A Reluctant Protagonist

Tracy Grogan Author Interview

Flotsam follows a diver that stumbles upon two murder victims. While assisting in the investigation she becomes the next potential victim. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

I knew from the beginning that Ricky would be a reluctant protagonist and that it would be tied to her being a divemaster, so that was the first step. The second was that it needed to be something that was outside of the normal divemaster experience — dive accidents are something they train and any accident would reflect badly on Ricky, so it couldn’t be anything having to do with a diver. As I tried to figure this out, I decided that “place” might help in the decision. Once I decided on Palau, and its complex relationship with the Japanese, I began to research the yakuza and found a story about the yakuza kidnapping a South Korean politician with plans to weigh him down and throw him overboard into the Sea of Japan (spoiler alert: Japanese officials intercepted the boat just as the yakuza were bringing him up to the deck and he was saved)

Ricky is a complex character that even other characters have trouble understanding. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Ricky doesn’t think she’s complex. She is, at her core, conflict-averse. That’s why she tries to keep whole oceans between her and her family. But she has a trigger, which is an innate sense of responsibility. And when that trigger gets flipped, when others refuse to take responsibility and accountability that is theirs, she is stubbornly going to work to right the wrong. But there’s a better answer: Ricky is based on roughly a dozen women divemasters I’ve met over the years. They work and live in a male-dominated environment, 24 by 7. They have to know when to be conciliatory and when to be dominant. They are fun-loving but incredibly reliable once they step on the boat. For Ricky, the history that influences her decision of when to make that switch goes back to her teenage years in Hawai’i and her experience with a man who murdered her best friend.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Obviously, I’ve included a mix of local politics and environmental advocacy in the book. These are prominent in Palau’s everyday experience. In fact, when you enter Palau today, they take up a whole page of your passport with the Palau Pledge. It begins “Children of Palau, I take this pledge as your guest to preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home.” Palau is at the forefront of the concept of shark sanctuaries and continues to expand that model. I don’t think you can tell a story about Palau without including that.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Most people will be disappointed to hear that it’s not called Jetsam. There are actually four categories in maritime law that relate to shipwrecks. Derelict and Lagan are the other two. Book two will be Derelict. I’m a big fan of Tana French and her concept of keeping the story fresh by maintaining certain elements but shifting others around in the Dublin Murder Squad. The sites change and the protagonists change. Minor characters become lead characters. I decided that I would use a primary characteristic of expat divemasters and that every book would be in a new locale. Derelict is based in the Sinai Peninsula in Dahab, a small town with a very famous (and dangerous) dive site. I went to Dahab on December 27 of 2012, one day after the new president imposed a new constitution, spurring protests and clashes throughout the country. Some of my experiences made it into the book. It will be available in June of 2022.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Many consider Ricky Yamamoto to be the island’s most competent diver, but the police think she has a few screws loose. Those who consider her a friend wouldn’t disagree with either assessment.

When her morning dive is interrupted by a spinning tangle of chains and bodies, she is dragged into an international free-for-all. As authorities bicker, and rumors fly, the villains fight to eliminate loose ends, tracking Ricky through WWII tunnels, on a high speed chase through the lush tropical islands, and back to where it all began – the edge of her favorite cliff.


Posted on January 24, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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