Swan Light by Phoebe Rowe was published by Lake Union Publishing on 1 May 2023.
Phoebe kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Swan Light.
SWAN LIGHT is a dual-timeline historical fiction novel about an elderly lighthouse keeper trying to save his crumbling home in 1913, and the scientist searching for the collapsed beacon a century later. When the lighthouse keeper saves a headstrong teenager from a shipwreck, the two must learn how to keep trusting others, even after loss. And the scientist, an ambitious and practical diver who has built her life on reclaiming things from the sea, must reckon with the fact that some things can’t be found or salvaged — and why it matters to look for them anyway. I like to describe it as a story of the strength in searching, the hope in starting over, and all the lights that show us the way home.
2. What inspired the book?
SWAN LIGHT was inspired by Cape Henlopen Lighthouse in Delaware, where I’m from. It’s no longer there because many years ago, the section of beach it stood on got more and more eroded until one day it simply toppled over. I’d always wanted to write a dual timeline story, and this felt like a perfect fit for that structure. I started wondering: what would happen if something was in all of these old pictures and local stories, but no one actually knew what had happened to it? What other stories and people might be connected to that one building? What else might you learn by trying to find out what had happened that day?
3. Do you plan before you start writing or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
Oh I absolutely need to plan, otherwise I will just write around in circles. What works best for me is creating an outline with the plot beats and character arcs, then turning that into a full book synopsis. Even though things inevitably shift once I start drafting, it helps me so much to have a sense of the pacing while I go, knowing what to build to and when to start building, and I find that knowing more of the threads up front makes it easier to pick out plot twists, connecting themes, and other payoffs.
4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that surprised you?
How long everything takes! I think back now to interviews I’ve seen with some of my favorite authors, and how they were probably working on or even finished with the next book by the time they were talking about a current one.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I enjoy being outside, whether it’s reading in a park, going for a run, or exploring new neighbourhoods. And I’ve more recently gotten into indoor bouldering, which has been a great combination of exercise and problem solving, and really fun.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
I would say my favourite book from childhood, The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. I’ve always loved reading, but that’s the book that really got me into storytelling and worldbuilding and the magic that words can create, and even now I still try to reread it around Christmas. Never gets old!
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Hmm – favorite writing snack! If I don’t have a huge glass of water and a chocolate peanut butter something to motivate me, I’m useless.
About the Book
1913. Eighty-three-year-old Silvestre Swan has dedicated his life to the care of his Newfoundland lighthouse. His petition to relocate Swan Light from its precarious cliff’s edge is going unheard by town patriarch Cort Roland―that is, until a terrible storm brings an unlikely ally into Swan’s life. But is it too late for the stone lighthouse?
2014. Marine archaeologist Mari Adams’s attempts to fund her search for the notorious SS Californian are realized when she accepts a job to find the remains of Swan Light, rumored to have collapsed into the sea one hundred years ago. She teams up with salvager Julian Henry, and the pair unearth more than they bargained for in their search for the ruins. But when a group of treasure hunters threatens their mission, their hunt for the truth turns dangerous.
As past and present collide, the secrets hiding on the ocean floor begin to surface. Can Mari find the answers she is looking for―and at what price?
You can buy a copy of the book here.
(This is an affiliate link so I may make a small amount should you purchase through it. You can also buy Swan Light from your local independent bookshop.)