Skip to main content

Swan Huntley: On the Chaos in Decluttering

Author Swan Huntley discusses the process of writing and rewriting her new novel, Getting Clean With Stevie Green.

Swan Huntley is the author of Getting Clean with Stevie Green, The Goddesses, and We Could Be Beautiful. She earned her MFA at Columbia University and has received fellowships from MacDowell and Yaddo. Her writings have appeared on Salon, The Rumpus, GO Magazine, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among others. She lives in Los Angeles.

Swan Huntley: On the Chaos in Decluttering

Swan Huntley

In this post, Swan discusses the process of writing and rewriting her new novel, Getting Clean With Stevie Green, how COVID meant more time to change things up, and more!

Name: Swan Huntley
Literary agent: Liz Parker of Verve Talent & Literary
Book title: Getting Clean With Stevie Green
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release date: January 25, 2022
Genre/category: Women’s fiction
Previous titles: The Goddesses and We Could Be Beautiful
Elevator pitch for the book: A newly sober decluttering guru—who can’t seem to declutter the mini wine bottles from her car—moves back home and goes on a quest to figure who was responsible for the scandal that ruined her life 20 years earlier. Her feelings for the two main suspects—both former lovers; one is a man and one is a woman—continue to mystify her until she’s ready to confront the truth.

Swan Huntley: On the Chaos in Decluttering

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

What prompted you to write this book?

I wanted to write about a decluttering guru whose life was a mess. That idea was just funny to me. From there, I added other elements. I decided I wanted a book set in my hometown because I hadn’t done a Southern California book yet, and, maybe, it was that decision that prompted me to write a story that reflects my personal experience much more directly than my other books do.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I started this book in December of 2018 at Yaddo. I went there planning to be very diligent, and I sort of was, but I also ended up drawing a lot and making my Instagram page into a series of drawings. After Yaddo, I went to New York for a while and kept writing, and then, I came back to Los Angeles and found out my dad was dying, so life and writing paused. He died about two months later, and I went to a small town in Florida, where I finished a first draft. The idea was right, but the tone was wrong.

I ended up rewriting the book in New York and rewriting it again in Long Beach. I can’t remember now how many times I rewrote this book, but it doesn’t really matter because the great part about pain is that you forget it eventually. I sold the book in early 2020, and I was so relieved, but I ended up doing a massive edit after it was sold.

My editor said, “What about multiple narrators?” And my immediate reaction was, “Absolutely not.” This is how I always react when somebody gives me a really big note. But then COVID pushed the pub date back, so there was extra time, and this idea about multiple narrators kept gnawing at me. So, I ended up doing it. The book now has four or five narrators.

Swan Huntley: On the Chaos in Decluttering

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

Summing up what I said above, the surprising thing was that this fairly short book about decluttering turned out to be the messiest book journey ever.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

Entertainment. I’ve been asked several times now if the reason I wrote this book is to help somebody else get sober, and the answer is no. That’s not because I don’t want to be helpful. I do. If fiction can help anybody do anything positive in their lives, then I think that’s so wonderful. My driving force, however, is not to help people. It’s to be honest. Honesty, I think, is the most entertaining thing.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Don’t take yourself too seriously. We’re not trying to get to Saturn. We’re writing fiction. It’s not that serious.

Breaking Into Copywriting 101

Writing is your passion. Why not make it your day job, too? Whether you’re an aspiring screenwriter, novelist or playwright, or even just an avid reader, you can turn your love for words into a lucrative career as a professional copywriter. Learn how to become a copywriter by building your portfolio and marketing your services through this online workshop.

Click to continue.

Writing a Debut Novel as a Woman of a Certain Age

Writing a Debut Novel as a Woman of a Certain Age

Debut novelist Barbara Graham discusses the experience of publishing her debut novel in her 70s and how life experience made her story more powerful.

In a Dream

In a Dream

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, set your story inside a dream.

Writer's Digest Best General Resources Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best General Resources Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top general resource websites as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

From Our Readers

What Book Ended in a Way That You Didn’t Expect but Was Perfect Anyway?: From Our Readers (Comment for a Chance at Publication)

This post announces our latest From Our Readers question: What book ended in a way that you didn’t expect but was perfect anyway? Comment for a chance at publication in a future issue of Writer's Digest.

From Script

A Deep Emotional Drive To Tell Stories (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, read interviews with filmmakers Wendey Stanzler and Maria Judice. Plus a one-on-one interview with Austin Film Festival’s executive director Barbara Morgan.

Paul Tremblay: On Starting With the Summary

Paul Tremblay: On Starting With the Summary

Award-winning author Paul Tremblay discusses how a school-wide assembly inspired his new horror novel, The Pallbearers Club.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: An Interview with Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser, 5 WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our interview with Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser, 5 WDU courses, and more!

Writer's Digest Best Everything Agent Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best Everything Agent Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top websites by and about agents as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

Ashley Poston: On Love, Death, and Books

Ashley Poston: On Love, Death, and Books

Author Ashley Poston discusses how she combined her love of ghost stories, romance, and books into her new romance novel, The Dead Romantics.