June 18, 2020• byGirl Well Read
Welcome to STYLE Canada‘s Boreal Book Club: a monthly meeting narrated by Erin Catto, (reviewer at Girl Well Read), for bookworms who’re looking to scour new pages. Since we aim to shine a spotlight on all things Canadian in life and style, beauty, and health and wellness, it goes without saying that every instalment of the Boreal Book Club will feature a Canadian author and their latest title. Be sure to use the hashtag #BorealBookClub to share with us on social!
In The Swap by Robyn Harding, the cruelty of adolescence has inflicted itself on Low Morrison. It doesn’t help that she’s unusually tall, has hippie, polyamorous parents, and a name that’s a suggestive punchline.
At her high school, Low sees a magnetically beautiful woman posting a flier for pottery lessons. Intrigued, Low signs up for one of Freya Light’s classes where she falls under her spell. Freya, a former social media influencer, basks in the attention that she craves and has been missing.
But Freya crosses a line when she begins to tell Low her darkest secrets and deepest desires. Freya and her husband, Max, moved to escape a scandal that not only ruined Max’s professional hockey career, but hers as well. Low mistakes the oversharing as friendship and becomes increasingly enamoured with Freya, dangerously teetering on obsession.
Jamie Vincent and her husband, Brian, have moved to the island to start a family. Her friendship with Freya makes Low feel threatened. One night, the couples get together to do magic mushrooms and the evening ends in a partner swap. What they don’t know is that Low sees everything that happened and she’s not afraid to use it to her advantage.
As events spiral out of control, Harding delivers a thrilling tale about how toxic relationships can really be. The Swap is a deep dive into obsession, desire and jealousy. Harding’s writing is sharp, evocative, and riveting.
The narrative shifts among the main characters with the exception of Freya, which adds to her appeal and perceived perfection. However, what hides behind her celestial exterior is a dangerous darkness—Harding’s character development is nothing short of flawless. In this novel, Harding expertly builds tension and resentment through venomous relationships. Prepare to be shocked and consumed. This is an absolute must-read for the summer!
Scroll to read Erin Catto’s exclusive interview with Robyn Harding about The Swap.
A rave review from @globeandmail
"Steamy sex, obsession, partner swapping – this one has it all." AND "This book is like watching Succession."
(Succession guys! My fave!)
Congrats to @ajdevlinauthor @CEMcKenzie1 @MeganLMiranda @lucyfoleytweets https://t.co/PuL7xfeVSI pic.twitter.com/odPLw7Pd9X
— Robyn Harding (@rhardingwriter) June 12, 2020
EC: Which character was most challenging to write?
RH: Low was the most challenging to write, but also the most fun. She’s so odd and dark and creepy – but I love her. I’m a huge fan of Zoe Heller’s novel Notes on a Scandal. Low is the teen version of Barbara Covett (played by Dame Judy Dench in the movie).
EC: How did you choose which character’s perspective to write from? Did you consciously leave out Freya’s?
RH: I’m a big fan of writing (and reading) multiple points of view. I chose the POVs in The Swap organically (I wasn’t originally going to include the men), but I purposely left out Freya’s perspective. I felt that she would be most fascinating viewed through the eyes of the other characters who alternately adore and despise her.
EC: The themes of this book—toxic relationships, desire, and the impact of social media—are all relatable, yet your take on them was exciting and fresh. How hard was it to come up with the themes and where did you draw inspiration from?
RH: I write about topics that fascinate me: complicated female friendships, envy, social media celebrity, sex, obsession… And I’ve recently heard about a lot of people having open relationships and practicing polyamory. It got me wondering: How would that really work? Or more appropriately (for a suspense novel): How would that not work?
EC: Describe your writing space and what your process looks like.
RH: I have an office/spare room where I do my writing. One wall is painted a pale lemon colour because yellow is supposed to stimulate creativity. I work at an adjustable desk so I can alternately sit and stand.
EC: Are you a pantser or plotter?
RH: I’m a combination of plotter and pantser; a “plantser” as Karma Brown calls it. Using screenplay structure, I lay out a rough framework and then I write toward the major plot points. But I don’t outline in great detail.
EC: How did you select the names for your characters? I thought Freya’s Instagram handle was very clever!
RH: Thank you! Naming characters can be challenging. A couple of years ago I went to Iceland and that trip inspired the name Freya. Sometimes, I scroll through social media to see if a name pops out at me. I try to make the names age appropriate – I wouldn’t name a teenager Dorothy or call a boomer Brittany.
EC: If you could tell your younger self something about writing and becoming an author, what would it be?
RH: I’d tell myself that being an author is not a career with a smooth trajectory. It’s a rollercoaster of ups and downs and you have to be willing to adapt, change, and grow. I’d tell myself that some people won’t like my work and that’s okay. Just focus on the part you love – the writing.
EC: What are you working on now?
RH: I’m just starting a new book about a family that is being harassed by a gang of faceless teens. The family members all profess their innocence and deny any knowledge of why they’re being assaulted, but each of them has a dark secret. And one of them has brought this attack upon their home.
Follow Robyn on Twitter and Instagram for more updates on her next book!
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Last modified: June 18, 2020