After The Storm is about a holiday in Central America that goes wrong. The locations are Belize City and the island of Roatan off Honduras in the Caribbean Sea. I have done the 140 mile sail from Belize to Roatan and always felt it would make a great setting for a novel. I kept a journal and took photos and these helped me create the atmosphere of the island. The Roatan in my novel is sun-soaked and stunning on the surface but with something dark underneath
Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands and is ringed by a coral reef, the third largest reef in the world. A lot of cruise ships now come into Roatan, but if you know where to go you can still find pristine reefs and the clearest waters in the Caribbean. There is Mary’s Place which has a narrow cleft in the reef and when you swim through you will find huge sponges and sea-horses and shoals of brilliantly coloured fish.
It’s a long thin island, forty miles in length and two miles wide, fertile, with lush green hillsides and abundant palms. There are white villas built into the hillside with terraced gardens and along the shore you see houses built on stilts reached by duckboard jetties. You pass small harbours with stylish sailboats and yachts. There are working boats too: fishermen’s boats and small ferries that ply between the towns.
The novel reveals how we behave differently when we go on holiday. British couple, Anna and Rob are having an extended holiday in Central America when they meet American couple, Owen and Kim, who have a handsome old sailing boat which they have been living on for three years. Owen suggests they charter his boat and he will take them from Belize to Roatan. Anna does not want to go thinking these are total strangers but Rob is very keen and persuades her it will be a great adventure. Rob has a strong Robinson Crusoe fantasy. He would love to find his own personal wilderness and be tested on his survival skills. He sees getting on Owen’s boat as a way to reach places he could never get to. I think this is a potent fantasy among a number of people who travel – the desire to find a place unseen by others.
The two couples set off together in a 37 foot boat after knowing each other less than 24 hours. These are four people with different life experiences and a boat can be a very claustrophobic place when tensions start to build. They start to find out things about each other which cause unease. There is also the frisson of sexual attraction between the two couples.
What is it about a holiday that frees us from our usual restraint about engaging with new people? Why do feel able to explore the possibility of intimacy with strangers? I think many of us who may be risk averse in our everyday lives will try something more risky and more adrenaline-fuelled when we go on holiday and After The Storm explores these themes.