Cidney Swanson - Bringing an 1598 Earl to Modern-Day California

Cidney Swanson - Bringing an 1598 Earl to Modern-Day California

Cidney Swanson has always had a thing for words. Her parents took the sisters to see Shakespeare plays as well, and as a seven-year-old, Cidney interrupted the actors performing The Merchant of Venice when one of them lied to another in Elizabethan English. Cidney recalls seeing the actors onstage breaking into choked laughter when she called out, “You liar!” Cidney lives with her husband and assorted animals and kids in Oregon where she writes full-time, planning her next novel and her next international adventure with equal enthusiasm. She no longer, however, interrupts theatrical performances. Even if someone’s lying. As our Author of the Day, she tells us about her book, A Thief in Time.

Please give us a short introduction to what A Thief in Time is about.

A Thief in Time tells the story of three high school friends whose lives are turned upside down when one of them accidentally operates a top-secret time machine--and brings an earl from 1598 to modern-day Santa Barbara, California.

Tell us more about Halley. What makes her so special?

Halley had to learn independence at a young age. She has no dad in her life, and her mom has a narcissist disorder. She's hard-working, and her deepest wish is to find her dad, something her mom refuses to help her with. Because her mom does such a terrible job of loving anyone but herself, Halley has frequent moments doubting her value. Her two best friends, however, have given her a much-needed "family."

Why did you pick 1598 as the time period where Edmund is from?

I love the Elizabethan era. I mean, there was a WOMAN on the throne for starters. And then there's the national enthusiasm for theater in all kinds of forms, with Shakespeare at the front of it all. The word-play alone makes this a super fun era for a writer to play in. I tried to walk a fine line between reproducing period dialog and dialect versus keeping the 16th-century characters understandable to modern audiences. I think it works pretty well, although you do have to sort of jump into it feet first as a reader.

What do you enjoy most about writing time travel stories?

For years I wouldn't consider writing time travel fiction even though some of my close friends write in that genre. (Is it a genre? I'm going to say yes.) They would always talk about how the research was the fun part, but it intimidated me. A whole 'nother layer of stuff besides just, you know, writing a story? No thanks! But then I realized I would have a chance to answer some of my longstanding questions about life in the Elizabethan era, and I was off to the races! (And it turns out, six books into the series, that the research really is amazingly fun!)

The cover is very interesting. How did it come about?

I have a cover artist I love working with, Nathalia Suellen. She's completely brilliant. We went several rounds to get this look because I wanted to have something that would work as a template for future stories. (They're all semi-standalone, occurring in different historical periods.) Her work is generally more illustrative, but she took this on anyway and created something magical!


A Thief in Time is part of a series. How do the other books in the series tie in with this one? Can it be read as a standalone?

Each book has its own complete story, with a satisfying ending. There is also a larger story arc for the series, so that makes it nice to read them in order, but you wouldn't have to.

How did you conceive of the unique way the story is told?

Most time travel, whether sci-fi or romance or a mix of both, is set firmly in the historical past. I've always been more interested in what it would be like to come from the past into the 21st century world all of us take for granted. How would they navigate that kind of shock? What things would feel familiar and what would seem weird? How would language usage play into this? I love a fish out of water story! Of course, the trips to the past are where a lot of the fun happens, so my books have a mix of both. Twice as many fish out of water situations, that way.

Are any of the characters in the book based on real people?

In book four, A Crown in Time, we get to spend some time with Queen Elizabeth and her advisers and courtiers, so those are all based on real people. In book two, A Flight in Time, Orville and Wilbur Wright's characters are based on the actual Wright brothers, quirks, speech patterns, and all. Pompey the Great in book three is based on records about Caesar's friend-to-enemy, Pompeius Magnus. And Philip Hamilton, so of Alexander and Eliza Hamilton, is the hero of book five, A Duel in Time.

Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?

I'm absolutely interested in exploring the ways that humans everywhere have a lot more in common than it might look like on the surface.

Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?

Lol! You'll hear writers referring to this syndrome, but for me it's pretty rare as I'm an outliner/planner. I won't know all the details of a story, but I absolutely know where I want it to end, and I find that I can write much more quickly with an outline down on paper, so that means I have fewer of those "Oh no she didn't!" moments than someone who writes by the seat of their pants. There are definitely surprises for me as I'm writing, but they tend to be more along the lines of, "Oh, that's why he/she did this thing! Now I get it!" I often feel like an archaeologist uncovering clues that help me nose my way toward understanding.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get rid of it?

The only way I know to get over/around writer's block is to put my butt in a chair and write. Sometimes I might have to set a really low goal, i.e., "I'm going to write 200 words and then call it a day." The only time (so far) I've been truly unable to write was after losing a loved one. I had to just give myself time to grieve that loss before I was ready to create again.

Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer? Do you have a schedule that you stick to, or is it more in the moment?

I'm super disciplined. Also super stubborn. The two might be related, lol! Kidding aside, though, if I've set a word count goal or page revision goal, I'm going to meet it 9 times out of 10. That is the "stubborn" kicking in.

Where Cidney writes best

What are you working on right now?

I'm about three-quarters of the way through a first draft of book six in the Thief in Time series. One of the settings is a sunny private island in the Bahamas. This might not be completely unrelated to the temperature outside in rainy cold Oregon . . .

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

Right here: And I love hearing from readers. Just know it can take me a few days to respond due to the insistent demands of my imaginary characters.