Book Club / Meet The Author | Book Club
For this month’s book club we’re reading Claire Fuller’s Swimming Lessons. We spoke to her about writing, music and the act of disappearing…
Have you always been a writer?
No, I didn’t start writing until about ten years ago, when I began writing short stories for an event held in my local library. Before that I hadn’t written anything creative since I finished my English O’level, a long time ago.
Do you draw on experiences from your own life?
Not directly, or at least not for any of the major events in the books I write. But I do use some incidental memories of my own and give them to my characters. For example in Swimming Lessons, Ingrid and Gil go on a picnic but they forget to take a knife with them so have to bite bits off a chunk of cheese; that was me on a beach a few years ago.
Does the plot begin fully formed, or does it develop as you write?
It definitely develops as I write. I have no idea of what the characters are going to do, what the book will be about or how it will end when I begin writing. That makes it both very scary and very exciting – anything could happen (or nothing!).
We’ve heard that you listen to music whilst writing, what was your soundtrack to Swimming Lessons?
Yes, I do. I work out a sound track that seems to suit the mood of the novel. For Swimming Lessons it was Townes Van Zandt, an American singer / songwriter who died in 1997 and wrote rather mournful country music. His eponymous album appears in the book and the character, Flora listens to the track None But The Rain.
Where do you write? Can you tell us a little about the room?
I write at a tiny desk that is barely bigger than my laptop, in my sitting room. It’s the nicest room in the house with lots of windows overlooking the garden. My desk used to face the windows, but the view was too much of a distraction, so I’ve turned it to face the wall. Above my desk on the wall, I’ve hung a painting that I bought myself to celebrate the publication of Swimming Lessons. It’s by the artist, Fran Donovan, and is a seascape from near the area in Dorset where the book is set.
One trait in your books seems to be the act of disappearing… why do you think this is?
You’re right, it is, but it wasn’t something I thought about when I was writing. My first book, Our Endless Numbered Days is about the people who disappear, while Swimming Lessons is about the people who are left behind. Maybe it’s just because the act of disappearing has so many possibilities for what’s happened.
You seem intrigued by the dynamics of families, in particular the secrets they keep. What is it about this theme that appeals to you?
Again, probably because the opportunities for stories are endless. And of course, nearly all of us have families so it’s something that hopefully readers can relate to. No matter how well we believe we know the closest members of our family: our partners, children or parents, there will always be more that we can never know about them, whether these are secrets or just not being inside someone else’s head.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished Good Behaviour by Molly Keane. Lots of people had recommended it to me, but I’ve taken a long time to get round to reading it (it was published in 1981). It’s about a young woman growing up unhappily in Ireland in one of the big houses. It’s beautifully written, and tragic, and will definitely be one of my favourite books of 2017.
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