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Swimming against the tide

Swimming against the tide

Imagine making a New Year's resolution to swim around the world...when you can't swim! In FIG SWIMS THE WORLD by LOU ABERCROMBIE, 15-year-old Fig does exactly that. Find out why!

This coming-of-age story is brimful of humour, distinctive characters and plenty of warmth, with a great message that persistence and determination can change our lives.

We asked author LOU ABERCROMBIE to tell us more about FIG SWIMS THE WORLD:

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Fig Swims the World and why you decided this was the story you wanted to write?

A: 15-year-old Fig is a girl who's never been allowed to fully grow up thanks to her domineering mother who decides everything for her, from what she wears down to what resolutions she makes. But this year, Fig's fed up and has decided to come up with her own. She's going to swim the world. The only problem is... she can't swim!

I decided to write the story having been on a couple of swimming holidays where I met a wide range of people who all got on because of our shared passion for swimming. From there I started thinking about the interesting characters I could come up with along with the huge array of swims that I could tap into. Fig's inability to swim came next, along with her mother making up her resolutions. Both felt like the perfect obstacles to stand in Fig's way.

Q: At the heart of the book is the relationship between Fig and her controlling mother, why did you decide to explore that kind of relationship?

A: Fig's got a pretty good life. She lives in a nice house and gets to do all the things she wants to do. Never wants for anything. So obviously I needed to put an obstacle in her way and one that would also show why she wanted to run away in the first place. Having a controlling mother when she's 15 seemed like the perfect choice.

At the time I was writing Fig, my eldest daughter was on the cusp of becoming a teenager which required me to change my parenting style to allow her to grow up. This got me thinking: What if Fig's mother hadn't ever allowed her to do that? What effect would that have on their relationship and on Fig herself? So, I drew on my own experience as a parent - the arguments and the learning to let go. I also thought back to when I was a child, feeling frustrated when my parents were too strict and enjoying the freedom when they finally learnt to let go.

Q: Why did you choose swimming around the world as the challenge that Fig would set herself

A: There are so many swimming events around the world these days, it's become incredibly popular. It was also a really nice way of getting Fig to see different parts of the world and of course it's a huge challenge. Most people I know think swimming 2km is a long way, when many of the swims Fig does are far more than that.

Q: Are you a swimmer, or did you need to research it?

A: I LOVE swimming! No need for any research at all. I swim every week and always try to have at least one swimming event in my calendar every year. I've even done some of the swims that Fig does.

Q: How did you plot Fig's 'swims' - and all the travel that would go into getting her there? How long did that take to do?

A: Finding the swims was easy. I already knew about a lot of them, though some are made up or tweaked to fit into the story, especially with location, time of year and distance. But the condition that she needed to swim on six continents made it easier to be more specific when researching them.

Plotting the swims and her subsequent travel itinerary took absolutely ages! It was as if I was working out my own round the world trip and I rather wished that I was actually going myself!

Q: Fig meets some wonderful people on her travels - who was your favourite 'discovery'?

A: I love them all but my favourite has to be the Boss. I just love the relationship that they have and really enjoyed writing all the sarcastic Instagram posts that they flung at each other. It was also nice to write a somewhat ambiguous character who you're not sure whether to like or not.

Q: Fig chooses swimming around the world as her New Year's resolution - what's the toughest resolution you've ever made, and did you keep it?

A: In December 2015 my resolutions were:
1. Drink more water
2. Eat less sugar
3. Shout less at the kids
4. Become an internationally recognised photographer!!

I only managed one and two last year and I'm still failing on three and four...

Q: If you could swim at any of the places she chooses, which would it be?

A: One of the swimming locations is the Galapagos Islands. I would so love to swim there, though there isn't an actual swim event that I'm aware of. Given that I'm trying not to fly anywhere, I suspect this will be on my Wish list for some years to come.

Q: Where and when do you do most of your writing? What are you writing now?

A: I have a desk and a laptop where I do most of my writing, but I also use notebooks to jot ideas down. When I'm at the start of a book and the creative juices are really flowing, I'm constantly having to note things down, especially when I'm in bed and in the bath. My husband even bought me a waterproof notebook to help!

I also do a lot of thinking when I'm driving to my local quarry where I swim once a week. It's a beautiful drive and with music blaring, I get a lot of thinking done.

I'm currently working on a book called Coming up for Air which is about a girl who is forced to move from London to a seaside community where she learns to free dive.

Q: And what do you do to escape your desk?

A: I love to exercise. Swimming, ballet, weight training and yoga. I also play the piano and like being in the garden.

Thank you for joining us on @ReadingZone!

FIG SWIMS THE WORLD by LOU ABERCROMBIE is available from all good bookshops (7.99)

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