As I've had such a great response from authors I'm delighted to be hosting a second author Q&A this week as part of my Salisbury Literature Festival features. So today it's my pleasure to welcome Libby Page to talk about her debut novel The Lido which Emma reviewed earlier in the Summer here, her writing and of course her event at the festival.
I have always wanted to be an author. When I was little I was always writing stories and poems. As I got a bit older I realised that becoming an author isn’t always straight-forward, so I decided to study journalism at university. I still wanted to write but thought journalism might be more of a steady career. After graduating I worked for a year as a journalist at the Guardian but found that writing as a job every day meant I had no time or headspace left to write creatively, which has always been my main passion.
I decided to leave journalism and worked for the next couple of years in marketing. The move worked for me – I found that I suddenly had more motivation to write in my free time and that’s when I started writing The Lido. It took me a year to write, fitting it around my full-time job, and then another year to find an agent and get my publishing deal.
If you had to give an elevator pitch for your debut novel The Lido, what would it be?
The Lido is a story about the unlikely friendship between 86-year-old Rosemary and 26-year-old Kate as they come together to try to save their local lido from closure. It’s about community, friendship and will hopefully leave you feeling uplifted and ready for a swim!
Where did the inspiration for The Lido come from?
I first moved to London from a small town when I was 18. At first I found it very overwhelming – I was used to saying ‘hello’ to people in the street. In my second year of university I lived in Brixton, in South London, where the Lido is set. It was in Brixton that I found a real sense of community that made me really fall in love with the city. But I noticed it was a community that was under threat, with big chains moving in and pushing out small businesses and community spaces. It made me think about how much we lose when we lose those spaces where people of all backgrounds come together. I am a keen outdoor swimmer so to me the beautiful lido in Brockwell Park seemed the perfect place to set the novel and be able to talk about this issue of community and its importance.
The Lido has created such a buzz since it was first published in April, what is it do you think that has drawn people to this book and given them such a good feeling while reading it ?
The book centers around normal people who are trying to fight for something they truly care about. I think this is something a lot of people can relate to. And in a time when news headlines are so dominated by bad news, I think people are probably seeking out positive stories as an antidote. The feelgood nature of the book is certainly something readers comment on, which makes me very happy – it’s a wonderful feeling to feel like you’re able to make someone feel uplifted.
Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers...
Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.
Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She's on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it.
So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim - it is the heart of the community.
I'm looking forward to your panel at this year's Salisbury Literary Festival, how did you feel to be invited to be part of the festival?
Salisbury Literary Festival is a very special one for me as it is very close to where I grew up. My parents still live in Gillingham, just two stops away on the train, and as a teenager I had a weekend job in Salisbury. I know it very well so it feels a real thrill to return as an author.
Libby's event with AJ Pearce & Katy Mahood is at 3.45PM on Saturday 20th October at Salisbury Playhouse, tickets can be purchased here
What essentials do you need to have close to hand when you are in writing mode?
Although I write on my laptop I always have a pen and notebook to hand to scribble notes or ideas while I’m writing. Water, a cup of tea and a square or two of dark chocolate are also important!
What would you say is the best thing about writing? And on the flip side, what is the hardest?
I feel incredibly fortunate to now be a full-time author, as writing has always been the thing I love to do more than anything else. I simply don’t feel quite right or quite myself unless I’m writing regularly. It does come with its challenges though. Writing is a very solitary activity so it can be quite lonely at times. I think all creative people tend to be very self-critical and I’m no exception, which can be somewhat exhausting. But I still wake up every day excited to get to my desk and work, so I really can’t complain!
Did you treat yourself to something to celebrate the publication of your debut novel?
When The Lido was published I bought a print of Brockwell Park and lido from a little art shop just round the corner from the lido that is the setting for my novel. It hangs in my living room and every time I look at it I feel incredibly thankful for everything that has happened to me since writing my book. I hope to write many more books throughout my life, but Brockwell Lido will always have a very special place in my life as the place where everything started.