It’s extremely rare that I recommend a book on this blog, but today I feel compelled to share with you Torre DeRoche’s Love with a Chance of Drowning, which I think is one of those timeless travel narratives that if you don’t end up reading it now, you’ll end up reading it eventually. It’s basically required reading for anyone who has ever taken a leap of faith.
It just came out today.
Several other books also came out today, thanks to my habit of pre-ordering books months and months in advance, Dan Brown’s Inferno (in Spanish! um, yay) and The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue (which I have zero memory of ordering but apparently I ordered while eight months pregnant and dreaming of BBQ — for a second though I thought my Kindle account had been hacked).
Anyway, the point is, those books are probably really good. Torre’s book, I can almost guarantee is much better. Unless you really love BBQ and you’re growing a tiny person in your belly.
The premise is simple: Torre is an Australian graphic designer living abroad in San Francisco for a year. She’s promised her family two things: no men and she’d return after a year. Of course she proceeds to meet a guy in a bar, fall in love and when he announces, “oh by the way I’m about to sail around the world, do you want to come with me?” She doesn’t let something like a fear of water and some of the worse sea sickness I’ve ever heard of, get in her way.
Her book trailer gives me the chills:
I asked Torre for an interview, and then I made it all about me and basically picked her brain on how to best approach my book. Wee! Oh and then I asked her the most burning question: is my sailboat with kids idea crazy?
Torre! Thank you for talking with me tonight, where are you right now?
I’m in Melbourne, Australia in a very glamorous location: my parents’ house.
It must be nice to be with family right now, with everything that’s happening, your book just launched last month in Australia and it’s launching today in the US.
Your dad is a screenwriter, what does he think about all of this?
Yes, it’s nice. I’ve been away from home for a while, living in Thailand, so having some family time (as well as my mother’s cooking) is precisely what I need right now.
My dad’s hilarious. He’s very quiet and low-key in person—indifferent, almost—but he shares every small success of mine on his Facebook page. Thanks to social media, I know he’s absolutely thrilled.
He is a writer, so it makes sense that he portrays his joy in writing.
So you have writing in your family but you weren’t always a writer.
Do you think this experience of sailing around the world made you want to tell this story so badly that you had to write it, or was writing something you did before this?
I suppose I was always a writer, but I didn’t really know it. When I was little, I would write obscure stories on the blank sides of dad’s script drafts. My side would be covered in children’s chicken scrawl and crayon illustrations, and his side would be dialogue involving gory horror scenes.
The passion has always been there, and I considered pursuing writing when I was selecting my university courses, but I chose design and visual arts instead.
Flash forward several years: Sailing was a lonely experience, and I longed to feel connected to people. Writing became my tool for communicating, and I kept a small blog to connect with family and friends. Through that, I discovered how much I adore writing. It’s a lot like painting or designing, but with words instead of shapes. You can say a lot more.
Well one thing I can say about you based on reading your book and other things that you’ve written is that you have this highly focused eye for story. How do you do that?
Thank you. You know, I’ve never really made a conscious effort to focus on storytelling. I don’t really think about it, I feel it. I can only guess that this comes from watching 48-hour movie-fests every weekend throughout my childhood. While other children studied maths and science, I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street for the 155th time.
When I start writing something—a book, a blog post, whatever—I have no idea where it’s going. The story kind of unfolds as I go. If I get to the end and find that there’s no cohesion or no purpose to the piece, I go back through it and weave in story or an objective. I ask myself, “What are you trying to say here?” It has to be about a bigger purpose, a universal dilemma—something that everyone else can relate to. Sometimes a story gets unravelled back to front.
But that’s a lot of words to explain something that’s really quite simple: The end needs to somehow satisfy whatever dilemma is created in the beginning. The middle is all the stuff that leads up to the catharsis in the end.
I feel like I write that way on my blog, feeling my way through, but I think it’s really difficult to keep that flow through an entire book.
Speaking of which, you have a blog… having gone through the book publishing process and writing online, do you have a preference for one format?
Do you think certain stories can only be told in a novel? Will we be someday tweeting our memoirs out? (Okay that was a joke.) But seriously do you think it’s more books for you or more blogging or a bit of both?
Book-length is a lot more fun for me. It’s a slow, deliberate process, and nobody gets to see it until it’s done. That means there’s a lot of time to develop rich themes and flowing story.
It is extremely hard to keep the story’s momentum throughout a whole book, but it’s not done in a linear format—it’s woven in over time. Halfway through, you may discover a new thread or theme to exploit, and you can go back to the start and weave it through to the end. You have to read it again and again and pay close attention to the flow.
On the other hand, blogs are quick and dirty. They’re designed to be consumed in a beat, and there’s not a lot of point in obsessing over rich themes or craft. Blogging is a much more neurotic, self-absorbed process too (“Will anyone ‘Like’ this post? Why isn’t anyone commenting?! OH MY GOD I MUST SUCK!”). I find that a little bit soul-destroying.
And yes, certain stories can only be told in 300+ pages. Even at that length, you have to cut every superfluous word to make it all fit in.
Yes, exactly, it puts the writer in constant jeopardy, at least with a book you get some reprieve between deadlines. Which reminds me, I have a writing deadline coming up, then I’m free to do an entirely new and different thing. Do you think I should get a sailboat?
I think a sailboat will be ideal for your family. (Christine’s note: Ha! Yes! Telling this to my in-laws) It’s such a beautiful, symbiotic existence. You’re free to go anywhere at all, and you don’t have to pack bags anymore. Your home is always with you. As long as nobody gets horribly seasick (like I did!) it will be perfect.
Do you still get seasick?
Very! It’s so frustrating. I even get sick on huge catamaran ferries traveling across flat seas. Often I’m the only one on the boat who is ashen. It’s a curse! If anyone has any magical solutions, please tell me (and no, ginger is not the answer).
And yet you still keep getting on boats!
I’ve only been on a sailboat one time since the Pacific adventure. With friends, we sailed to Catalina off Los Angeles, and I was struggling to keep my lunch down the entire time. Everyone else was drinking beer and champagne. Bastards.
So what’s next for you? I read about your adventures motorbiking around Thailand, do you plan to keep traveling?
Absolutely! But with Ivan, it’s always challenging negotiating adventure plans because we have wildly different comfort zones. He wants to fly planes in Alaska during winter. I want to… um… live.
Oh! Drew and Ivan need to get together, because Drew’s dying to do something terribly stupid in freezing cold temperatures (last idea: traverse Siberia in winter). Is this a guy thing?
Must be. And yes, let’s send the men off together, and I’ll meet you in Mexico. We can play with the kids in the sun and create things, and the men can go off and grow giant, rugged beards, kill things, and do all of those other activities that only make sense if you’re flooded with testosterone.
Well, Torre, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me during what must be a whirlwind week for you. I hope it’s okay but I’ve totally been bragging that I read your book in 2011 and KNEW it was awesome, before your agent or editor found you! I guess what I’m saying is if you get Oprah rich, you’re buying me a sailboat, right?
Oh yeah. Sailboats for everybody, baby! Thanks so much for the interview, Christine. It’s always fun talking with you.
Love with a Chance of Drowning, $14.99 released: May 14, 2013, Hyperion
Images, book cover and book trailer all copyright Torre DeRoche. Amazon links are affiliate links.