The southern Jersey Shore has been my home my entire life. When it came time to find the perfect setting for my debut novel, The Other Side of Later, I couldn’t think of a better place. They say to write what you know, and life in a small, shore town is what I know. So many of the places you visit in Sea Grass are inspired by some of my favorite places in my hometown!I’m lucky that I still live in the same area where I grew up so around every corner and down every street, there are memories – great memories. So it’s hard to narrow down my favorite place, but if I had to pick, it would be the beach. Growing up, summer days without the beach were few and far between. While three decades have passed since my first memories on the beach, every time I step foot in the sand, the sweet salt air takes me back to those childhood days.When I wrote the opening of Chapter 1, it was like writing a flashback from my own life. They’re some of the most treasured paragraphs I’ve ever written. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into The Other Side of Later.
“Some of my favorite childhood memories are from summer days at the beach. Squawking seagulls, rolling waves, ice cream men ringing their bells from the bulkhead, and lifeguard whistles comprised the soundtrack of my summers growing up. It may sound rather cliché, but through the craziness of my early 20s, I always found comfort in living – and raising my son – in the same place that held so many good memories for me. Each time I wiggled my toes in the sand, it took me back to a simpler time.
When my brother, Luke, and I were really young, weekends were family days at the beach. Our parents, grandparents, neighbors – Mr. and Mrs. Johnson – and their children all congregated at the 17th Street beach by noon and we didn’t dream of rinsing off and packing up until well past 5. We ate my mom’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, learned to body surf in the ocean with my dad, sat on our grandmother’s lap to get some much needed shade under her umbrella, and somehow, without fail, persuaded my grandfather to dig us a big hole to play in.
As we got older, summer jobs and social lives changed the routine. Our work schedules didn’t always allow us to be at the beach on the weekends. We didn’t dig holes and I certainly didn’t body surf once I graduated from one piece suits to bikinis. Instead of my mom’s peanut butter sandwiches, my friends and I would walk to Loretta’s, the neighborhood diner, for lunch, and breaks from the sun were few and far between as we took turns paddling away from shore in the Johnsons’ ocean kayaks.
The activities changed, but seagulls still squawked, waves still crashed against the sand, ice cream men still ran their bells, and the lifeguards still blew their whistles. The sounds were exactly the same each time I climbed the steps over the bulkhead and onto the beach.”