Today I’m pleased to hand the blog over to author, Mary Rowen. She is here to tell us a little about her latest novel Leaving the Beach. I haven’t read the book yet but it sounds intriguing and very promising. Just check Kirkus’ review for proof. I’m sure be adding this book in my TBR pile soon. Welcome to Blackplume Mary!
Mary Rowen, author of Leaving the Beach
The main character in my new novel—called Leaving the Beach—is a lonely, young, bulimic the soul mate of a rock star.
Unfortunately, as Erin becomes an adult, the gap between her and “normal” society only widens, until eventually, she’s forced to face reality in some very difficult and painful ways.
The excerpt I’d like to share with Blackplume readers today is the passage in which Erin gets carried away by music for the very first time. It’s set during the summer of 1978, and Erin has just turned fourteen. She’s a heavyset, socially awkward girl with pale skin, and she dreads September, when she’ll be a freshman in high school. However, because she lives in a beach town called Winthrop, Massachusetts—where the primary summer activity is tanning on the town’s seawall—Erin is often dragged out there by her girlfriends, where she’s forced to wear a bathing suit and lie alongside lots of beautiful girls and cute surfer boys.
Then, one day, when she’s feeling particularly unhappy, one of the surfers starts telling everyone on the seawall to tune their radios to the same station. But he doesn’t tell them why.
Now most of us assumed there was something serious going on—maybe the Beatles were getting back together, or KISS was breaking up—and there was plenty of speculation for the next ten minutes. Then, just as the bell on the local church chimed once, the most amazing thing happened: the voice of a DJ named Mark Parenteau boomed up and down the entire coastline. “Hey all you sweaty listeners soaking up the sun on Winthrop Beach! How you doin’ today? Definitely a no-underwear day, right? OK, so we’ve got a special post-lunchtime request from a guy named Derek, who tells me he’s waiting for the perfect wave. So this song’s for him and his friends. And here’s hoping you catch that wave someday, Derek.”
As the DJ spoke those final few words, the angelic a cappella voices of Queen—wondering if life was real or just a fantasy—wafted up over the wall, over the beach, over the water. Over the whole planet, as far as I was concerned.
Now I’d heard snippets of “Bohemian Rhapsody” before, but never the whole thing from start to finish. It was one of those long songs they didn’t play on my AM station, WRKO, and I got the impression that many of the other sunbathers didn’t know it too well either. Everyone on the seawall started gazing around, trying to take it all in: the volume and the harmony.
But by the time Freddie Mercury—poor misunderstood Freddie—had stopped playing piano and declared that he needed to leave everything behind and deal with the truth, some of the surfers had started playing air guitar, and a few bikini girls were up on their feet dancing. I wished I could dance too, but I was paralyzed, overcome by emotion.
Then Freddie’s voice got a little tougher, and he was screaming at someone who wanted to throw stones at him and spit in his eye. The song had gone from an operatic ballad to a full-on rocker, complete with power chords.
A bunch of burnouts jumped up on the hoods of their cars, pumping their fists in the air. Patty and Cindy pointed and laughed, while all I could do was smile an involuntary smile. I felt myself inflating, like a grinning parade float, rising up over the scene. I drifted down the beach and high-fived Johnny Palmese—who’d temporarily stopped searching for jumper cables to thrash around—and, for the first time ever, his dimples were only for me. Debbie Geraldo, one of the bikini girls, waved as she wiggled her skinny ass, and Derek Brennan, the cutest surfer by far, reached up and pulled me down into his strong brown arms. “You’ll catch your wave someday, Erin,” he whispered.
By that time, however, Brian Mays’s guitar was bringing the song back down for its final verse. I felt Derek release me gently as a puff of salty air tickled my tear-soaked cheeks and returned my soul to its designated spot on the seawall.
Meanwhile, Freddie was assuring us all that nothing mattered, and I knew he was he was right. It doesn’t matter, I thought. It doesn’t matter who you are: beautiful and popular, shy and overweight, tanned, pale, stoned, whatever. Everyone’s OK.
For the first time in my life, I felt linked to the universe, completely tuned in. Is it any surprise, then, that I got hooked on rock & roll after that?
About the author
Mary Rowen is a Boston area mom with a wonderful family that allows her time to write almost every day. Leaving the Beach, although pure fiction, certainly draws on some personal experience. As the tagline states, it’s “a novel of obsession and music,” and rock music has always been a driving force in Rowen’s life. She was also bulimic for over fifteen years, and really wanted to write a story with a bulimic main character. Eating disorders are so complicated—and dangerous—and she hopes Leaving the Beach might encourage people suffering from them to seek help.
About Leaving the Beach
Written with heart and keen observation about the day-to-day struggles of a “functioning bulimic,” Leaving the Beach explores the power of fantasy, then shoves it up against harsh reality until something has to give in this women’s novel set on the sandy beaches of Winthrop, Massachusetts.
Meet Erin Reardon, a lonely bulimic woman who believes she’s fated to save grunge music superstar Lenny Weir. Forget the fact that Lenny reportedly killed himself several years earlier; Erin’s not the only fan to believe his death was a hoax, a last-ditch effort by the drug-addled musician to reclaim his privacy. And Erin has felt a special bond with Lenny for years. So when she gets picked up hitchhiking by a mysterious man who resembles Lenny physically, she makes some quick assumptions. After all, he has extensive knowledge of the music industry, there’s a guitar in his trunk, and he has issues with drugs. She’s finally about to fulfill her destiny…