Friday, September 21, 2012

Blog Tour Interview + Giveaway: The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift

Please join me in welcoming author Deborah Swift to Let Them Read Books! I recently read Deborah's second novel and brand new release, The Gilded Lily, and I loved the way Deborah brought 17th-century London to life. (Click here to read my review.) She was gracious enough to take on a few of my questions and she's got some really insightful answers! Read on and enter to win your own copy of The Gilded Lily!

Hello, Deborah, and welcome! What was your inspiration for writing the story of The Gilded Lily? 

I wrote about Ella in The Lady’s Slipper where she was a thoroughly unlikeable character. I wanted to see if I could understand what might make somebody so self-serving and also I wanted to see if there was any way she could be redeemed for the reader. I realized that if the reader understands the motivation behind a character’s actions they will be more inclined to understand and accept them. So I invented a past for her which holds the clue to her ambition and selfish behaviour. My research into the Little Ice Age, where the Thames froze over, was a big inspiration too. It changed London, cut it off from the outside world, and I wanted to see what effect that would have on my characters.

I really like that The Gilded Lily is a story that includes characters from all walks of life and that they are "regular" people rather than royalty, especially since most novels taking place during Charles II's reign revolve around his notorious court. How do you think writing about everyday people compares to writing about well-known historical figures?

I enjoy writing about ordinary people because their lives are much closer to our own. The life of a King is a very visible life, which is always on display. The hidden, more private lives of his subjects fascinate me more – the lives of those who have to work for a living, who struggle to attain what Kings and courtiers take for granted. But I hope the book also shows that the influence of life at Court, though distant, still permeates even to the lowest classes.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the novel was the period dialogue. It really enhanced the reading experience without being cumbersome or confusing. What kind of sources did you use to find and recreate the terminology and street slang spoken by the characters in the book?

There are one or two sites online that give details of the “cant” that was used in the London Underworld. I only used one or two words carefully chosen from these as most of the words are quite obscure. I really couldn’t use “dub the Jigger – open the door, or “mill the glaze” – break the window, without it making me laugh! I did use language gleaned from playwrights of the time, such as Dryden and Aphra Behn, and reading them helped me to capture the rhythm of the speech. Other diaries of the time such as those of Pepys and John Aubrey also influenced the language I chose.

The historical detail in The Gilded Lily is so vivid and precise that it seems as though you must have done some serious hands-on research to be able to depict the characters' professions and lifestyles so completely and realistically. Can you tell us about that?

I had to do a lot of research in the London museums to get things right about the Thames River – its direction and tidal flow for instance, and the structure of London Bridge which slowed the passage of water and caused it to freeze over. Wigs were a big part of fashion in the 1660s so for the wig-making I tried some knotting through a theatrical wig-maker, which is the only place such wigs are made and worn today. The technique is very fiddly and repetitive. It takes hours to cover a single centimetre! For the potions in The Gilded Lily I used a wonderful book called “The Artifice of Beauty” by Sally Pointer which gives 17th century beauty recipes, some of which you can try out yourself. I tried some of them, and most were quite messy, but one for a 17th century wash ball was very good, even today. Of course some of them – like making ceruse (white face powder) by soaking lead in acid and scraping off the residue – were not things I wanted to try!

What do you like to read for fun? Who are your favorite authors?

I read a wide variety of authors. I am reading Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress at the moment. I like Mary Renault’s classic fiction which I think is masterful and never dates. I admire Tracy Chevalier and Rose Tremain and wish I could have such an economical style. I also enjoy the Tudor novels of CJ Sansom, and recently whiled away train journeys in the excellent company of Jane Harris and Gabrielle Kimm.

And lastly, what's next for you? Can you tell us what you're working on now?

I’ve just finished another novel – “A Divided Inheritance” which will also be published by Macmillan. It is set in England and Seville in Spain’s Golden Age. Strait-laced Elspet Leviston thinks she will take over her father’s business, until her father brings home her cousin, a man she has never set eyes on before. The appearance of this stranger sets in motion a chain of events that will lead her to the bustling port of Seville, to the great mystical Sword School of La Destreza, and to a battle to save herself and her new-found friends. It was a thrilling book to work on and I’m looking forward to this time next year when it will hit the shelves.

Thanks so much, Deborah! Don't you guys envy the life of a historical fiction author?
I know I do. But I settle for the next best thing, reading the efforts of their labor, and here's your chance to score a free copy of The Gilded Lily!

Simply leave a question or comment for Deborah along with you email address! This giveaway is open internationally and ends at 11:59pm Wednesday October 3. Winner will be selected at random.
Thanks, and good luck!

