A Saint in Swindon: Backstory


Our latest title, A Saint in Swindon, is a unique book: a collaborative work of fiction based upon an idea created by readers in Swindon, written by prize-winning author Alice Jolly and supported by the Swindon Spring Festival. We thought we’d give you some insight into how this creative union occurred.

The basis for this project was devised by Artswords, a Literature Development programme, linked to Swindon libraries, which wanted to bring author and readers together, to ‘close the circle’ and enable readers to be both the commissioners and eventual consumers of a work of new literature.

Artswords has its own reading group and at monthly meetings members would question and challenge what authors had written. The aim of this project was to bring together these readers with an author, enabling them to put forward their questions and get an insight into the production and editorial process, where the ideas come from, what the author wants and listens to, who decides what stays and what goes, and who creates the look of the book. The endpoint was to be the commissioner of a new work.

Author Alice Jolly
Author Alice Jolly

Alice Jolly, an author of great merit, was the author of choice. In June 2019, Alice met members of the Artswords Reading Group in Swindon and the process began.

Enthusiastically, they told her about the kind of books they like, what they hoped to see in a story and even offered story ideas of their own. Dutifully, Alice made notes, thanked the readers, and went on her way.

After a few months, Alice was able to produce a draft and was invited back to discuss the story; this turned into a delightful but disciplined editing exercise. Street names were corrected, identifiable characters were changed, and here and there, the story was tweaked. But by and large, the reading group commissioners were very happy with what the author had produced: a funny and, ultimately, dystopian tale, which reminds us of the importance of literature in an increasingly dark world.

Given the quality of the story, the team at Artswords felt that this work should be shared with a larger readership and so set about having it published. They found a vibrant young publishing company, whose aim – ‘to celebrate quality writing and promote the best of new and contemporary literary fiction’ – suggested they were precisely the kind of partner they were looking for. That publisher was Fairlight Books. Our team were keen to see A Saint in Swindon published and publicised in order to reach readers who enjoy quality fiction and an intriguing backstory.

Swindon Spring Festival, Programme Launch
Swindon Spring Festival, Programme Launch

The publication date was planned to coincide with a big celebratory launch at the Swindon Spring Festival of Literature and the Arts in May 2020, an annual celebration bringing together the local community of Swindon and those from further afield for over a quarter of a century. However, due to current circumstances, publication was pulled forward to 15 April 2020 and the launch will be part of the festival’s online replacement program of events which are scheduled to begin on 5 May.

‘We are delighted that we’ve been able to bring this project to fruition and overwhelmed by interest and excitement this book has already generated.’ —Matt Holland, Artswords and Swindon Spring Festival Director.


For more information on A Saint in Swindon and links to buy, click here


Find out more about: Swindon Spring Festival and Artswords