My newest children’s novel, Adrift, contains a section in which a teacher and his student embark on a snorkelling adventure in the Caribbean Sea. Miles from the closest island, they get caught up in a sudden, savage storm and must do some frantic swimming in order to save themselves.
I’ve had some experience with snorkelling and have never found it frightening. In fact, I prefer to be able to see what’s under me in the water, as opposed to brushing my foot against some unknown object beneath me.
But, unlike the characters in my novel, I have never been stranded in the middle of the sea, with no land and no water craft in sight. This situation would surely terrify me. Even the strongest swimmers drown when they panic.
In a month, I will be travelling to Isla Mujeres, a small island off the coast of Cancún. I hope to get in some snorkelling out in the sea.
Acquaintances of mine ask me why I would travel to a hot country when Canada is already so warm at this time of year.
Part of the reason is simply that I haven’t been back to Isla Mujeres in 20 years, that I love the place, and that I needed to return. And since I am a teacher, I have more time to travel in the summer.
But the other reason is research.
Part of my book takes place on Isla Mujeres, part of it involves a snorkelling expedition, and part of it involves the extremely volatile weather in Mexico in August.
I am certainly not hoping for any hurricanes when I travel there but I do anticipate weather that changes quite quickly from sun to torrential rain.
One of my colleagues said, “Writers should be able to use their research as tax write-offs.”