A fan who had just finished reading The Old Inn at Punta de Sangre asked me, "Theresa, how do you know all these things...the waves, and the tide pools, and getting caught like that?" (She was referring to some of the adventures of my protagonist, Sara.) This turned out to be a fun question to answer.
Writers, in one way or another, ALWAYS draw on what they know, even if they are portraying a space hero trapped in Dimension Five. Some door deep in the folds and synapses of their brains opens to a dream or a memory that they have experienced. That glimmer of thought, ignited by some seemingly random experience, can be pulled, through words, into the illumination of a full fictional world.
In the case of waves, the rhythms of the California Pacific Ocean beat in my identity. I have dived through, flung myself over, surfed atop, been tossed and tumbled by, and transported by the beauty of what seems an infinite number of swells and breakers.
As to the specific scene my fan mentioned, getting nailed by a rogue wave on dangerous rocks, I bear the scars of many such experiences. As a (clueless and lucky) young girl, I roamed my seedy beach town free. A hardy girlfriend and I would walk to the cliffs a few miles from our homes, clamber down to tide pools, remove our jean shorts, and in our bikinis settle ourselves into a lovely sandstone pool, about four feet deep, and warmed by the sun. Then the fun began.
As the tide rose, we commenced our game of "Wipeout," a sort of "Chicken" to see who could bear the brunt of the incoming crasher. We occasionally got thoroughly "rag dolled" and would limp home with bruises and scrapes (already healing from the ocean iodine). Our busy moms, very much of the Mad Men era of parenting had no idea where we had been, and they seemed to accept our battered little bodies as natural extensions of our personalities.
I remain attracted to the destructive potential of waves, to their unpredictability, and to their bigger-than-human power. I love to write about encounters with unedited nature.