Renee Swindle is author of Shake Down the Stars, a novel I loved so much I immediately friended her on Facebook and asked if I could interview her.
I’m not the only one who loved it. RT Book Reviews said “This novel is a true gem. Beautifully written, it’s full of emotional impact that touches the heart without weighing the reader down. Themes of love, loss and addiction will reach into the soul.”
And author Elizabeth Gilbert recently recommended it on her Facebook page.
Renee and I had a great email chat and I found it very inspiring that after writing two novels that didn’t sell (after selling her first) she used those experiences to find her voice and work on the novel she was meant to write. I hope you are inspired too!
[pullquote]Looking back, I wrote those two novels while doing my best to sound and write like anyone except me. I’m not sure who I was trying to be—Toni Morrison? Alice Walker? Stephen King?! But writing those two books helped me discover my voice—or come back to my voice, depending on how you look at it. [/pullquote]
Shake Down the Stars is about a parent’s worst nightmare happening—the death of a child. Yet, in part because the death happens 5 years before the novel begins, you manage to write very humorously and yet still poignantly about a grieving woman. How did you pull that off?!
I don’t know! LOL! I think it helped—immensely—that the daughter’s death occurred five years before the start of the novel. In the first draft, the daughter had only passed away the year before, so my idea to incorporate humorous moments wasn’t working at all. By starting the novel at a later point in time, the story became more about discovering how the narrator, Piper, would ever find joy again. It became more about how she was dealing with loss, which freed me to use lighter and funnier moments. It did take a few drafts, though, to get the balance just write. Some drafts were too dark and heavy; some were too funny and lighthearted. At any rate, I absolutely love that readers have said they both laughed and cried while reading it. That’s exactly what I was aiming for.