Penguin Books, in their infinite wisdom, sent me a copy of Torre De Roche’s book to have a read of. I met her during NaNoWriMo last year and was a little bit excited to see that someone – who had a vision about finishing a book – actually did just that.
I adored Torre’s book and gobbled it up over a quiet weekend last month. I travelled around Australia in 2001 in a hideously unattractive 4WD van with a man and a dog. It was a long and complicated journey – I felt young and stupid for most of the time, I missed home, I missed food and I missed my bed. Torre’s book made me want to step back in time and shake that 22 year old girl and tell her to relax, have fun, talk to interesting people and not feel that the space between what she thought the trip would be like and what it was, was so vast.
I spoke to Torre about her book and here is what she told me….
Torre, what’s your book about in a nutshell?
Love with a Chance of Drowning is about how a chance encounter in a bar changed the course of my life when I met a soulful Latin man who had a boat and a dream of sailing the world.
As a city girl with a morbid fear of deep water (thanks to Jaws), I am not someone you would ordinarily find adrift in the middle of the ocean aboard a leaky sailboat – total crew of two – struggling to keep an old boat, a new relationship and my floundering sanity afloat. But love can make you do crazy things…
We spent two years at sea. This is our story.
I remember when I set off on my first long journey with a partner my aunty whispered – this will be the make or break of the two of you – did you feel a sense that people were willing the relationship on or anticipating it would be fail?
One friend warned me that Ivan might turn into Billy Zane from Dead Calm (i.e. a psychotic murder) and another friend said she would most certainly push her fiancé overboard if they were stuck on a boat together. It’s fair to say that most of people I told were not optimistic.
My family in Australia hadn’t met Ivan, so I think they were less concerned with the survival of the relationship and more concerned with the survival of their daughter.
There is so much pressure in the world at the moment to focus on being in the present, remaining mindful of our actions, living rich lives. Did being out on the ocean give you a way to practice living in the moment, have you been able to carry these skills on to dry land?
I wasn’t really thinking about being present at the time. But looking back, there are some clues that I was…
1. I learned to read the sky for weather. I was always aware of the cycles of the moon, the shape of the clouds and the nuances of the wind. I realise now that I learned to be present with nature.
2. We had one mirror aboard, and it was small and scratched. This had a positive effect on my self-esteem, and I stopped worrying about my hair, my skin, my clothes. When you live in a house, you end up seeing yourself in the mirror probably 5 to 10 times a day. The more you look in the mirror, the more you need to look in the mirror. On a boat, without mirrors in every room, I learned to be present with myself.
3. After I returned to land, I was shocked at how much people multitask their conversations with texting, phone calls and other distractions. For a while, I felt disappointed over the fact that I couldn’t get people to fully engage in conversation. After two years at sea, I had grown accustomed to deep connections with other sailors. Sailors are generous listeners because life is simple and there are few distractions. On land, we’re all spread thin by too many commitments and the constant static of worry, to-do’s, regrets and fears. In hindsight, I can see that I learned to be present with people.
After 4 years in a city, those skills have faded. I’ve mostly adapted to the ways of land: the limited attention span, the disconnect with nature, the worries, the obsession over appearances, achievements, etc. But it’s nothing that can’t be fixed by more time in the outdoors.
Writing a memoir about a snapshot in time allows your private to become public. How did you manage the telling of your story with the need to keep some things to yourself?
Memoirists can’t really afford to hold back. You’re inviting readers into your personal space, into what it’s like to be you. If the writer withholds, the reader will sense it and they’ll lose trust in their storyteller. It will start to sound contrived and self-aggrandizing, and then the reader/writer relationship will die.
If it’s important to the story, it has to go in, even if it makes you feel utterly exposed.
And lastly – will there be a sequel? Love with a chance of thriving perhaps?
Love with a Chance of Thriving? More like Love with a Chance of Surviving. The adventures continue, but I’m not yet sure whether or not there will be a sequel.
Thanks Torre – have a look here for details as to how you can get your own copy of her book. The Herald listed it as a great long weekend read – theres still time people!
So what about you – would you embark on a long journey with a new partner? Would you sink or swim?