Author Interview: Leslie Swartz

Tell us something about your book.

The Seventh Day Series is seven books of rowdy angels, vampires, witches, and Lucifer fighting monsters and preventing one Apocalypse after another. Really, though, it’s a story of found-family, complex relationships, trauma, and redemption. It’s character-driven, dark, funny, and chock-full of twists.

Who is the ideal reader for your book?

18+ Supernatural, Buffy, and True Blood fans seem to enjoy it most. I get compared to Anne Rice, Patricia Briggs, and Ilona Andrews a lot. My books, especially Seraphim (book one) have graphic language, sex, and violence and I kind of bastardize a lot of religions and mythologies so anyone who might get offended by those things should probably avoid them.

Share the best critique/review of your book.

Review of Seraphim: As a fan of paranormal fantasy, I found this story thrilling. The bad-ass good guys hunting down the innocent-looking bad girl, the supernatural powers, the diversity, and the family-comes-first theme all hit the right spots for me.
I loved the author’s take on the angelic and demonic characters, and the no-holds-barred evil of the antagonist was surprisingly shocking, yet helped build the character so well. My attention was held from beginning to end (I had to drag myself away to sleep after starting it yesterday, and finished it today.) Definitely looking forward to reading more work by this author, and great to know this is a series.–Evie Asterwyn

What inspired you to write it?

“Wyatt” (the main character) came to me in a vision when I was sixteen. I can’t explain it so I won’t try but he was very clear to me; steely eyes, dark hair falling in his face, angry and depressed but like, resigned to it. I didn’t create him so much as I just kind of became aware of who he was. So, I spent years researching religious lore and different mythologies. I’d have an idea and start writing but inevitably, I’d throw it out. No story was ever good enough for the character. So, one day I was watching Guiding Light and this actor, Tom Pelphrey came on the screen and he looked exactly like the character in my head. It was uncanny. Obviously, I became a fan and watched other things he was in. Over the years, his facial expressions and his very precise way of speaking became part of “Wyatt”. Years later, I was watching an episode of Iron Fist and Tom Pelphrey did this scene that broke me in half. I lost it. Complete meltdown, hysterically sobbing on my couch for forty-five minutes. When I got myself together, I had all this renewed gumption to get these books started. I had a ton of plot ideas but none of them made sense if “God” was who I said he was. So, I was going over everything with my husband and he looked at me with this how-have-you-not-thought-of-this-before face and said, “What if ‘God’ was asleep?” Mind. Blown. Everything else fell into place. It all worked. That day, I wrote character bios, a few scenes, and outlines for the first four books.

What message would you like readers to take away from your book?

Reading gives people empathy, right? It puts you in someone else’s head, forces you to see from their perspective. So, my hope is that through these characters, people realize that we’re more alike than different, that everyone is going through something that you may not understand, and hate isn’t just unnecessary and dumb, it’s also as sinful as anything can be.

Share an excerpt from your book.

From chapter 17 of Seraphim: Gabriel burst through the doors of the old, decrepit theater and strolled in, livid and determined. The building, mostly fallen apart, was crawling with dozens of demons. Some were on the floor and in old broken seats, having sex in seemingly uncomfortable, if not impossible positions. Some were hunched over large amounts of various foods, stuffing their mouths with as much as would fit. One was lying lifeless on the stage, the host’s body having given out from being occupied too long. Two others stood over the corpse, splashing it with week-old soda. “Forty days and forty nights!” one of them cackled as the other laughed giddily. Their voices were loud and shrill, like nails on a chalkboard. It grated on Gabriel’s nerves as she slammed the doors shut behind her with her mind, using her telekinesis to hold locked all the exits.

“Where’s Lilith?” she called to the crowd. They all stopped what they were doing to glare at her in unsettled apprehension.

“Gabriel!” one of them shrieked in horror. Most of them darted for the exits, becoming hysterical when they realized there was no way out. A few brave demons came at her, but she immediately snapped their necks with nothing more than a thought.

“I would tell me if I were you,” she warned the rest of them, frustrated that she couldn’t decipher their thoughts. Demons’ minds were tricky, clouded by the memories of those they inhabited. Nothing came through to her clearly.

“We will never!” someone shouted from the back of the room.

“It’s in your best interest,” she told them, throwing the two on the stage up into the rafters and bringing them crashing down onto the stage floor.

“No!” several of them shouted in unison.

“I won’t ask again,” she promised, bringing down a large chandelier, crushing a small group of demons underneath.

“We will not,” one of them said, stepping forward, away from the rest as they cowered, blood and bile staining his white tee-shirt, nearly all of his teeth missing. “We have been liberated. Our redeemer will rule this place. You are no match. We will not betray she who set us free.”

Gabriel sighed and addressed the crowd. “Does this one speak for the rest of you?”

“Yes!” some shouted while others just nodded.

“All right,” she said, disappointed. “Don’t say I didn’t give you a chance.”

Did you dare to believe that your book will be published when you started writing?

I knew it would be published one way or another. I’ve always had a sense of inevitability with Seventh Day. It’s felt like something I was meant to write and no matter how successful or forgotten it becomes, it will be available to readers for as long as I’m alive.

How many times were you rejected?

