What inspired the setting of The Swimming Pool?
I live near a lido and every time I go there, I think ‘What a brilliant stage.’ People are literally shrieking with pleasure, but there’s also the ever-present risk of danger, of death.
I talked to the poolside manager and discovered the intense training the staff undergo to prevent accidents and keep people safe. It felt like a miracle that accidents don’t happen more often than they do.
The book has a noirish feel to it. Is that intentional?
Yes, I was inspired by Old Hollywood glamour, that sense of people’s intentions darkening with nightfall. The first time Natalie visits Elm Hill Lido she remarks that it could be Miami Beach or somewhere far more exotic than her safe little suburb. It’s the half-naked bodies stretched out on the deck; the café tables in the sun and the hard drinking; the blurred line between sexual promise and something more menacing. Natalie is a very English character, though. The trees are beeches and oaks, not palms.
I was inspired by Old Hollywood glamour, that sense of people’s intentions darkening with nightfall
Are Natalie and her husband Ed typical teachers?
I doubt it! Part of choosing teaching as their profession was expediency: I needed Natalie to be available for weeks of leisure, it couldn’t have worked if she was in the office all day and checking her email all night. I also wanted a job associated with a certain moral rectitude, a sense of community, good reputation. Some early reviewers have said, ‘This isn’t how teachers behave!’ I know that. She’s gone a bit crazy. The sun has gone to her head.
That Lara Channing is quite a character…?
She is. She is one of those charismatic people who form elite social cliques quite naturally, who get people to break the rules – with her, for her, or just for the hell of it because she’s a bit bored. She’s a leader and it’s all too easy to get swept up by her. If you step back a little, you’re not sure whether she should be running for Parliament or be locked up for her own protection. What makes this circle interesting is that they are all parents and, whether they realize it or not, they are modelling behaviour.
What message are you sending your readers?
Like my previous book, The Sudden Departure of the Frasers, The Swimming Pool is a cautionary tale. If something sexy and glittery is offered to you, apparently with no strings attached, then you can be pretty sure that there will be strings and that they will cut into your skin very painfully. That makes me sound very cynical, but I’ve just been around the block. I’m sharing my wisdom here!