Trouble in paradise – Sara Ochs on writing her debut novel, The Dive
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Sara Ochs’s The Dive is an unputdownable thriller about the dark side of paradise.

‘I heard from one of the expats who lived there that a double murder had happened a year earlier a short distance away from the resort I was staying at.’

I first had the idea for The Dive when I was traveling in Thailand in 2015. Like my characters Brooke and Cass, I made my way down to the Thai islands, and while there, I decided to become scuba certified. I was staying on this incredible island that was more remote and beautiful than anywhere I had ever been before.

A few days in, I heard from one of the expats who lived there that a double murder had happened a year earlier a short distance away from the resort I was staying at. I started looking into the island a bit, and it turns out there was a whole string of mysterious expat and tourist deaths in the area that preceded the double murder. Ever since, I haven’t been able to get that mystery out of my mind.

Traveling in Thailand was one of the most incredible trips of my life, because of the beauty, the culture, and the amazing people I got to meet. Setting The Dive on the fictional island of Koh Sang – which was very much inspired by the island I visited in 2015 – allowed me to essentially relive that trip.

I also started writing The Dive during the Covid pandemic when travel was an impossibility, and I was craving those international experiences. Writing The Dive really provided me with an escape and a way to travel while staying still. It’s the ‘armchair travel’ aspect of the book that I hope my readers enjoy most.

I think anyone who has ever been on a tropical vacation has harboured dreams of quitting their day job and moving to that destination permanently – or maybe that’s just me! There’s something freeing in the idea that you can leave behind everything you know to start over completely in a place where you have no connections, and no one knows you or your past. I think places like Koh Sang, which are so remote and so removed from your traditional everyday life make that idea even more appealing.

I’ve always been interested in the expat experience. I lived abroad in Australia for six months during college, and it was such a transformative time in my life. There is so much complexity in living abroad – on one hand, there are possibilities to start over and become a new person, but on the other, there is a whole lot of loneliness and difficulty.

I’m actually going through that same experience right now! In 2022, I moved to Sweden, which has been incredible, but oftentimes difficult. As I struggle to learn the language and adapt to the culture, I often feel like a fish out of water, and that’s a theme I am really hoping to explore in greater detail in future books.

The Dive is out now.


This article was originally published in The Penguin Post, a magazine about books for book lovers from Penguin Random House South Africa.   

Categories Fiction International

Tags Penguin Random House SA Sara Ochs The Dive The Penguin Post

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