Amy Waeschle is an author, professional editor, and wilderness medicine instructor for the Wilderness Medicine Institute. She is the author of–most recently–Love in the Time of Surfing, Going Over the Falls and Chasing Waves, A Surfer’s Tale of Obsessive Wandering. Her stories have appeared in publications such as The Seattle Times, Sierra, and International Living. Amy is a former National Outdoor Leadership School Field Instructor, graduated with a B.S. in Geology from the University of Washington, and has a Masters in Teaching from Seattle University.
1. So about your latest book. Love in the Time of Surfing is an obvious echo of the well-known title, Love in the Time of Cholera. Was that just a clever play on a known literary work or would you consider yourself influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez? If so, how so? What inspired you to write The Tainted Vintage?
I would say both. I read Marquez’s book long ago and was swept away by the theme of enduring love and how it tortures us. I’m a sucker for those kind of love stories! But the title came to me when I realized that the theme of surfing in my novels is a constant source of tension—a little like the threat of cholera in Marquez’s novel. I wanted a title that had the words “love” and “surfing” because I wanted readers to be able to find me.
2. Who else are your influences?
I grew up reading mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie. I have a weakness for detective stories too, my current favorite detective author is Jo Nesbo. One of my most cherished books from my college English classes was Frankenstein, the original by Mary Shelley. Today I read a wide mix of fiction and memoirs and love anything well-written with an adventurous edge, like The Painter, by Peter Heller, or Barbarian Days by William Finnegan. But I also love character-driven stories like Donna Tartt’s’ The Goldfinch.
3. What I find interesting about the cover of Love in the Time of Surfing is that someone is holding the woman’s hand, suggesting romance. Yet the book description focuses on a disreputable brother and family concerns. Can you elaborate on this interesting juxtaposition?
The story centers around Cassidy Kincaid, a young widow who doesn’t yet realize that she’s putting her trust in the wrong man. Because of her complicated backstory, and her guilt surrounding the disappearance of her stepbrother, she is vulnerable to distractions like lust. So there’s a hint of a love story, but it’s not in the way you might expect.
4. Why a seismologist as your protagonist? Why volcanoes? Why volcanoes in Costa Rica?
I’m so glad you asked this. I studied geology in college and still have a kid-like obsession with things that blow up (like volcanoes). I was in my grade school art class when the announcement that Mount St. Helens was erupting sounded; I can still remember the thrill of being a part of something so huge and destructive. I wanted Cassidy to share that passion, too, plus I love promoting female scientists and have several good friends doing this kind of work. This is my way of sharing that world with my readers. Why Costa Rica? Besides having great waves and plenty of volcanoes, it’s one of my favorite places.
5. What else is important about the story that you’d like readers to know?
Some people ask me if I really surf. Yes! It’s my passion and I’ve traveled all over the world in search of waves. One reader called my writing “thriller poetry.” Also, Love in the Time of Surfing is the first book in a series.
6. Your other books, “Going Over the Falls”, “Chasing Waves”, etc. suggest outdoor recreation and high-adrenaline activities. Where does that come from?If so, what is the topic? What is it about?
I have always been passionate about outdoor activities, from backpacking into remote wilderness areas to surfing to mountain climbing. There are not many books featuring these activities unless they are a memoir or a how-to book. I started out my writing career publishing articles on travel and adventure but always wondered what it would be like to use my experiences as a backdrop for my fiction. Turns out, it’s almost as fun as the adventure itself! In Going Over the Falls, surfing provides added tension between characters, and the ocean almost becomes a character itself. In Chasing Waves, my memoir, surfing is a way I challenge myself and search for balance in my life.
7. How does someone with a clear passion for the outdoors also become someone who sits at a desk and writes?
Writing about my adventures is almost as good as living them, because I can recall all the wonderful details about each destination, wave, climb, or even a disaster such as an avalanche (which is the opening scene in the prequel to Love in the Time of Surfing). Because I have a family, I don’t get to spend a lot of time pursuing my outdoor passions. So writing about them keeps me satisfied in between. I can get so absorbed in the world I’m writing about that I forget to get outside. I have to be diligent and get out for a run or a mountain bike ride.
8. Tell us about some of your life experiences. You’ve had a diverse background.
When I was in college studying geology, I thought I wanted to study landscapes and how humans were spoiling them by clearcutting, mismanagement, and greed. Then I spent summers doing field work and trying to convey the data to the public and got discouraged. I loved the writing process, especially laying out the facts just so…but getting people to care was difficult. So I tried several different jobs that either gave me lots of time off to be outside or were outside—lift operator, barista, waitress, field assistant, then was thrilled to become a field instructor for an outdoor school. I fell in love with teaching. Working with kids was so gratifying—they cared about our planet. They yearned for adventure and wild places.
Eventually, I realized I couldn’t carry 80-pound backpacks and live in my car forever, so I went back to school to be a teacher. I gave it a good try, I really did! But public school education depressed me. I loved the kids but hated the structure, the force-feeding of the curriculum, and the constant draining of my energy and time. On a vacation with my boyfriend during my third year of teaching, I learned to surf. It was hard—harder than any sport I’ve ever tried. But I stuck with it, and my passion for it exploded. I wanted to share this feeling of new beginnings and hard work and desire with others. I wrote my first story which was published in the Seattle Times, and the rest, they say, is history.
9. What are you working on now? What is this story, Feeding the Fire, about? What inspired it?
I’m working on both the prequel to Love in the Time of Surfing, and a standalone novel, Feeding the Fire. FTF was inspired by two real-life experiences. As a wilderness instructor, I spent one summer working with kids recovering from chemical addictions. The adventure with those boys is still with me today: heartbreaking, inspiring, hopeful, and tragic. The other experience is that I am married to a firefighter, and I wanted a way to share what life inside a fire station is really like, plus the unique challenges that firefighters face in their family relationships. I also (back to things that explode) have always wondered what makes a kid turn to arson—I’m fascinated by human psychology, so I pored through research in order to give my main character, 14-year old Jessie, a complex and realistic profile as an arsonist. And because I love a challenge, I wanted these two things in a novel: the young girl who desperately wants her mother to marry her firefighter boyfriend, Zach, so she can finally have a dad, but who also can’t resist starting fires as a way to deal with her frustration and powerlessness in her life.
10. How can readers continue to hear from you?
My website is a good place to start: http://amywaeschle.com. Or you can sign up for my newsletter: http://amywaeschle.com/signup where you can receive a free copy of Love in the Time of Surfing plus bonus scenes not available anywhere.
Questions for Amy? Leave them in the comments section below for her to respond.
Love in the Time of Surfing by Amy Waeschle is now available for free on the author’s website.
Click here to read other contributions in Jay Lemming’s interview series with authors of literary and contemporary fiction.