I’m incredibly excited to have had the opportunity to interview debut author and fellow blogger Torre DeRoche whose memoir, Love With A Chance of Drowning, recently hit shelves in the U.S.A. Read on to learn more about Torre’s amazing adventure, her book, and the advice she has for all of the bloggers and writers out there hoping to publish one day.
A bit about the book
Torre DeRoche is a city girl with a morbid fear of deep water, not someone you would ordinarily find adrift in the middle of the stormy Pacific aboard a leaky sailboat.
But when she meets Ivan, a handsome Argentinean man with a humble sailboat and a dream to set off exploring the world, Torre has to face a hard decision: watch the man she’s in love with sail away forever, or head off on the watery journey with him. Set against a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful and remote destinations, Love with a Chance of Drowning is a sometimes hilarious, often moving and always brave memoir that proves there are some risks worth taking.
KIM: What did your friends and family say when you told them you’d be boarding a tiny sailboat with a gorgeous Latin man you met in a bar (other than “take me with you!”)?
Torre: Some friends were afraid for my life, citing the movie Dead Calm as a clue that Ivan was potentially a psychopath with intentions to murder me out to sea. Others were generous with their encouragement. I found there was roughly a 50/50 split on how people reacted to the news: 50% were excited and supportive, the other 50% offered ‘helpful’ warnings like, “You’re probably going to die.”
Strangely, my parents were absolute enablers. When I thanked my mother for being so supportive, she replied, “Well, I prefer to stick feathers on your wings rather than clip them off.” I’ll never forget that. Without their support, I’m not sure I would’ve found the courage to do it.
K: You sailed the Pacific Ocean for two years. What was your favorite island?
T: The most incredible place we visited was a remote coral atoll in the Tuamotus Archipelago—north of Tahiti, South of Hawaii—that’s only accessible by boat, called Toau. This low-lying reef island is made up of stark-white coral beaches and clusters of coconut palms. The anchorage is a tiny lagoon inside a small pocket in the reef, which creates a fully protected shelter for sailboats to tuck away into. Inside the safety of the lagoon, we found everything you’d ever want from a South Pacific paradise: turquoise water, palms, coral gardens, colorful fish, lazy days, new friends…
Only one family inhabited it, and we were treated like their adopted children. They fed us and took us exploring, and they were very forgiving when Ivan accidentally shot one of them with a spear gun. (Yep, that happened.)
K: There were plenty of terrifying moments for you and Ivan on that boat. When were you the most scared?
T: On my first major ocean voyage from California to Mexico, we ran into bad weather one dark night far off the American coast. As waves crashed against the boat and I vomited everything but my large intestine, I was certain we were heading into waves straight out of the perfect storm. Every time the boat tipped, I thought we were going to roll into ink-black water. My body was rigid with terror.
Turns out the wind was a mild 25 – 30 knots, which isn’t even a ‘gale’ on the beaufort scale! At that time, I was morbidly afraid of deep water, so every splash and bump sounded like death had come a knockin’.
Over the two years we spent at sea, we encountered much more dangerous situations than this one, but my irrational fear of deep water subsided and nothing felt quite as horrendously scary as that experience off the American coast.
K: We know you were afraid of water before you set out on your journey. Do you have any other fears?
T: My dad’s a horror movie writer and I was raised on horror films, so yes, I have many fears. The dark, heights, snakes, zombies, ghosts, Linda Blair…
You’re probably better off asking me what I’m not afraid of—that list is much shorter.
K: You self-published your book before it was picked up by a major publishing house. You have an amazing publishing story. Can you tell us a bit about it?
T: I queried agents for six months and, after having no luck with that, I decided to self-publish. A couple of weeks after launching, I received a Twitter message from a Hollywood producer who had chanced upon my blog and an excerpt of the book. “Is the film option still available?” he asked. “If so, can you post me a copy of the book?”
Ha! I was sure he was some nutjob seeking a free book, but I sent him a copy just in case. Good thing I did, because a few weeks later the producer sent me an official offer to buy the film option.
At approximately the same time, a UK publisher scouted my book through social media and she also sent me an offer to buy the book. Armed with these two offers, it took me about four days to sign with a top New York agent.
