With everything that’s been made public this last year about female oppression in the arts and film, in the workplace, and in science, my tolerance for this same environment in fiction is zero. I don’t want to read novels featuring oppressed female characters, and I certainly will not write novels featuring them.

I think I’m ready for a new hashtag, I’ll call it #notanymore

I have two secret goals as a writer.

  1. Write stories featuring strong female protagonists. Smart women who do not need a man to make a decision, are not dependent on a man for money, and who are valued for their instincts and intelligence.
  2. Engage in the fun of role reversal: women as engineers, men as teachers, women as doctors, men as the stay-at-home parent. Normalize girls and women being good at math, and boys and men being caregivers.

My books feature love relationships, both romantic and platonic, mixed with some kind of risky outdoor sport: surfing, backcountry skiing, or whitewater canoeing. My newest book, Love In the Time of Surfing, features a complex sibling relationship mixed with surfing, with an added twist that taps into the Central American sex trade.

When I lived in Sicily, evidence of human trafficking was everywhere. Imagine driving down a backroad, hoping to bypass summer traffic, when three dark-skinned women jump out of the trees and flag you down. At first, you think they need help, so you slow down. But then you notice that they are wearing only garish lingerie. One holds an umbrella to shade herself from the relentless Mediterranean sun. Another woman is squatting in the bushes, her back to the road, cleaning herself with scoops of water. As you pass, you realize that of course they are prostitutes. You are disgusted, shocked. Who were those women? Their skin was so dark, like ebony, and their bodies were tall and lean, like athletes. You ask around and discover that most of them come from Nigeria, and are forced into prostitution by an organized crime network. They are slaves, and bring in more money than drugs.

My curious mind wouldn’t quit. What could I do to help them? Could I write a story exposing this horrible injustice? Confronting the powerful men in control of these women was too dangerous. I quickly realized that the only way to tell this story is through fiction. So I have been researching the sex trade in Africa and Europe, and more recently, in Central America. I haven’t forgotten about those women forced to hail down cars in their g-strings under the searing Sicilian sun. They are alive in my mind, and in my latest book Love in the Time of Surfing, which will be published as a free download this Spring.

In this new book, a young American goes missing in Nicaragua after a string of bad choices. But is he dead or in hiding? His stepsister, a volcano researcher named Cassidy Kincaid, is persuaded by a family member to visit the town where he was last seen. But after the death of her fiancé only one year ago, Cassidy isn’t looking for a risky adventure, let alone to fall in love with the man who betrayed her stepbrother.

The hardest part about writing a book is knowing that it will come to an end, and that the characters you’ve brought to life will become part of your past. That’s why I keep writing, to bring the story alive, again and again.

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