Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reckless or Risk-taker?

Sailing Writer, Christine Kling…

Circle of Bones, Surface Tension, Cross Current and Bitter End are a few of the suspense novels this “sailor-writer-dreamer-nomad” has published. Seychelle Sullivan, a salvage tugboat captain, the heroine of some of Christine's nautical suspense novels, has been compared to Kinsey Millhone, Kay Scarpetta and V.I. Warshawski.

I got to know Christine at Sleuthfest several years ago and have followed her career with great zeal. Christine has spent over twenty years on and around boats, has cruised the waters of the North and South Pacific, the Atlantic and the Caribbean. Her vast experience has enabled her to create unique suspense novels — tying mysteries of the land to the sea.

For her heroines, life is all about making a living, making love and solving puzzles of murder and corruption.

In her post today, Christine shares with us a new life — which most women only read about… and hers is now real… in a new life on a 52-foot sailboat with her new husband!

Christine, I'm SO happy for you and hope you and he always share “Fair winds!”


I write nautical mysteries and thrillers with strong female protagonists mostly because those were the books I wanted to read years ago, and I couldn’t find them out there on the shelves. I’ve lived aboard and sailed on boats for most of my life — for the last several years as a singlehanded woman aboard my 33-foot sloop plying the waters of the Bahamas and the east coast of the US. As crew, I’ve crossed oceans. Taming a ballooning sail on the tossing foredeck of a small boat thousands of miles from land in the dark of night is my version of normal. But when my first book was published, I discovered that putting my words out there for the public to judge was one of the greatest risks I’d ever taken.

I’ll never forget the afternoon I was invited to an author’s tea at the Don CeSar, a great pink confection of a hotel on St. Pete Beach in Florida. Each author was seated at a round table piled high with plates of scones and those tiny little crust-less sandwiches. You may well be wondering what such a function could have to do with risk-taking, but for a woman who has spent so much time in sea boots and oilskins, I felt a bit like a pelican in a flock of peacocks — especially when they seated me next to this tiny lady in a gray lace dress with perfectly coifed white hair. I introduced myself to everyone at the table, and my seat mate leaned in to me. She whispered in my ear, “I’ve read your book, and your character Seychelle?”

“Yes?” I said eagerly.

The lady sniffed and said, “She’s reckless!” Then she straightened back up, put a lovely smile on her face, and began chatting with the lady on the other side of her.

Of course, as a relatively new writer, I was startled and hurt. Our books and characters are our babies, and it wounds when someone criticizes them — especially when a character is so much like oneself. But I tamed my wobbly chin, put on a smile and made it through the rest of the luncheon.

Later, when I got home I looked more closely at the word “reckless.”
Merriam-Webster: “marked by lack of proper caution: careless of consequences.”
Oxford dictionaries: “Heedless of danger or the consequences of one’s actions; rash or impetuous.”

What is “proper caution”? The female protagonists of both my series are women willing to take risks heedless of the consequences to themselves. And I choose to write about women like this because that is how I live my life. I call that not reckless, but daring to take risks.

So after I was very fortunate to have the first four books in my Seychelle series published by Ballantine, I took the risk and self-published my first thriller in early 2012. At that time, I reckoned self-publishing meant I would never have a traditional contract again, but I wanted to get that book I loved out there. Seven months later after the book had done remarkably well, I received an email from Thomas & Mercer, and my thriller series has a new home at a non-traditional publisher now. Certainly, it was a risk to go with that controversial publisher, but I’ve now sold far more books with them than I ever did at Ballantine.

Just a few months ago, though, I took the biggest risk of my life. I was working on the final edits of Dragon’s Triangle, my second thriller for Thomas & Mercer, and I had to write a blog for my weekly spot on a group blog called Write on the Water. It was late at night and I didn’t feel like writing anything, so I grabbed my iPad and used a funny little app called My Talking Pet to produce a video of my dog Barney explaining why I was unable to write a blog that week. I posted the video and in 15 minutes, I was done and ready for sleep.

The next day, I discovered a comment on the blog from a singlehanded sailor fellow on a boat out in Fiji. He said he too had a dog, and he wanted to know what software I had used to produce the video. I answered him with a quick note explaining how I had made the video. A few hours later, I got a response thanking me for sharing the info. Now, as a writer of nautical thrillers and a sailor, I get quite a bit of email asking me questions. The majority of the people I answer never write me back. They never say thank you. This guy did, so I found myself sitting up and taking notice. I wrote him back and told him a little more about myself and the book I was working on. Soon the emails were flying back and forth, and I learned he was on his 52-foot steel motorsailor in Nadi, Fiji preparing to sail to 2200 miles north to the Marshall Islands. We had so much in common, we decided it was time to “meet” virtually. So just like something out of a romance novel, I fell in love at first Skype.

Wayne was 60, I was 59, and we had both been divorced for many years. Neither one of us was searching for a partner at that point. We were happy and fulfilled with lives full of friends and this sailing thing we both loved. But when my silly Barney video brought us together, we found ourselves staying up all night chatting and laughing virtually from opposites sides of the world. Three weeks into this friendship, he invited me to sail with him on the passage to the Marshall Islands and I said yes.

During those three days of packing, presents and preparation, I had occasion to meet with several friends. Of course, many of them thought I was nuts flying half-way around the world to take off on a small sailboat to cross 2200 miles of empty ocean with a man I had never really met. They warned me — said I wasn’t taking “proper caution” or that I was being reckless. Is it really reckless to take the risk of finding the love of your life?

So I left 3 days later, arriving in Fiji one week before Christmas. Our “first date” was a three-week passage on a small boat during which the rudder failed, we blew out a sail, and we entered the Majuro atoll’s lagoon steering the boat with ropes wrapped around the rudder.

Now, over eight months later, I am so glad I was willing to take that leap heedless of the possible negative consequences. During a two month trip through Europe, Wayne proposed to me in a field of flowers on the island of Malta, and I said, “Yes!” I’ve sold my boat and his big motorsailor just happens to have a desk and book shelves in the forward cabin. That is my new office where I will continue to take the risk of writing my stories about strong, and yes reckless women who are willing to risk danger for the causes and people they love.

Women like me.

Fair winds!

Christine Kling


  1. Thanks for visiting with us, Christine. I am still amazed at the story of your new life... a chapter most people imagine only happens in storybooks!! TJS

  2. I loved this post!! Reckless, indeed!! May all your days be filled with wonderful reckless adventures and thrilling stories!!

  3. Thanks! What sort of sorry creatures (and writers) would we be if we wanted to stay in calm waters all the time?

  4. Thank-you for sharing your story. I found your books when I was looking for something, anything, to read that had a "reckless" female protagonist, i.e. a woman who actually went out and did things. I couldn't find other books like that either so I went ahead and wrote my own.

    Congratulations on your new love, and boat!