Saturday, March 24, 2007

finding San Francisco

by Michelle Richmond

On Tuesday, my novel The Year of Fog will hit the shelves. It’s been a long gestation. I might trace it back to the moment on Ocean Beach, some five years ago, when something captured my eye, an image that would become the seed of the book. But I think the novel began long before that, on another coast, in a life so far removed from this one that it is sometimes difficult for me to fathom how I got from A to B.

The story began, perhaps, on the Gulf Coast in the early eighties, when my mother hatched the idea to take a trip to San Francisco. I was thirteen years old at the time.

I remember packing my shortest mini-skirt, a pair of plastic heart-shaped earrings with matching necklace, strappy sandals. No jacket, no sneakers. It was California, after all, in the summer. There’s no need to detail the freezing walk over Golden Gate Bridge in my mini-skirt, the painful trek through North Beach in my impractical sandals, the obligatory journey to Alcatraz where I bought the obligatory orange sweatshirt. I experienced all the things tourists to the city ordinarily do, but I also experienced something else: Ocean Beach. Standing on the shore of the freezing Pacific, feeling the wind whip sand against my face and watching the dangerous waves roll in, I fell in love with the city. I decided that, when I grew up, I would make this place my home. It took me fifteen years to get here, but when I did I dug in my heels.

When I was a kid in Alabama, San Francisco seemed to me like a dream, something not quite real. In many ways, it still does. The Year of Fog came out of that sense of wonder. If I’ve ever written a love letter, this is it. It’s a book for San Francisco, a book for anyone who can’t imagine living anywhere else. The novel begins on a cold, foggy day on Ocean Beach, where something terrible happens. Click here to read the first chapter, here to purchase.

Share your thoughts on Ocean Beach and all things San Francisco by clicking the comments link below.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Oooh! I loved reading the excerpt. I must read the whole book, and soon!
I used to live just a few blocks from Ocean Beach, so that neighborhood and that spot is so famliar to me. It was my first apartment, my first independent home after I got out of college and drove cross country from New York. I liked to say that I drove as far as I could to find my first home. I was in love with that neighborhood - the ruins of Sutro Baths, the Cliff House, Louis' Diner (!), and Sutro Heights Park remains one of my favorite spots on earth.

I could smell the fog and the salty air as I read these first pages. I'm really eager to read the rest.