HomeArts & LitSurf's Up With Erika Marks

Surf's Up With Erika Marks

Talking surfing, friendship and diving deeper as a writer with the author of It Comes in Waves.

Scroll down for details on our Twitter chat and giveaway with Erika Marks.

For competitive surfer Claire “Pepper” Patton, the waves of South Carolina’s Folly Beach once held the promise of a loving future and a bright career — until her fiance, Foster, broke the news that he and Claire’s best friend, Jill, were in love. Eighteen years later, now 42 and a struggling single parent to a rebellious teenage daughter, Claire has put miles between that betrayal and the coast. But when ESPN invites her back to Folly Beach for a documentary on women in surfing, Claire decides that it might be the chance she needs to regain control of her life and reacquaint herself with the unsinkable young woman she once was.

The premise to Erika Marks’ new novel It Comes in Waves (released July 1) has all the makings of a great summer read: a beach setting, lost love, betrayal and a sexy sport. Not a surfer herself, Marks, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, says she’s always been interested in it. “So much of what fascinates me about the surfing culture is how surfers relate to the water,” she says. “I sort of equate it somewhat to fishing. You have to have an incredible sense of unity with the water.”

The sea hugged her body as she walked in, the faint flavor of salt already on her mouth when she licked her lips. At chest deep, they climbed on their boards, and began to paddle out. Rhythm and flow, rhythm and flow. The mantra she’d used in her youth returned as soon as her hands cut through the water, he heart already racing with anticipation.” – Claire, Chapter 16

Marrying surfing with the setting of Folly Beach, South Carolina, located just 15 miles from Charleston, made sense. After moving to Charlotte five years ago, Marks and her family took their first beach trip in the area to Folly. “We fell in love with it,” she says. “I find it very real and earthy, just in terms of the personality of the town. Everyone is very laid back. There’s a realness to it and in terms of the landscape, it’s very lush.”


Her characters, who meet on the beach one summer as a teenaged Claire seeks respite from her dysfunctional parents, hang out at local spots like Burt’s Market, the Crab Trap restaurant and the Washout, where everyone surfs in Folly. Marks took her family vacation there in June and says being plopped back in the setting of her novel was a gift. She ate crab balls at The Crab Shack (the real-life version of the Crab Trap), observed the local surfers at the Washout and planned to get on a board herself, but the waves didn’t cooperate.

Walking into the Crab Trap, however, was like stepping into a favorite pair of shoes. Everything felt familiar, comfortable. The rich, greasy smell of fried fish blew at her and Claire smiled as she took in a deep breath of it. She might have known nothing could change in here. The restaurant was a fixture in Folly, its nautical decor as precious as its menu.” – Claire, Chapter 3

At the heart of It Comes in Waves is an exploration of relationships — those between old friends, young lovers and mothers and children. Marks dives deep in making her characters complex but also very relatable. Tension between Claire and Jill runs high throughout the novel, even though both women have moved on with their lives after Jill’s fateful affair with Foster. Claire must also come to terms with the loss of her first love as memories come rushing back in Folly and try to mend her strained relationship with both her daughter and her own mother.

They’d burned through whole nights in this room, gossiping and complaining, crying and laughing. They’d shared dreams; they’d shared secrets. Now they sat across from each other like strangers trapped in a stalled train, desperate for someone to come in and relieve them of the impossible quiet.” – Claire and Jill, Chapter 12

wavesOn the subject of friendship, Marks says, “Part of my intention was to show just how friendships, especially between women as we age and our lives change and we make different choices, I just don’t know that it’s realistic to maintain that level of intimacy and relatability with each other.” While delving deeper into the ways her characters communicate with, Marks also admits she challenged herself in terms of structure with this book.

“In previous books, I’ve gone back and forth in sort of parallel narratives of the present and the past story,” she says. “I love writing those stories but wanted to try to write just a very linear story. In terms of character development, I’m hoping that I have become stronger at that and I was very aware of that as I was writing this book. In their own way, they all felt very flawed, but I really enjoyed the layers and nuances of these characters.”

Marks’ growth as a writer, storyteller and intimate observer of the characteristics that make us all human is evident in It Comes in Waves. She reveals that next she’s working on a book about shipwrecks and salvage and currently researching the large amount of shipwrecks in Wilmington. We’re thrilled she’s keeping her stories close to the coast and can’t wait to see what literary treasure she manages to unearth next.

Chat with Erika Marks via Twitter on Friday, July 11, from 1-2 p.m. CST (2-3 EST) using the hashtag #southernlit. We also have one copy of It Comes in Waves to give away to a lucky chat participant.

Get food and drink pairings for It Comes in Waves and the Twitter chat here!

Folly Beach Pier photo courtesy of ExploreCharleston.com.

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