Interview: W Bradford Swift
This week we got to sit down with prolific author, W. Bradford Swift. Join us as we talk about how a librarian saved his mother’s sanity by introducing the then fourth grader to the world of books. Years later, he sold his vet practice to pursue his dream of writing and coaching. His different view of success and goal to write fifty books by his eightieth birthday definitely set him apart.
WBS: I sold a successful veterinary practice in 1989 to pursue writing, something my mom was none too happy about! Thankfully, it turned out okay. Along the way, I discovered a combo career of writing and coaching works really well. Being a Gemini, I have an introverted aspect (writing) and a more extroverted part that the coaching serves well. Plus, I’m wired up to make a difference in the world, and the coaching and writing combo provides that more succinctly than the writing alone.
I became an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction as an eleven-year-old boy when my next-door neighbor, Mrs. Crabtree, a children’s librarian, took pity on my single-parent mom. Bored out of my gourd with no one to play with but my mom, I drove her crazy until Mrs. Crabtree brought home a stack of books she knew would hook a young boy’s imagination. It worked. I’ve been an avid reader ever since and for the past several years an author.
CJ: What was the catalyst for you selling your practice? I assume this wasn’t something that you just woke up and did.
WBS: No, it came when a business coach I was interviewing asked me the question, “Dr. Swift, do you want to continue practicing?” And the honest answer was, “no, I want to get out but not before I accomplish what I set out to do. I don’t want to go out the back door with my tail between my leg. I want to go out the top.” I ended up hiring her and even though I figured it would take at least 3-4 years to accomplish what we set as the measures for ‘going out the top’ we accomplished and exceeded them in about 18 months. That’s when I became a genuine believer in the power of coaching. Along the way in building the business, I awakened the dream of being a writer and eventually an author. I have been a lifelong reader of SF and fantasy and more recently visionary fiction. My neighbor turned me on to reading for pleasure shortly after moving to Raleigh NC after my dad died. I was about to enter the 4th grade.
CJ: You have almost 30 books out. How long have you been doing this?
WBS: Well, I wrote my first 2-3 books while I was still in my vet practice. I can point you to a blog post on how my purchasing one of the first Macintoshes had me jump into writing. (https://wbradfordswift.com/my-salute-to-steve-jobs/)
CJ: Are your stories mostly stand-alone or parts of a series?
WBS: Most of them are parts of a series. Two of my early works were going to be the first books of two different SF series with a common thread for genetic engineering gone bad. Along the way, I had the ‘brilliant idea’ to combine the two series into one mega-series which eventually became the FreeForm series. It may have been a brilliant idea, but it was also one of the toughest writing exercises I’ve ever taken on.
CJ: You have a new project. What’s it about?
WBS: I have multiple new projects, but I think the one you’re asking about is the one I’m getting ready to write, which would be my 28th novel. I just finished my 27th, and it’s in the hands of my beta readers and my revision stage. I’m going to write the next book and I don’t have a clue what it will be yet. My project/plan is to chronicle the process from the idea stage through to the finished book ready to be published. Probably will include publishing it as an indie author, too.
CJ: Having published almost 30 books is definitely a goal for me, but when I think about it I get a little stressed. I’m always afraid I’ll run out of ideas. Have you ever found that to be the case for you and where do you get your inspiration from?
WBS: I will have to say that it’s never been a problem. Just the opposite. It’s more like I have all these stories and characters in my head clamoring for attention – pick me, pick me. This is especially true now. Zak Bates, Ra-Kit, Sampson, and Allie are insisting ongoing on their 4th Zak Bates Eco-adventure. Flip and Adam and the Kindred kids want me to write book #7 of the FreeForm series. Amberlin is broken-hearted that I haven’t started on the third book in her series. She’s named after my daughter. And then there’s Tess Barkley and Argos who glare at me from the wall display begging for me to start that series.
CJ: I can definitely relate to having those voices.
WBS: Oh, and then there’s the loudest voice of all, MyMu, which is my name for my creative Muse. I had to write The Fringe Candidate even though I’d never written political satire, but the idea came to me… well, she, MyMu, laid it in my lap one night and then wouldn’t let me sleep until I agree to write it. Luckily, she stayed with me and made it a wonderful experience.
CJ: At what point do you consider yourself successful?
WBS: I have a different definition of success than I think many people do, especially here in the USA. My definition of success is to what degree am I living true to my life purpose, which is to live a purposeful, passionate, and playful life of service, simplicity, and spiritual serenity. So, as long as I continue to live that and to experience that, I am a success. You mentioned one of your goals is to write 30 books. My long-range goal is to write and publish 50 books by the time I’m 80 and to make each one better and more engaging than the one before. (I just turned 71 in May.)
CJ: How long does it take you to write a book from idea to publication?
WBS: It varies. I’d say I wrote The Fringe Candidate in about 3 months from start to finish, though I held out publishing it a few weeks as I ‘shopped it around’ to traditional publishers. Since its focus is around a presidential election, much like what we’re going through here in the States, I thought it was worth seeing if a publisher wanted to take and run with it. I gave that a few months to see, and when no one came forth with a legitimate offer, I self-published it. It’s not unusual for me to have more than one book going at a time, Rabble, book two of the Cosmic Conspiracy series is being read by my beta readers and I’m just starting to brainstorm what book will be next so there’s overlap there.
CJ: Have you self-published all of your stories?
WBS: Yes, mostly. I used a ‘hybrid-publisher’ in 2007 to publish Life On Purpose: Six Passages to an Inspired Life which outlined the whole Life On Purpose Process that my wife and I used to coach people to clarify their life purpose through our coaching company, but all the other books have been self-published. The Fringe Candidate was the first one I shopped around in many years.
I had an agent who shopped around Seeds of a New Birth, one of my first books I wrote back in my veterinary days. He got some interest but no takers so I decided when I took on writing fiction I was better set up for indie publishing. I like control! (Seeds eventually became book 4 of the FreeForm series.)
CJ: What is a hybrid publisher?
CJ: You’ve mentioned fourth grade before. Was there a certain moment that you remember when you realized words had power?
WBS: Probably not really until I discovered coaching. Working with my business coach, Judy, was a life-altering experience. Not only did we produce amazing results, we really did work with the power of communication. I remember one distinction we worked with was to consider that ‘business is a conversation’ and ‘life is a conversation.’ I think that’s when I REALLY discovered the power of words. That work and the personal development work I experienced through going through Landmark Worldwide courses, which are also built on a communication model.
CJ: Thank you so much for sitting with me today, I’ve enjoyed our conversation.
WBS: You’re welcome.
You can connect with W. Bradford Swift via these avenues: