A while back I read and reviewed Kerena Swan’s “Scared to Breathe” and really enjoyed it.
So, I was excited to learn that she has a new book out – a novel which she believes is her best work to date.
So now… without further ado….
Arnold Eastwood is thrilled when social services allocate him a flat all of his own. Independence hasn’t come easily to a young man with Downs Syndrome but now he has the chance to live free from his mum’s nagging, find a girlfriend, watch endless movies and make new friends.
Meanwhile a London drug gang is setting up a supply line in Arnold’s town. They’re looking for someone to deliver drugs for them and somewhere to set up a base of operations.
Soon Arnold and his flat are in the drug gang’s sights. Drawn into the dark underworld of crack cocaine and modern slavery, Arnold soon discovers that friends can in fact be deadly enemies.
The question is: can he break free?
Kerena has kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions about her new book AND has shared some of her favourite reads over the past few years.
Q – What inspired you to write this particular book?
Kerena – I‘ve had the privilege of working with children and adults with disabilities for the past thirty-seven years and have found it rewarding and meaningful. Whilst most of this time was with Social Services, I’ve spent the last fifteen years as owner and manager of an ‘outstanding’ rated care agency for children. As part of my ongoing professional development I attended a course funded by the local council and police and presented by ‘Safer London’. This alerted me to the exploitation of vulnerable adults by city drug gangs setting up in smaller towns. I decided to raise awareness of this social issue and the dangers for young people by bringing information to readers in an interesting and accessible format.
Q – Why did you decide to go the self-publishing route this time around?
Kerena – I submitted Who’s There? to a few publishers and agents but it seems the story is just a bit too different to fit into their categories and standard lists. I wrote the book two years ago and believe it showcases my best writing. It was a challenge to get inside the head of a man with Down’s syndrome but using my lifetime career experience I worked hard to create a realistic character deserving of respect. I love to explore the many facets of people’s personalities and give the reader the opportunity to understand motives for behaviour, good and bad.
I’ve used the royalty money I received from my two earlier novels, Dying to See You and Scared to Breathe, to give Arnold, Chip and Saskia a chance to have their voices heard. If a handful of readers look at people with disabilities or drug users and runners with a little more empathy and understanding then I will have achieved my goal.
Q – Who did you get to edit your book since you have no publisher or affiliated editor this time?
Kerena – When I first begin writing fiction I signed up to the Writing magazine’s Novel Writing course in the hope of ticking off ‘writing a book and getting it published’ on my bucket list. Having just survived major cancer surgery I was even more determined than usual. My tutor was Lesley Eames. She guided me through the frustration and exhilaration of learning the craft and once I finished my novel I commissioned her to edit it for me. Lesley has now edited four books of mine. She’s tough but fair and brings out the best in me.
Q – What made you decide to write a protagonist that has Down’s syndrome?
Kerena – I’ve met many people with Down’s syndrome in my career and love their feisty characters, stubbornness, sense of humour and love of life. I decided that a man with Down’s would have the right qualities to stand up to a drug gang. Arnold may seem vulnerable to people who don’t know him but he has an inner strength.
Q – Do you have any personal acquaintance with a Down’s syndrome adult?
Kerena – Many years ago I managed a residential home for 25 adults with learning disabilities. Arnold is a fusion of the people I cared for. The dedication at the front of Who’s There? is for Bobby Lord, a man with Down’s who was a joy to spend time with. He donned his chef’s hat and apron when we cooked barbeques, his painter’s overalls when we decorated rooms and involved himself in activities with enthusiasm and generosity. Sadly, Bobby panicked when on a bus and, realising he didn’t have enough money when he saw the conductor coming, jumped off the bus and into an oncoming car. His life support was switched off and his organs donated to live on. Bobby is still vivid in my memory and I feel affection for my character Arnold as a result.
Oh Wow… I was unprepared for that heart-breaking reply.
Q – Who designed the fabulous cover for “Who’s There“?
Kerena – I’ve been working closely with Tim Flanagan from Novel Design Studios. I described the cover I wanted and within an hour or two it arrived in my inbox exactly as I had envisioned. Tim has also designed the covers for my giveaway short stories – Finders Keepers and Scammed – that are available for free download on my website www.kerenaswan.com. He designed my website, set up a mailing list and has helped me create a marketing strategy. He’s an absolute find!
Q – Can you recommend some favourite books that you’ve read over the past few years?
Kerena – Some of the books I have loved are:
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Night Rainbow by Claire King
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
After the Fall by Charity Norman
Hold My Hand by Serena Mackesy (Alex Marwood)
The Not So Perfect Mother by Kerry Fisher
The Regret by Dan Malakin
All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
And many, many more…
Q – Who is your favourite novelist working today?
Kerena – This is a tie between Robert McCammon for his Matthew Corbett series and Michael Robotham for his Joe O’Loughlin series. These are the authors that inspire me. I’d love to write as well as them.
Q – Who do you think is the most underrated novelist writing today?
Kerena – I’m surprised more people haven’t heard of Michael Robotham. His characters leap off the page and sit on the sofa with you. Sean Barratt narrates his audiobooks and brings them to life. My dream is to have Sean read Who’s There? too.
“Who’s There?” will be available for purchase in Canada on December 13, 2019
Kerena Swan trained as a Social Worker and worked for Social Services for over 25 years. For the past 14 years she has owned and managed an ‘outstanding’ rated care agency for children with disabilities. Following serious illnesses she decided to fulfill her long-held ambition of writing a book and getting it published. ‘Dying to See You’, published by Bloodhound Books, was her debut novel.
After many years of writing professionally in the course of her work, Kerena has discovered the exhilaration and deep joy of writing fiction and can be found at all hours in front of her computer. She has recently completed her second novel ‘Scared to Breathe’ which is being released on 3rd June 2019 by Bloodhound Books.
Kerena lives with her family in a small village in Bedfordshire, England and her books are set in the surrounding areas.
Drawing on her extensive knowledge and experience of the problematic world of social work and social studies, Kerena adds a unique angle to the domestic noir and crime genre.
If you would like to hear more about new releases, read Kerena’s blogs and download a free short-story – the prequel to Dying to See You – then visit https://kerenaswan.com and join her mailing list.
Follow Kerena Swan on Twitter.