People go traveling for two reasons: because they are searching for something, or they are running from something.
British author Lucy Clarke introduces us to a pair of sisters in her novel "Swimming At Night." Mia is the "free spirit" world traveller and Katie is the "grounded" one looking to settle down. "Swimming At Night" is a creative take on the enduring relationship between sisters. To find out more about this intriguing book check out this interview with Lucy Clarke.
1. "Swimming At Night" is your debut novel. How long did it take you to write and how did you conjure up the storyline?
The idea that sparked "Swimming At Night" came from my fascination with travel journals. I love the colourful places they’ve been written, the pages thick with smears of sunscreen and grains of sand. Whenever I travel, I keep a journal and I’ve often thought how intriguing and tempting it must be to read someone else’s travel journal. What an insight it would give you into who they are. With this in mind, I asked myself two questions that were to be the fuel for the story: Who could the travel journal belong to? And, who finds it and why? From there, the relationship between sisters Katie and Mia was born.
The novel took me two and a half years to write because I was doing it alongside running a business. Writing had to be squeezed into every free evening, weekend or precious moment I could find!
2. Katie loses her sister Mia in a questionable suicide. Katie decides to travel her sister's world tour route in an effort to find some answers but discovers that she didn't really know her sister Mia. Do you have a sister? What are your thoughts on sister relationships that are close during childhood but grow apart as adults?
I have an older brother who I’m close to, but no sisters. I think this is why I‘ve always found the bond between sisters so fascinating. When researching and writing the book, I spoke to lots of women about their relationships with their sisters and what struck me was the complexity of their feelings towards one another. There seemed to be degrees of competitiveness, admiration, jealousy, and protectiveness—but what always stood out was the love between sisters. This became my driving force in drawing Mia and Katie’s relationship. Over the course of the novel I hoped to show that, despite the pain Mia and Katie cause each other, ultimately their love and bond as sisters is what prevails.
3. Mia's travel journal reveals so much to Katie. Do you keep a personal journal? Do you feel a person's true self can be discovered through their writing?
Yes, I do. I’ve always written diaries and journals and they are a fantastically honest, open and often raw outlet for your truest thoughts. In the novel Mia was more comfortable sharing her feelings on paper than in person and finds the process of writing very cathartic, which is something I can relate to. At home I have a worn and battered oak trunk that is filled with my own journals and diaries.
4. Katie and Mia are quite different in many ways and this is also the case with their love interests Ed and Finn. Which sister do you most resemble? What male character would you be more drawn to?
That’s an interesting question as the sisters are so different. I remember meeting a publisher when I was in the process of selling the book and, when I arrived they said, ‘We wondered which sister you’d be.’ In truth, I think I’m a bit of both. A piece of me goes into every character I write because I need to be able to understand and empathize with each of them. Mia certainly shares my passion for travel and the sea, so I had a lot of fun writing her and exploring what drives her. But I can also identify with Katie and her need for structure and organization to make sense of the world she lives in.
In terms of the male characters, I think when I was younger I would have instinctively found myself drawn to Noah. But ultimately it’d be Finn who’d hold onto my heart because, for me, humour and honesty always come out on top.
5. The sea runs throughout the "Swimming At Night" story. Is this a recurring theme in your life as well?
I’ve grown up on the south coast of England, so the sea has always been part of my life. Cities are wonderful and exciting places to be, but after a few days I feel an almost gravitational pull towards the coast. I love everything about the sea—the pure smell of salt air, the mirror-calm of a dawn sea, the promise of an empty horizon. My favourite place to write, where I have my clearest thought, has always been by the sea.
In the novel, Mia and Katie spend their childhoods by the coast, so it forms an integral part of their early memories. But as they grow older, the sea begins to divide them, both geographically and emotionally. It isn’t until Katie begins to understand the reasons behind her fear of the sea that she’s able to find peace in her relationship with Mia.
6. Now that you are a full time author, has this new lifestyle changed your writing routine? What novel are you working on now?
Being a full time author is a luxury I’m still getting used to. My routine has changed in as much that I now have all day to dedicate to writing, rather than trying to squeeze it around running a business. I typically write Monday to Friday, so that I have evenings and weekends free to spend with friends and family, but often I’ll sneak in a few extra hours here and there!
I’m currently working on my next novel, which I am SO excited about! It’s set on a remote island off the coast of Tasmania, where I have spent the past two winters researching. The story is based around a young woman who has been recently widowed. She travels to meet her late-husband’s family, but begins to discover that the man she married wasn’t who she thought he was. I can’t say too much more just yet, other than to expect plenty of twists and turns!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lucy Clarke has a first class degree in English Literature, and is a passionate traveller and diarist. She has worked as a presenter of social enterprise events and a creative writing workshop leader. Lucy is now a full-time novelist. Lucy is married to James Cox, a professional windsurfer, and together they spend their winters travelling and their summers at their home on the south coast of England. You can find out more about Lucy Clarke by visiting her website lucy-clarke.com. Social media aficionados can like Lucy Clarke Author on Facebook, follow @LuckyClarkeBooks on Twitter and find Lucy Clarke on GoodReads.
BOOKALICIOUS TWITTER BOOK CLUB
The Bookalicious Twitter Book Club will be holding a #SwimmingAtNight Twitter chat with @LucyClarkeBooks on Wednesday, April 10th, 2013 at 6:30 pm EST. Put this in your calendar and please note the earlier than usual chat time!
Purdy's Chocolatier is sponsoring the Bookalicious #SwimmingAtNight Twitter Book Club chat with their Single Origin Chocolate selections from Peru and Ecuador. This is the first time that a single source of cocoa beans has been used to create a Purdy's chocolate bar with a distinct and complex flavour created by the influence of soil, climate and growing conditions.
Sixteen lucky book club members will receive a copy of "Swimming At Night" and 2 Purdy's Single Origin Chocolate selections from Peru and Ecuador! To become a member of the Bookalicious Twitter Book Club you need to register here. Members can participate in the "Swimming At Night" Bookalicious prize pack draw with RTs of #SwimmingAtNight tweets from @BookaliciousCA on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 and by adding their Twitter handle in the comment section below.
BOOKALICIOUS BOOK GRAB GIVEAWAY
We're giving away 2 prize packs with a copy of "Swimming At Night" courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada and 2 Purdy's Single Origin Chocolate bars from Peru and Ecuador! To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment in the "Click Here To Spill It" bubble below and tell us why you would enjoy this prize pack. You have until March 25, 2013 to enter. You must be a YMC member and please be sure you've registered your email address in our commenting system so we can contact you if you win.
To read more about great Simon & Schuster Canada books and find author information visit their website simonandschuster.ca. Social media fans can follow @SimonSchusterCA tweets on Twitter, and like the Simon & Schuster Canada Page on Facebook.
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Wanda Lynne Young
Author photo credit: James Bowden
Sea water background image credit: Flickr by Luis Deliz