Sixty-four, lol. Most of those weren’t outright rejections, per se. Most agents wanted me to change things I just couldn’t. By the time I queried Seraphim, I had the next book half-written and outlines done for the rest of the books. I knew where the story was going and how everything fit together. So, when agents would say things like, “I could sell this as the next Vampire Diaries if you took out most of the violence, all of the sex and graphic language, and made the characters fifteen years younger”, I had to roll my eyes. Those changes would have destroyed the series. Remember, I’d spent twenty years developing the story and there was no way I was throwing all that work away for the sake of marketability. Had it been a book I didn’t care as much about, I might have done it. As it was, though, I couldn’t justify it to myself.

Was the process of looking for an agent/publisher discouraging?

No, because the rejections made it clear to me that I wanted to keep creative control of the series and the only way to do that unequivocally was to self-publish.

How long did you write the first draft? And how long did the editing and re-editing take?

The first draft of Seraphim took six or so months once I got the outline settled. Rewrites took two more months, editing took a month, then re-editing took another two months because my first editor turned out to be a con artist. He butchered the manuscript, put a bunch of periods where commas should have been. It was a mess. Hundreds of people bought Seraphim looking like trash before I fixed it. It haunts me. Later books took about six weeks from finalizing the outline to finished.

Can you share your writing rituals/habits/process?

I start by scribbling ideas down in a notebook, in no real order, just as they come to me. At that same time, I make a playlist of songs that remind me of particular scenes or characters that I can listen to later if I get stuck. It’s the best way for me to break out of the dreaded writer’s block. Then, I put the ideas in order, turn that into a proper chapter-by-chapter outline then start writing. I usually wear noise-canceling headphones and play purple noise while I’m doing the actual writing because I’m easily distracted and my children are loud. (No, I don’t leave them unsupervised. They’re with their father in the next room.)

Who was your first literary crush?

“Gordie” from The Body by Stephen King. I was in the fourth grade when I read it and I related to him so hard. He was played by Wil Wheaton in the movie adaptation (Stand by Me) and I thought he was super cute.

Did you imagine yourself as an author in your teens?

I started writing stories when I was four. I won my first writing competition in the second grade and by the time I was sixteen, I was an award-winning published poet. That same year, I had written, rewritten, and rewritten again a novel about a nineteenth-century girl whose parents had died and she was trying to survive on the western frontier. It was bad. There was no saving it. Still, I was sure being an author was what I was meant to be. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t just assume writing was what I’d be doing.

What was the first book that made you fall in love with reading?

I remember reading all those great, old Golden Books, particularly Fantasia. I read it a lot but the first book I remember really loving was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell when I was five or six.

Did a book ever make you cry? (Which one?)

I learned to read at three using the Sunday paper, so the first thing I remember reading that made me cry was an article about the death of Dennis Wilson (The Beach Boys). As for books, a lot of them have made me cry, including all of my own. The last book that had me in tears was Broken Time by C. Casarico. A character died so suddenly, it was jarring.

Which literary character did you want to take to bed as an 18-year-old?

Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice). So sexy.

Do you sing under the shower? Or to your plants?

I do sing in the shower, and in my kitchen, and living room, and basically anywhere. I also sing-song my words when I’m talking a lot of the time. Obnoxious or adorable? You be the judge.

Do you like to cook? What is your specialty?

I’m an okay cook but I love to bake. My best and favorite things to bake are “damn good” cookies. I use milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet because I don’t like the little bit of bitterness in semi-sweet. I also make a mean apple turnover.

Do you have a pet?

No. I had two dogs, Sophie and Lucy, who died six months apart a few years ago and as much as I would love to rescue another, I’m hesitant. It was a lot to get over.

What is the most romantic thing you ever did?

When I was seventeen, I think, a boyfriend asked me to come see him. He lived an hour or so away and I didn’t have a car. It was also late at night, so I called a friend and begged him to drive me out there. I snuck out and made it to my boyfriend’s house, tapped on his window, gave him a quick kiss, and left. I don’t know how romantic he thought it was, but it’s a super fond memory for me. Zack (Thomas) Gunter was one of the great loves of my life and I regret not telling him how important he was to me at the time.

What is the most romantic thing someone did for you?

A boyfriend walked me home in the middle of the night once when I got kicked out of a friend’s house after she got in trouble for something, I don’t remember what. I was spending the night and her mom made me leave. My mom was asleep, of course, so she didn’t answer the phone when I called from a payphone (this was 1998). My then-boyfriend lived pretty close but he didn’t have a car, either. We didn’t have money for a cab so he walked with me all the way back to my house. It took two and a half hours in the cold and rain and I will never forget that. Shout-out to Josh Jones of Greenwood, Indiana. Such a sweetie.

Do you believe in love?

Yes, but probably not the way most people do. Or I’m jaded. Or old. Or I’ve just been with the same person for too long, lol. There’s a difference between falling in love and being in love, right? So, after a year or two of being with someone, the hormones wear off. The butterflies go away and what you’re left with is respect, trust, friendship, and a question: Can I keep tolerating this person? If you care about them and want to be around them every day even when they’re so annoying you could smack them, that’s love.

Series link:

Book 1:

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