Dear readers, tonight with me is a globe-trotting journalist making the journey back to her childhood town, a place she has been running away from all her life.
She is there to reconnect with her family, her drug-addicted brother, and the town’s tight-knit surfing community. In the process she runs into a gang war, a violent drug kingpin, the FBI, and a whole new family crisis.
She is here to tell us about facing her ruinous childhood, her inability to sustain relationships, and her struggle to move on with her life.
Tell us a little about growing up in Half Moon Bay and learning to surf?
When he was a thirteen-year-old grommet, my older brother, Shane, started learning to surf with his buddy, Craig. I was always determined to do anything Shane did. So, I’d ride my bike out of the neighborhood and hunt them down — I had the makings of a journalist even as a tween. I’d pedal as fast as I could…away from that house, away to anywhere. Finally, Craig got tired of seeing me sitting alone on the foggy damp cliffs, watching. For my twelfth birthday, he gave me his old yellowed and dented surfboard, coated with dirt-encrusted surf wax. It was waterlogged, heavy and hideous, but it smelled like coconuts and it was mine. I started trying to ride it, getting drilled into the sand regularly. I was hooked. Surf rushes. It fills my ears and quiets my brain. It washes off the shame.
Do you have any cherished childhood memories?
Cherished? Not a word I’d ever use in the same sentence as “childhood.” I ran away from my fucked-up family (sorry, journalists always have potty mouths) as soon as I’d graduated from high school, when I was just seventeen. I rarely visit my hometown of Half Moon Bay. It can suffocate me worse than a collapsing wave. Craig helped me make my escape to college…at the time, Shane was already self-medicating, escaping in another way.
What do you do now?
Although I’m a business journalist with a well-respected newspaper I like to tell people I’m a professional gossip. Really, what do I do? I get people to tell me things they’re not supposed to say and I’m not supposed to know. If I ask the right question, the person I’m interviewing squirms. That tells me I’m on the right track. I’m a road warrior; I travel frequently for work. It’s a great way to avoid having a real life, one with relationships and commitments. I don’t have pets; hell, I have a hard time keeping house plants alive.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
My latest adventure? Sadly, it’s a retread…experiencing some of the darker corners of life — addiction, drug dealers, gangs, jail, bail bonds, etc. — courtesy of Shane. Once a pro surfer, he’s lived on the eroding cliff edge for decades, landing in the slag heap every now and then, until I dig him out. This time he’s in the hospital, with a mysteriously broken arm. Fortunately, the legal drug drip is helping him come down off the meth. As usual, he won’t tell me who broke his arm or why. He says he’ll sort things out. Yeah, right, not without help.
What did you first think when you heard Shane was in the hospital?
When my father, Joe, called, and he sighed just before he spoke, I thought “Shit, Shane’s dead.” I thought he’d finally overdosed or followed our mother down the rabbit hole.
What was the scariest thing in your efforts to untangle Shane’s current mess?
By working obsessively and traveling, I’m able to run away from myself. But confronting Shane’s struggles unearths the chaos of our childhood…memories I’ve buried deep. I’ve been flashing back to traumas that I don’t want to see.
What is the worst thing about helping your brother?
The worst thing about helping Shane is it turns me into a user. I use my friends. They volunteer, but it still feels dirty. And I descend when I’m on a Shane rescue mission, not into drugs, but into questionable choices, lies, manipulation, scheming…behavior fitting of addicts like Shane.
What is the best thing about it?
It’s those glimmers of hope that the brother I love will re-emerge and survive. Shane will never be stable; he’s always going to be a caterpillar rooting around, never a butterfly. But maybe he could just live, find a simple, honest path, without chemical alterations.
Tell us a little about your friends.
Craig and Dylan have spent all of their adult lives helping me keep Shane liberated and alive. They should have bailed out of this closing-out wave long ago. They are my true family, not the one I was born into. Shane is Dylan’s repeat pro-bono client — without his lawyerly skills Shane would have been incarcerated a decade ago. And Craig pitches in with helping Shane find cheap housing and forgiving employers.
Craig’s an accomplished waterman…and my lifelong surf buddy. He knows how to push me and bring on my competitive streak. We’ve surfed and windsurfed in grinding waves and gale-force winds, when the sea goes gray and the wind chop runs over itself. He’s taught me to control my fear, to use the adrenalin it spikes to heighten my senses and focus.
Any romantic involvement?
Wayne gets me. He’s a fellow surfer and commitment-phobe. We enjoy unplanned serial one-night-stands. Perhaps we could become a more regular thing … someday. But given my pathetic track record on relationships you shouldn’t bet on it.
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
I don’t do well with authority figures. I’m a journalist; I question authority and everything else. Agent Kevin Stokes of the eff.bee.eye likes to dictate. That makes him a dick in my book. He wants to recruit Shane, use him, and then toss him away when he’s done like an empty ammo casing. No pressure or threat would ever make Shane snitch, but I’ll string Stokes along to see what information I can gather from him on the drug dealer who employed Shane, the one who probably pounded on him.
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
Blue. I inhabit the land, but my soul lives in the blue room. I love Mother Ocean’s calm days, as well as her stormy tantrums. Just add water…surf, paddle, windsurf, scuba dive, etc. When I’m wet, I’m a happy girl (pun intended). Top-shelf tequila is my recreational drug of choice; cactus juice devotees know it’s like scotch, it should be sipped, not slammed.
What does the future hold for you?
The McCarren family attracts drama like flies to kelp. Stability and happy endings? That’s a different genre. 😉
Kathleen Doler was raised on the coast of Northern California. She’s an author, journalist and adventure sports addict. She writes for national newspapers and magazines on everything from business and finance to helicopter skiing, sea kayaking and scuba diving. She also travels extensively, mostly to wild places, often while pursuing sports that have the potential to maim her. THE HOOK is her first novel – and was recently named a finalist in the action-adventure category of the 11th annual National Indie Excellence Awards.
You can find Dana McCarren on the pages of THE HOOK.
Join us next week to meet the cold leader of an alien race, living right amongst us. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right), via Twitter, or like our Facebook page to be notified when the next interview is posted.