My agent immediately pitched to the US and three publishers wanted to take it to auction. Hyperion came in with a great pre-emptive offer and we decided to take it. Shortly after, it went to auction in Australia and sold to Penguin. The rights have also sold in Brazil, and Brilliance Audio bought the worldwide audiobook rights.
K: I can only imagine the thrill of knowing that someone may actually play you in a movie. You and Ivan talk about that over dinner, right? Who do you think should play you and why? Who should play Ivan?
T: My vote is for Mexican actor Gael García Bernal for the role of Ivan. He fits the part because he’s Latin, soulful, and suitably good-looking. The only problem is, Bernal looks more like Ivan’s brother than Ivan, which is… um… awkward.
And me? Well, there is really no way to answer that question without sounding like a complete narcissist, so I’m going to quietly moonwalk out of the room on that question.
K: Tell me about the process of writing your book. Did you sit down intending to write a memoir? How long did it take to write the book?
T: The urge to tell the story overpowered me. I didn’t declare, “I’m going to write a memoir now,” instead the words just started flowing out after the voyage was over. I wrote late at night, between freelance design jobs, and any other time I could steal a spare moment. When I’d written 50,000 words, I finally admitted to myself that I was writing a book.
From living the adventure, to writing about it, to publishing it, this story has occupied eight years of my life. Crazy, huh?!
K: Did you journal extensively when you were on the boat? How did you remember the details of your trip?
T: I wrote verbose, stream-of-consciousness letters to my mum outlining every event and thought in a way that only a mother would ever be interested in reading. Later, after deciding to write the book, these emails became my journal.
I have a strong sensory memory too, so recalling feelings, smells, and sensations was no problem at all. Ask me to recall a specific date or a number, however, and my answer will be a blank stare.
K: Do you have any advice for bloggers who hope to get their own publishing deal?
T: 1. Imagine that the senior editor from Penguin has clicked over to your blog by chance and she’s reading your latest blog post. Is it your best work? Does it represent you well? Will she be engaged enough to keep reading? If not, you should never have published it.
2. While keeping the above in mind, put the bulk of your energy into your book, not your blog. Your blog is a marketing tool; it is not the work of art. Publishers will be charmed by your Google stats, but numbers alone will not get you a book deal. You need a strong story or concept, as well as polished writing.
3. Do some research on pitching books to agents and publishers before you start work on a manuscript. Non-fiction is pitched to publishers with a proposal, not a finished manuscript. Fiction, however, is pitched as a finished manuscript. Memoir is a grey area—it depends on the agent/publisher. Agentquery.com is a good place to start for this kind of research.
K: What are your favorite books and what do you read for inspiration?
T: I read everything and anything for inspiration: thrillers, true adventure, literature, travel memoirs, childhood memoirs, bestsellers, and horror novels. I also get a lot of inspiration from comedy writers like Tina Fey, Louis CK, and Matt Groening. The quirky minds of David Sedaris, Leunig, and Gary Larson (The Far Side) are also a huge source of inspiration. Nothing inspires me more than awful writing, though. Badly written books teach you what not to do.
Some all-time favorite books are Perfume, The Last American Man, Me Talk Pretty One Day, The Imperfectionists, Clan of the Cave Bear, The Mosquito Coast, Stiff, Yoga Bitch, and anything by Douglas Kennedy, Gillian Flynn, Augusten Burroughs, Bill Bryson or Jon Krakauer.
K: What comes next? Will you go back to graphic design? Write another book?
T: Both. Design and illustration is fun, and it gives me a reliable way to pay the bills. Writing is incredibly challenging, but rewarding. I’d like to keep design as my job and writing as my passion.
K: What is your wildest dream? Or are you already living it?
T: My wildest dreams are a mess of unobtainable contradictions. I want to be a psychologist and a mockumentary filmmaker, an attentive mother of six and a childfree nomad, an artist and a financially stable sane person. I want to read every book, watch every movie, understand every person, hear all music, sip coffee in every great city… and still have enough time left over to trek the earth and sail the oceans.
In my wildest dreams I get to experience it all.
There is one way to make this possible: to write fiction. Perhaps it’s fair to say that inhabiting the bodies of various imagined characters through novel writing is my wildest dream.
K: Thank you Torre! So Many Places readers, you can follow Torre Deroche and find her book (which is amazing) by following the links below.
You can buy Love With A Chance of Drowning by clicking here.
Follow Torre’s Blog, The Fearful Adventurer.