Little did Silke Stein know that her obsession with sea glass would lead to the story in her newly published novel. Her story of a family dealing with loss and mystery is set in the coastal town of Fort Bragg on the California coast, and the story of the town’s famous sea glass beach is woven throughout.
In 2013, Silke joined a Facebook group dedicated to sea glass and she was hooked. “I learned so much about sea glass, the best locations and, of course, the existence of Glass Beach,” she says. She met a woman in the group who makes sea glass jewelry and lives in Fort Bragg, home to the famous Glass Beach, a former dump site and now a sea glass collector’s dream. “There was also this strong mermaid vibe in the group. All this made my imagination run wild,” she continues. “And sea glass provides such a great metaphor with its brokenness-to-healing journey. From there, things just fell into place.”
In the summer of 2014, Silke had finished her middle-grade novel, Trina Bell’s Humming Summer, and her editor suggested she write a rom-com or a mystery. She started writing in the summer of 2014 and finished in spring 2016. The result is the beautifully mysterious Foam on the Crest of Waves, published in 2018.
The story takes place in Fort Bragg, and is filled with references to beautiful locations throughout the area: the harbor, the downtown area, the trestle leading north from town, the Skunk Train, and, of course, Glass Beach. Silke paints such a rich image of the coastal town that you feel like you could be there with the characters. But, surprisingly, she has never been to Fort Bragg.
“I fell in love with Glass Beach the first time I saw a photo on Facebook,” says Silke. “I daydreamed about it. I hope the good people of Fort Bragg will forgive me, but I have never set foot in their town.” She says that using an existing setting allowed her to concentrate on her story and characters, adding ideas she got from learning online about the city and its surroundings: the small town feel, the history, and the scenery.
What Silke did bring to the story are her own personality and experiences. “Initially I was shocked how much of my life and personality actually flows into my writing,” she says. “It’s very revealing. But I got over it.” She says her characters are introverted and have a hard time communicating sometimes, a trait she shares with them. She also shares a fascination with sea glass and the ocean with the main character, named Abalone, and like her has experienced grief, loss of a loved one, and has been impacted by infidelity and betrayal.
“I haven’t experienced a sea glass festival yet first hand, though, or drilled sea glass,” Silke continues. “But much like Senor Limón (the pet parrot of one of the characters), I really like to play with sea glass.”
When Silke isn’t writing, she works as a graphic designer in Victoria, British Columbia. Silke and her husband have a small company that publishes board and card games and she also designs book covers for other authors.
And, unsurprisingly, Silke is a beachcomber. Her favorite beachcombing location is at the southern end of Vancouver Island along the Dallas Road Waterfront Trail, a beautiful 7.1-kilometer walkway on the cliff bordering the James Bay and Fairfield neighborhoods. “I love beachcombing. It is such a relaxing, peaceful activity. While I slowly wander the waterline, my eyes scanning the ground, I think about what I’m writing at the time.”
She collects sea glass, butter clam shells, turban snails, Chinese hats, the odd pretty pebble, and photos of jellyfish and starfish on her morning walks along the beach. From the trail, there is access to little coves and beaches, and a spectacular view of the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountains. One of Silke’s most-treasured finds is a small abalone shell (above) that she found shortly after finishing Foam on the Crest of Waves, and her all-time favorite sea glass find is a small dark-purple marble. Tops on her bucket list is to find a Codd marble. “Definitely a Codd marble is my number one for its lovely color and amazing history. I wish we all would still use the marvelous Codd neck bottle today.”
While beachcombing is a must while in Victoria, Silke loves the beautiful gardens, historical homes, and parks in the city. “Called the ‘City of Gardens’, Victoria offers flowers year round. For garden enthusiasts, I recommend a visit to Government House and its beautiful grounds, or to the famous Butchart Gardens. You can drive around Beacon Hill Park and the beautiful Fairfield and James Bay neighborhoods in a horse carriage to see the lovely wooden heritage houses and, of course, more gardens.”
She also recommends a whale watching tour in a zodiac to see the resident killer whales, peacock watching in Beacon Hill Park, visiting Craigdarroch Castle and Hatley Castle, and viewing the world’s tallest totem pole. “If you are able to splurge, treat yourself to a very British afternoon tea in the iconic Empress Hotel, the lovely tea house at Abkhazi Garden, or the White Heather Tea Room in picturesque Oak Bay,” Silke recommends. “Or, just buy an ice cream cone at the Beacon Drive Inn (voted Victoria’s best ice cream for the last 23 years) and take it for a walk in the park or to the ocean.”
Silke is already working on her next novel, The Sea was Made of Pearls, scheduled for release in late summer of 2019. “It will have a similar vibe as Foam on the Crest of Waves: family secrets, love and loss, all things ocean, some mermaiding, and a little sea glass thrown in for good measure,” says Silke. You can find out more about all her books on her website at www.silkestein.jimdo.com.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2019 issue.