1.Going Over the Falls is a surfing story as much as it is a story about relationships. Ca you tell us about your surfing background?
My boyfriend tried to teach me how to surf while we were on vacation in Mexico about 15 years ago. He grew up in Southern California, so surfing was just something he knew how to do. He was telling me to “paddle, paddle, paddle!” and I wasn’t catching any waves. It was a disaster, but the experience was this grand adventure. After that, I could not get surfing out of my mind.
2. How did this passion lead to both travel and writing?
I wanted to improve my surfing skills, but it is very hard to do so in Washington State where the water is freezing cold and accessing the beaches often requires an overnight camping trip.
I began to fantasize about traveling to places where I could experience warm water and consistent waves that I could check while drinking my morning coffee. It seemed like every trip we took, whether it was in the Northwest or Costa Rica, we had some kind of adventure—or misadventure.
I do not know if it is something inherent about surfing, or if I somehow invite these mishaps, but the stories kept piling up. I felt compelled to share them.
8. Your main character, Lorna, surfs very dangerous waves. Do you surf waves like that?
No way! I mean, sure, I have surfed powerful waves, in Fiji, in Morocco, in Mexico, but nothing like the characters in Going Over the Falls.
9. Then how can you write about it? One of your reviewers says your surf scenes “read like thriller poetry.”
Most of the surf scenes were written from my experiences in Fiji and Mexico. The thrill of taking off on a steep wave, of flying down the line, is universal no matter how big the wave is. And, that is the beauty of fiction, right?
Just because I am not a brain surgeon does not mean I cannot write about it. Plus I did my research—not just the in-water kind—on surfing. I watched every surf film, read every memoir or blog related to big-wave surfing.
10. Speaking of brain surgery, your main character, Lorna is an E.R. doctor. Why did you choose this profession?
I have a background in wilderness medicine. On one of our surf trips in Costa Rica, I earned the nickname “Night Nurse” after the Gregory Isaacs song, because I was always patching everyone up in the evenings so we could be ready to surf the next morning.
I wanted Lorna to have a source of power as she tried to reconnect with her mother, Alex, who had always dominated her. In the book, Alex is dying of cancer but is in denial. Lorna uses her medical knowledge to help her, but not in the way she expects.
11. How long did Going Over the Falls take to write?
It is a longer process than any of my other projects, about eight years.
Whoa! That is a long time.
Well, the first draft was terrible. So I put it away for a while. Then I would take it out, rewrite it, then put it away and forget it. But I could not forget it, even though I tried very hard.
12. Why would you want to forget it?
Because getting it 100% right is so hard and takes a great amount of diligence.
I lost my faith a few times and thought, maybe I should just give up—this is not working, it is too hard, it is never going to be right. But the story would not leave me alone.
So this last time, about a year and a half ago, I pulled it out again and I found I had the strength and the skill to finally tell the story the way I wanted to.
14. What shocked or surprised you most about writing this book?
I am fascinated by the idea of role reversal. In Going Over the Falls, the female and male leads have personalities that go against the stereotype: Lorna has commitment issues and Joe desperately wants a family. I was thrilled that it worked. I was surprised most by Garth, the big-wave surfer who seems shallow and selfish at first but who, in the end, is much more complex, and teaches Lorna a valuable lesson.
15. Where can people get a copy of your book?
It is available anywhere books are sold, but I love connecting with readers, so I also sell books from my website:
That way, I can sign each copy. Also, people who buy off my site will get my special report: “The Best 7 Places to Have Sex on the Beach.”
16. Do you think that people who do not surf can relate to the almost mystical experience surfing brings to its aficionados?
That is probably why I feel so compelled to write about the surfing experience, because people who do not surf have a hard time understanding its draw.
17. Are surfers better people?
No, surfers are not better people. Maybe more adventurous? Surfers can be just as selfish and egotistical, or as friendly and generous, as non-surfers.
18. Why do you deal with cancer in your book ?
I wanted a deadline that would motivate Lorna to act, otherwise she would have put the idea of reconciliation off. A terminal illness satisfied this need.
I also wanted to express some of the emotions that I experienced when my own mother went through treatment for breast cancer.
19. Do you have another book project ?
I am working on a story about a firefighter who is trying to save his family from imploding after the mysterious death of a child. There is some surfing, but it is more of a side dish.
20. What do you ride? No, not the car, neither the snowboard, I mean the surfboard ?
My go-to board is a 9’0” Drifter shaped for me by Chris Ruddy. I have ridden it in 3-foot chop as well as double overhead perfect point break.
21. What is the silliest thing you did on a surf trip?
We were in Morocco, trying to find a route to a break we had heard about, when this guy walking a camel appears out of nowhere. I really wanted to take a picture of him. I speak a little bit of French, so I asked if he would not mind. He got the camel to lay down.
I was going to take the picture when he motions me over, and tells me to get on the camel and, in my stupidity, I got on, thinking he would take my picture sitting on the camel and that would be it.
Well, the instant I mounted the camel he gives some command and the beast jerks upright. Let me tell you, those things are tall! He starts walking the thing away from my husband and friend, Rick, who was traveling with us.
The two of them are in stitches, no help at all. I start yelling at the man to arretez-vous [stop] and s’il vous plait [please], but he was ignoring me.
Finally, I got him to stop and let me down. By this time I figured out his scam, he wanted money. Well, we did not have any, but I did find a travel-flattened lemon Luna bar. It may have been several years old. The man accepted my gift and headed on his way. I did get my picture, though.