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
Stay tuned for more great giveaways!


  1. I definitely agree that the lives of the non-royal are more interesting. The lives of royals are so public and so well-documented. I will be interested to read how the different types of people are portrayed and how their lives at court are different.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    lafra86 at gmail dot com

  2. I'm more interested in ordinary people and their dealings with the Royals, as well. Thanks for the giveaway.

    nanze55 at hotmail dot com

  3. I'd love to just read and read about history and write a book, about anyone :) Cos yes in the end everyone is fascinating

    booksforlife01 at gmail dot com

  4. Hi Deborah,

    I always love to hear what historical fiction authors are reading. What are some of your favorite books? (i.e. if you were marooned on a tropical island, and could only have your favorite books with you, which ones would they be? :) )
    Thank you for the giveaway!


  5. I think the lives of the royals would be more fake than the non-royals so the nons sound more interesting to me.
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  6. Hi everyone, thanks for entering. Still time for lots more to enter! Tiffany, there are some posts on my blog where authors have been marooned on a Desert Island and made their choices. It's at Quite a few chose survival guides -good idea! Two chose Jane Austen. Next week two of my guests on the Desert island will be Historical Fiction authors Gillian Bagwell and Gabrielle Kimm. My choices are up there too, but if I had to choose again I'd take Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - love the cold Estella and Miss Havisham, Samuel Pepy's Diary for plenty of historical inspiration, and Jane Eyre which I think is an almost perfect novel. (Hmm, seem to like books featuring crazy women!!)

  7. The Gilded Lily sounds excellent - I enjoy books where you have to work at understanding the characters and in turn the characters make you think.

    Divided Inheritance also sounds good, for different reasons. Typical gender struggle + action: I'm there.

    Great interview!

    nrlymrtl at gmail dot com

  8. The Gilded Lady sounds like my kind of book. Great interview...I like to find out how a writer develops her books!! Thanks for sharing.


  9. I appreciate the research you do for your book!

    lag110 at m hsi dot com

  10. thank you for the chance to win The Gilded Lily!! i'm a big fan of historical fictions!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  11. Thank you for the chance to win. I like that you do a lot of research before and while writing your book.

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

  12. I am looking forward to reading The Gilded Lily. I really enjoy reading historical fiction about the regular people rather than the royal and priviledged. I think you get a much better feel for the historical time period from the everyday people.

    tmrtini at gmail dot com

  13. I am looking forward to reading the book. I love historical fiction!

    kristieleedean at gmail dot com

  14. I would love to read this! Love the cover and title.


  15. Thank you so much for the opportunity you are giving all of us.. I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and the books I've always liked best are the ones that give the perspective of the "commoners"...a little easier to relate to for me :) (it's like people who always talk about being reincarnated, and the famous people they "used to be"... I'm very sure I was quite common ;) Thank you again!

    redcincibabe AT yahoo DOT com

  16. I think the life of a historical author is interesting indeed just because they get to learn so many historical things in their research. The research for your book sounds great. I'm sure I would learn a lot.


  17. Really good interview. I'd really love to read this. Thanks for the chance.

    Terri, niteofblu at gmail dot com

  18. Great. Interview love historical

  19. The little ice age is an interesting aspect considering our current climate changes. Who knows what the weather will throw at us next.
    kaiminani at gmail dot com

  20. Fascinating novel and a wonderful interview. Thanks for this giveaway. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  21. The Gilded Lily sounds compelling and special. A unique and interesting book that I would enjoy. Loved the interview. thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  22. Great author interview, and "The Gilded Lily" sounds wonderful, I love books in the era of Charles II. I am a huge histfic fan, but this will be my first Deborah Swift novel.

  23. I do enjoy stories about average people of a time period and phrases from the time period are always interesting to read.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

  24. I love reading historical romance because I always learn more about history, my sister is a huge fan of The Tudors, she knows everything about that, she's like this little walking human book and we enjoy a lot, debating about the historical, for me is the best genre! Both would like to have a chance to read The Gilded Lily! Thank you for the giveaway!


  25. Hi Deborah,
    Congratulation on the release of The Gilded Lady!

    The Gilded Lady sounds intriguing. I read the blurb & Jenny's review and found myself wondering what would happen next. The idea of two very opposite sisters is interesting.
    Thanks for the chance to win a free copy :)


  26. Thanks for the the interesting interview and the generous giveaway.
    I was very interested by Deborah's theatrical background since I also studied in that field and worked in the theatre for many years.
    Although my one area of study, dramatic literature, might have come in handy in writing an historical novel I doubt that my work in stage lighting design would have been much help.


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