Born a crop-duster’s daughter, Wendy S. Swore grew up flying over fields with her dad, which meant long drives before dawn to be ready to take flight at first light. As her family moved from state to state for work, and her facial tumor made it difficult to fit in, Wendy found friends in books, weird pets and imagination. After all, a pet tarantula makes a pretty cool conversation starter, but imagining unicorns, trolls and dragons as real is even better. She jokes that Hagrid is a kindred spirit.
While Wendy waitressed in college, a cute farmer left a heart-shaped potato as part of her tip and eventually won her hand. Now they farm together with a variety of crops, a corn maze, pumpkin patch, farmer’s market, cat rescue and seven peacocks. With five children to spark her imagination, Wendy writes middle grade books in the winter when the farm rests under snow.
Her first novel was a semi-autobiographical story called A Monster Like Me; her second book, The Wish and the Peacock, was released in 2020. Learn more about Wendy on her website.
A Monster Like Me (1999) (view the book trailer here.)
The Wish and the Peacock (2020)
Biggest literary influences:
Megan Whalen Turner, C.S. Lewis, Wilson Rawls, L.M. Montgomery, Katherine Paterson, Gary Paulsen, Michael J Sullivan, Patricia Briggs … and many more.
Last book read:
The Rose and the Thorn by Michael J Sullivan
The book that changed your life:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle meant comfort, safety and hope for me. At ten years old, while sitting in Pre-Op, waiting for the nurses to take me back to surgery to remove the blood tumor on my face, I was terrified and starting to cry — not loud or disruptive, but silent tears from a kid trying to be brave when things were too big to handle. My mother held me tight and read me chapters from A Wrinkle in Time. As awkward and insecure Meg and her brilliant/otherworldly little brother, Charles Wallace, faced overwhelming odds, I learned that being brave doesn’t mean NOT being afraid. Courage means being scared, but doing the right thing anyway. Meg also taught me that it’s okay to not fit in — that we all have unique strengths. Told with my mother’s gentle voice, this was exactly the message I needed to hear.
Favorite literary character:
As a child, my favorite character was Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery) because her imagination reigns supreme in her world. She’s feisty, smart, competitive and has a thirst for knowledge. She also makes enormous mistakes but rises above them (as seen with her cherry cordial debacle). But now we have Hermione (of the Harry Potter series), who’s brilliant, capable, and strong — the brightest wizard of her class. (Who also sometimes makes mistakes like with the Polyjuice potion.) Frankly, Harry would have been lost without her. I think both make wonderful role models for young girls to feel powerful and driven to learn and succeed. Neither one needed a boy to feel complete as a person; they could stand on their own. These characters aren’t perfect people — none of us are — but they actively try their best to become skilled at whatever they wish to do. Girls need to know they can do anything!
Currently working on:
My current WIP takes place in Hawaii. It’s about a girl in La’ie who likes codes and riddles, has a wonderful imagination, loves the ocean and tidepools, and who makes an unlikely friend in her quest to solve the biggest riddle of all.
For research, I returned to Hawaii this winter to visit my sister, refresh my memory, and explore the island with my friend’s children for a kid’s-eye-view of what it’s like to grow up there. While there, abnormally stormy weather and huge waves washed out part of Kamehameha highway, so we saw them rebuilding and securing the road. Hawaii is amazing. I love how school children on the Big Island left coconuts where the recent lava flows had covered everything. Everywhere they left coconuts, new trees grew, rooting straight into the lava rock with no soil. It’s miraculous to me that trees can grow like that.
Words to live by:
I want to believe that all of us are strong enough to overcome the “monsters” in our own lives, whether they be something around us, or something we carry on the inside. We have to be brave enough to face what scares us, and try anyway. To this end, I’ve always loved the quote:
“Fairytales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” —Neil Gaiman
Advice for aspiring authors:
#1- Read everything. If you have no time, let your unavoidable busy times (commutes, farming, housework) be filled with audiobooks and podcasts to feed your imagination.
#2- When you’re ready to write, turn off your inner critic. Like Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just telling yourself the story.”
#3- Tell your truth. There’s always a part of ourselves in our writing. Don’t be afraid to dip into the well of experiences that make up your life and share the moments that meant something with your characters.
#4- Find your community and share your story. Writer’s conferences have been instrumental in my journey. I’ve found kinship, knowledge, and support in the writing community that I never could have found on my own.
Forward Reviews on The Wish and the Peacock
Forward Reviews on A Monster Like Me
Booklist review of A Monster Like Me
“Weaves its way into your heart! … I honestly can’t say enough positive things about [this book]. The characters were developed so lovingly and are so realistic. They made their way into my heart, and, with Wendy Swore’s magical story spinning, I felt what they felt. I giggled like a child. I cried like a broken-hearted woman and I feared like only a parent can. There are multiple life lessons tucked into these pages that, together, build a truly enjoyable and memorable message of kindness and awareness. This book got promoted to the top of the list of books to read to my children … more than once. I want them to remember this one. 5.0 out of 5 stars.”
—Missy Rae, Amazon reviewer
“This beautiful book touched my heart! Twelve-year-old Paige is on a mission to save her family’s farm while also grieving for a loved one killed in a tragic accident. I laughed at her antics and cried at her pain as she struggles to fit the pieces of her new life together in a way that makes sense in her shattered world. An unexpected visitor on her farm helps Paige realize that legacy is more than just land, and that moving forward does not have to mean letting go of your past. A delightful read for middle-school-age children and adults alike — don’t miss this one! 5 stars.”
—Marilee, Goodreads reviewer
“After reading A Monster Like Me, I was looking forward to Wendy S. Swore’s next book! It did not disappoint! Paige lives on a farm with her little brother, mom and grandpa. Farm life is a lot of work and after the loss of her dad, Paige is determined to keep things going to make her father proud. She finds out that the bills are more than they can handle and her mom puts the farm up for sale. Paige, her brother, and a neighbor friend cook up schemes to make potential buyers turn away. There are some laugh-out-loud scenes here! This book is humorous as well as heartbreaking as we have a window into seeing what running a farm is truly all about — yes the animals are cute, but it takes a lot to care for them, all while the family is navigating the grief of losing one of its members. 5 stars.”
—Cindy, Goodreads reviewer