Bibliomaniac's Book Club: February's Read **Extra**


Here is an **EXTRA** bit of Bibliomania:
An *EXCLUSIVE* interview with Claire Fuller where she talks about both of her books.

Swimming LessonsOur Endless Numbered Days

Synopsis for Swimming Lessons: 

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.

Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.

Synopsis for Our Endless Days:

1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.

Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

Hi Claire and welcome again to Bibliomaniac's Book Club. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions on both of your novels. It's a real privilege to be able to ask you so much about "Swimming Lessons" and "Our Endless Numbered Days". 

(These questions have been written with a book group discussion about the similarities and differences between them in mind.)

Both books are set in the past – what appeals to you about writing in another decade? Is there anything you have to take into consideration when writing in the past? Is the level of research the same for someone who might set their book in a more distant past?

With my first book I made Peggy about my age, which meant that her story had to start in the mid 1970s. Also, I wanted her and father to survive in the forest undiscovered for many years, and I don’t think that would be possible today with modern technology. So for practical reasons it needed to be set in the recent past. 

And because I don’t plan my books, I just start writing, the same thing happened with Swimming Lessons. I started writing about an old man on a windy beach with his dog, and then realised I wanted to back to his earlier life, so again I ended up in the 1970s without really planning for that to happen. 

I’m sure there’s a lot more research to be done with books set in the more distant past. 

Both books centre around the relationship between a father and a daughter – and a mother and a daughter. What appeals to you about writing about this dynamic?

Again, both those things happened without me planning them. But family dynamics are always interesting. 

Both your books have explored families that are dysfunctional. Which family did you find easier to write about? 

A difficult question! I don’t think either family was more difficult than the other. Just different. 

Both books use locations which are removed or isolated (the forest and the sea). Are there any other themes or motifs that you think appear in both books?

That was deliberate. With Our Endless Numbered Days, the location needed to be isolated, but with Swimming Lessons, it was more that I wanted to write about nature again, rather than needing where they lived to be remote. Both books perhaps use nature as a force that the characters have to work with or overcome – Peggy with the forest, and Ingrid with the sea. And both books are about disappearances. But in Our Endless Numbered Days the story stays with the disappeared, whereas in Swimming Lessons it follows the left-behind. 

Imagination, memory, communication, being lost and the truth are key themes in both books. Can you think of any examples of each of these ideas in both novels?

I'm not going to answer this one because it would probably run to a couple of pages! But it would be a great one for a book group to discuss! 

Repeated metaphors and images are also used as effectively in both titles. Can you find any examples or find your favourite image in both books?

A favourite in Our Endless Numbered Days are the lists. James makes them on bits of paper and then on the walls of the cabin, each becoming more disturbed as he unravels. And then Peggy writes a list of the things she has missed, most of which is food. You can’t beat a list in a book!

And I do like the little toy soldier in Swimming Lessons, which represents Ingrid for Flora. I took my children to the beach a lot when they were children and my son had many little plastic soldiers that he would take with him to play with and my daughter would steal to put in her beach flower gardens. We must have lost so many soldiers in the sand. I wonder if the one Flora finds is actually one of ours?

What was the main difference between writing a debut and writing a second novel?

Expectation. I wrote my second novel before Our Endless Numbered Days had been published, so I had no idea of the reception it would receive, but I did know it had been bought by an imprint of Penguin. Of course I wanted my second novel to also be bought, but no idea if it would. The first did come much easier than the second, where I went down a lot of blind alleys and had to delete a lot of writing as I went along.

Thanks so much Claire - really interesting answers and also  - as an English Teacher!- it's fascinating to hear about how much is deliberate, planned or just emerges more organically in an author's writing. 

If you would like to read more about Claire's novels then the following links will take you to my other relevant blog posts: 

If you would like to find out more about Claire then you can follow her on Twitter @ClaireFuller2 or via her website

You can follow me @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) 


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