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Sara Ochs: Escaping to the End of the World

Sara Ochs: Escaping to the End of the World

There’s something so tantalizing about escape.

I feel it often, that tingle to shed my everyday life, to shrug off my responsibilities and deadlines and obligations. To become someone new, in a new place, with nothing tying me down.

Yet there’s always something that stops me. Whether that’s my family, friends, work. Or just a voice in my head reminding me to be practical.

But what if you didn’t have any of that? What if all you were running from was one horrible, life-changing act that you never wanted to remember? Where would you go? How would you start over?

Those were the questions I was asking myself when I began writing my debut thriller The Dive.

And my answer to one of them, at least—the location for my escape—was quite easy to answer.

Thailand. Specifically, an island in the Gulf of Thailand I had visited years before. An idyllic spot where craggy, tree-lined mountains overlooked turquoise waters and bleached sand. Where people spent their days scuba diving or hiking or sipping fruity cocktails while watching the sun set amid a colorful show of reds and pinks that lit up the sky like nothing I’d ever experienced.

It was the perfect place to start anew. And I’d met a handful of people there who had done just that: escaped their normal lives back in the U.S. or Europe or Australia, to become expats on that beautiful island.

And when I returned home, it wasn’t just the island I kept thinking of, but those people. I pondered what had happened in their pasts to send them running to a small, remote island in the middle of nowhere. Were they running from something? Or towards something?

It was them I was thinking of as I began drafting The Dive, which is set on a fictional Thai island not dissimilar to the one I visited all those years ago. It features a cast of expats, all of whom built new lives on this island after running from dark pasts they didn’t dare disclose, even to each other. I wanted to see what would happen when something threatened to expose those expats’ secrets, and specifically how far they would go to keep their pasts hidden.

In many ways, The Dive was a way for me to escape—maybe not by running off to live on an island on the other side of the world, but by passing the long days of the Covid pandemic by transporting myself (mentally at least), to somewhere beautiful, and tropical, and dangerous. But in many ways, it’s also my love letter to that island in Thailand and to the people brave enough to escape everything and make it their home.

Sara Ochs’ The Dive is published by Bantam on 20 July 2023

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