia: IF YOU HAD THE POWER TO CURE A DISEASE OF YOUR CHOOSING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Leslie Swartz: Cancer because that would help the most people, I think.
Romelia: WHEN YOU’RE WRITING AN EMOTIONAL OR DIFFICULT SCENE, HOW DO YOU SET THE MOOD?
Leslie Swartz: Music, usually. There was a particularly mournful scene in Nephilim where “Wyatt” was saying goodbye to someone and I listened to “I Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd eight or nine times before writing it to get in his headspace.
Romelia: WHOM DO YOU TRUST FOR OBJECTIVE AND CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM OF YOUR WORK?
Leslie Swartz: My husband. He seems to be the only person that doesn’t just tell me everything I write is gold, presumably to be nice. We’ve been together since we were eighteen and believe me, he’s not at all concerned with sparing my feelings, lol.
Romelia: WHAT BOOKS DO YOU ENJOY READING?
Leslie Swartz: Horror. Stephen King, of course, Anne Rice, Evelyn Chartres, and J Edward Niell.
Romelia: ARE THERE ANY BOOKS OR AUTHORS THAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER?
Leslie Swartz: I read Different Seasons when I was five or six and The Body spoke to me. I found Gordie to be super relatable. I’d been writing stories since I was four and got a lot of eyerolls from cousins and school “friends”. Later that year, I saw Stand by Me, the movie based on that Stephen King story and it really solidified for me that it was okay to be who I was. It might not be super common, but it was normal and acceptable to write, even if I was a little kid. Plus, I developed a huge crush on Wil Wheaton that I’m still not over, to be honest.
Romelia: NAME AN UNDERAPPRECIATED NOVEL THAT YOU LOVE.
Leslie Swartz: The Grand by Evelyn Chartres. It’s creepy and complicated and I love everything about it.
Romelia: TELK US SOMETHING FUNNY FROM YOUR ADULT LIFE.
Leslie Swartz: Kind of gross, but when my oldest daughter was three, she brought me a rock like, as a gift. We were inside. So, I’m holding this rock and I asked her where she got it. She pointed to the floor where there was a line going from the living room to the hallway of these rocks. I started picking them up and discovered…they were not rocks. They’d fallen out of her Pull Up.
Romelia: DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A FEW SENTENCES. TELL US SOMETHING WE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU AND SOMETHING YOU HATE ABOUT THE WORLD.
Leslie Swartz: I’m an ex-poet, ex-Realtor, ex-GNC store manager. I wrote greeting cards in high school for money and I dyed my hair electric pink because I was bored in quarantine. I hate mostly the willingness of people to believe complete nonsense because someone they look up to for whatever reason says it. It’s a psychotic gullibility. And, their willingness to approve of or even do themselves the most horrendous things. I guess I wish people were just less easily manipulated.