**Author Interview** with Claire Fuller about "Swimming Lessons"

Swimming Lessons

Bibliomaniac's Book Club recommends "Swimming Lessons" by Claire Fuller as the perfect Book Group choice. There are several posts on my blog to give you lots of ideas for running an evening on "Swimming Lessons" and the links are at the end of this interview. 

Claire very kindly agreed to answer some questions about "Swimming Lessons" which occurred to me as I thought about what sort of things a book group might want to discuss after reading the book. Thank you Claire for giving up your time to answer my questions with so much thought and detail. 

Have you ever found anything left inside a book or have you ever left anything inside a book for someone else to find? Do you write in the margins of books?

I’d really like to find something interesting inside a book, but so far it’s just been rather dull Christmas cards and other old bookmarks. Swimming Lessons was partly inspired by something similar though – where my husband and I (before we were married and when we didn’t live together) hid notes in each other’s houses. Apparently there are still two hidden in the house we now share together, and I’m convinced they are somewhere in one of our books, but we have thousands. Occasionally I flick through a few, but eight years later I still haven’t found them. 

I like my books to be a bit dog-eared; I think it makes them look loved, so yes, I don’t have any problem with writing in the margins. 

If you were going to leave a letter in a book, which book might you choose and why? 

I like the idea of leaving a letter in a book that might or might not be discovered, probably because I would love to find one. But I’m not going to answer this with the name of a book, rather I’ll say that I would leave a letter in a library book, any library book, for someone to find. In fact I might just do that. 

What was the most recent book you bought or lent someone else and why did you choose it?

I bought my husband three books for Christmas. We do this every year – three books each, since we both love them, and there’s a lot of pleasure in choosing, but then there is the anxiety about whether he’ll like them. One genre Tim loves is American books about small-town life (if you can call that a genre). In early December I tweeted: Twitter book advice needed for husband. Likes Kent Haruf, Tom Drury, John Williams, Thomas Savage. So, small town American stories. Ideas? 
I got so many replies I ended up with a list of about twenty books to choose from. This is what I bought him: Empire Falls by Richard Russo, Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell, A Death in the family by James Agee. He’s read the last two already, and loved them. 

Oh great recommendations - might have to add them to my TBR pile!!

Can you tell me a bit about the research for the titles you reference in “Swimming Lessons”? 

Ingrid places each of her letters in one of her husband’s books, and just like her when she grabs the first book without thinking, I didn’t plan that she would do this, it just happened. I tried to reflect the content of Ingrid’s letter in each book she chose even if it was just the title of the book, but in some cases I chose books because they meant something to me – especially We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson, Small Dreams of a Scorpion by Spike Milligan, and Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns. Lots of the books mentioned in Swimming Lessons I haven’t read, especially those about baking and crochet! But in one case, where I chose The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst, I enjoyed it so much, I’ve gone on to read his other work. 

Which book from the titles referred to in “Swimming Lessons” means the most to you or has influenced you or would you recommend as a ‘must read’?

It would have to be We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I’ve read it several times and each time I find something new. This is such an amazing book – simply a great story, but also very ambiguous and subtle and I like how it makes the reader do much of the work. 

When did you last write a letter? 

If you don’t include sick notes for when my children were young and off school, it was a long time ago. I wrote a lot of letters when I was younger, to my Aunt in Australia, to my Nan, to my friends when they went off to university, and even to the girl I sat next to at school. I’m not sure which the last one would have been. I’ve kept all the ones I received though; they’re all still in a box in the loft. 

Gil says “Everyone needs a place to escape to, even If it’s only inside their head.” Do you have a place to escape to or a place to go when you need some space?

I’m lucky that I write full-time, and now my children are at university I’m at home on my own all day when my husband is at work. So physically I don’t need to go anywhere else to escape, except to close my laptop. But I suppose the books I write are also a place to escape to: I can be in a completely different location, time and inside someone else’s head when I want to be. 

Thanks Claire, I really enjoyed your answers and I am in awe of your bibliomania and your passion for books! You certainly have left me a lot of books to go and look up! And I really hope everyone puts Swimming Lessons on the top of their TBR pile - it really is a stunning read. 

Thanks again Claire for all the support and input with my posts this month about Swimming Lessons. 

Swimming Lessons is published by Fig Tree (Penguin) on 26th January 2016.

If you want to read more about Swimming Lessons then please follow the links below:
Bibliomaniac's Review of Swimming Lessons
Bibliomaniac's February Read: Swimming Lessons
Swimming Lessons: A Reading List
For more Bibliomania, follow me on Twitter @katherinsunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) 


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