My interview with Charles Dougherty, author of the Bluewater Thrillers, part 2.
What is the worst thing you’ve experienced on your boat?
We were three days out of Miami and were finishing a rough trip north up the Gulf Stream when we entered Beaufort Inlet in North Carolina. It was 3 a.m., and we were tired. Offshore passages are a 24-hour per day commitment; there are no rest areas at sea. My wife and I alternate 4 hour watches, so we get some sleep, but it takes us longer than 3 days to get into the rhythm. We had been under sail for the entire time until we left the ocean, at which point we dropped the sails and started our auxiliary engine to make our way to an anchorage a few miles north of Beaufort on the Waterway. Just inside the inlet, our engine died. That’s not unusual after an extended period in rough weather; all sorts of stuff gets churned up from the bottom of the fuel tank, and the filters clog when you start the engine.
We were still in the ship channel, and Beaufort is a busy place, with lots of commercial traffic even at 3 a.m. We were in a hurry to get out of the channel to clean the fuel filters, so my wife took the helm and steered us outside the danger area while the boat was still coasting. I went forward and dropped the anchor, not realizing how fast we were moving, and I got both hands caught in the anchor chain, pinching my fingers between the chain and the roller as 30,000 pounds of boat pulled the chain over them relentlessly. My first thought was that when we reached the end of the chain and it stopped, it would cut my fingers off. Before that could happen, I gritted my teeth and fell backwards, pulling my hands free. My wife still says that’s the only time she’s heard me scream. I engaged the chain clutch and got the anchor set, thinking that my days of playing classical guitar were finished.
I had several broken fingers, and lost a good deal of flesh. It took a long time to recover, but I still play classical guitar.
Did/will you use it in a book?
I had not considered it before you asked; maybe I will someday. Mostly I think of it as a dumb mistake, and I’m thankful that I eventually recovered the full use of my hands.
Which comes first, characters or plot?
I always have a few characters in mind when I start writing a book. To me, the plot is secondary; it’s a vehicle to show off the characters.
Plotter, pantser, or in between?
I guess I’m in between. I usually have a loose idea of plot when I start writing, but as the characters develop, they drive the plot. I think it’s important to keep the characters’ behavior consistent with their personalities as they react to one another and their environment, so the plot has to be flexible.
Which part of the story is usually the most difficult to write?
For me, the transition from exposition to development is always the hardest part. I usually struggle for days before I figure out that I’m stuck there, and it’s time to get on with the story. Once I get past that point, everything else falls into place.
Can you quote a favorite line from one of your books?
“I’m hung over and in jail, somewhere in the Caribbean,” he said aloud. “It’s Sunday. I need water and food.” From Bluewater Killer.
FINDING CHARLES DOUGHERTY
Sailing blog about life afloat: http://voyagesoftheplayactor.blogspot.com
Books for Sailors and Dreamers (Non-fiction) : http://www.clrdougherty.com/p/books-for-sailors-dreamers.html
The Bluewater Thrillers : http://www.clrdougherty.com/p/bluewater-thrillers.html