There is nothing nicer than starting a book that no-one knows about. Sometimes, I watch as author friends share with their readers each step of their writing journey and occasionally, I might put up a post about where I’m at, but, mostly, I like to hunker down, sit in my comfy writing chair and just get the words on the page.
The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club was very much a book like this. There had been no cosy chats with my agent or editor, no great plan starting out, only the fact that I wanted to write something different to what had gone before. I wanted to write a story, set firmly here in the west of Ireland and in one afternoon, on a nearby beach, I spotted the one thing I needed to begin.
I was walking the dog, lost in my own thoughts, when I spotted a bundle of clothes neatly folded on the rocks. This immediately set me looking about, because you never know, right? But then, I spotted a bobbing head and then body, lying back in the icy water. There was something almost meditative about the shape of the swimmer. I know, looking back, it was a combination of my own perspective, the gun metal sky barrelling overhead and the black water – but there was a serenity at odds with everything else around me that made me stop for a moment. I couldn’t in that moment imagine jumping into the icy Atlantic Ocean and staying there for any length of time. I watched for a short while until the woman turned to swim back towards the shore.
Moving off and along the otherwise deserted beach, the image stayed with me. What propels so many to swim daily in our freezing waters? What makes this ritual such a vital part of their well being?
At that point in time, I had no intention of diving in to find out! Much easier I thought to explore the idea on paper, from the comfort of my writing desk with a cup of coffee at my elbow. It’s funny though, as the novel began to take shape, and very quickly, I knew this was going to be a novel, I began to feel a longing to go to the beach and jump in alongside my characters Lucy, Jo and Elizabeth.
The thing is, however, I’m not a natural water baby – I blame a fear of heights. Anything that means I’m even vaguely out of my depth makes me feel slightly panicky. But the more I wrote, the more I yearned!
I talked to women locally who swim every single day, hail, rain and yes, even when it’s snowing. They spoke about the experience with an evangelical zeal. You have to just do it. They invited me, but still, I stuck to my writing room.
Then, last year, the sun was shining. Thanks to lock down, there was nothing else to do. For years, we’ve brought the kids down to a nearby quiet beach. In winter, it’s rock pooling and during the summer it’s swimming. (You may have spotted us, I’m the mother on the side screaming like a lunatic in case they go out past knee high waves if their father isn’t the water with them – thankfully, the teenagers have decided not to join us anymore, I’m a bit relieved, I don’t think I could take the stress of it.
On this particular day, last summer, I did something I haven’t done in years. I put on a swimming suit and when we got to the beach, I peeled off my clothes leaving Mr H open mouthed on the shore. Actually, I think my eleven year old was more than a little surprised too! It was a lovely day, sun shining, blue skies, the beach filled with families having too much fun to notice my awkward trundling about in the water. And it was so much fun. I honestly could have stayed there for hours if it wasn’t for the fact that there was a dinner to be cooked and a dog to keep entertained!
I realised it was far more fun than I’d let Elizabeth, Jo and Lucy have.
I came home and opened up the manuscript again, tweaked things so it reflected my new insight.
The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club was written quietly, a gentle tip tapping on the page of one word after the other. A sure and certain knowledge of where I wanted my characters to go and what I wanted them to experience but their joy and the lunacy of diving into the freezing Atlantic came in full force, after I managed to jump in beside them – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope you do too!
It’s a book that’s been described as uplifting, joyful and life affirming. But for all it might make you laugh, it may also make you cry, I’m really happy with the journey the three women brought me on. Lucy, Jo and Elizabeth personify that indomitable spirit of so many women who take to our waters every day. They are women with stories to tell who’ve come through the worst and remain curious and so much more alive than before – they are women you’ll want to sit down and have a coffee with and women you’ll be rooting for until the final page.
They are: The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club and they’d love you to join them this summer…
(c) Faith Hogan
About The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club:
Three women. Three different stages of life. United by one thing: the chance to start again.
‘Uplifting, emotional and brimming with warmth and humour’ – Cathy Bramley
When Elizabeth’s husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, the only person she can turn to is her friend, Jo. Soon Jo has called in her daughter, Lucy, to help save Elizabeth from bankruptcy. Leaving her old life behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.
As life slowly begins to return to normal, these three women, thrown together by circumstance, become fast friends. But then Jo’s world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.
In search of solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish Sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice that will bring the whole community together…
From bestselling Irish writer Faith Hogan, The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club is an emotional story about finding new friends and living life to the fullest, that will appeal to fans of Sheila O’Flanagan, Heidi Swain and Liz Fenwick.
Order your copy online here.