My wonderful client Jack Lopez has been kind enough to agree to guest blog. Jack is the author of the YA novel IN THE BREAK (now out in paperback), which tells the story of three high school surfing friends, Juan, Jamie and Amber. After Jamie beats up his stepdad, the trio steals Juan’s mom’s car and head for Mexico, where they have adventures, fall in love, and search for the perfect wave. IN THE BREAK is an incredible coming of age story filled with the excitement and lyricism of surfing, and tragedy as well.
Jack is a creative writing instructor at CSU Northridge (not to mention an accomplished surfer), and his post is about the intersection of real life and literature. Enjoy!
The genesis for the novel In The Break came from a number of events that happened in and around my neighborhood when I was in high school. Some of this appears in an interview with California Readers. After that interview, I realized that I had left out a main component. Here’s the gist of what I told Bonnie O’Brian for the interview and what appears on their website: When I was in high school two brothers who lived a few blocks over from me met up with some runaway girls, and they went to the mountains, broke in a cabin, and stayed there a few days. When caught, they got in a lot of trouble. When I was in high school a kid’s mother shot his father while he slept. The kid’s mother used the battered wife syndrome as her defense, and was acquitted. When I was in high school one of my friends had a father who was abusive. Many years later I found out that his stepfather and my friend fought when he was sixteen. Sixteen was the important detail because that was the age my friend beat up his stepfather and was no longer hit by him. The biggest influence for the writing of the book was the fact that when I was in high school, my friends and I found this bay way down in Baja California where the waves were really large and the water was full of dolphins.
Yet I somehow forgot about and left out of that interview a major component that influenced the writing of the book. On the last day of school when I was in the eleventh grade–which was a half day–I went surfing at a surf spot called Trestles with my good friend. He was a senior, I was a junior. We surfed a glorious June afternoon. In those days Trestles was part of the base at Camp Pendleton, and access was restricted; therefore there were no other surfers in the water. That same night there was a big party to celebrate the end of school, and I met up with my friend. He had a motorcycle, a 250cc Scrambler, and a station wagon in which we could take our surfboards. That night he was riding his motorcycle. Before I left the party, I told him I’d call in the morning, as we were going to surf the next day. I went home, slept, and when I awoke, I called my friend so that we could go surfing. His mother answered the phone. She was weeping. She somehow conveyed the information that my friend, her son, was dead. Run down on the Pacific Coast Highway in the early morning hours as he rode his motorcycle home from the party.
You don’t ever get over a shock like that. Expecting to surf with your friend only to find out that he’s no longer on this earth. As a teen, of course, I didn’t know how to process it. How do you process such a thing? I know I didn’t cry about it for well over a year. I just buried it deep in my psyche, where it floated then submerged and finally surfaced, becoming a part of who I am.
During my high school years two friends and one acquaintance were killed on the Pacific Coast Highway, one as a pedestrian, two on motorcycles. The character Jamie, Juan’s best friend in In The Break, is, I suppose, a belated tribute to my high school friend.