UNION, NJ — A Union native drew upon her time at Union High School in the 1980s, and regular trips to the Jersey Shore, for inspiration when writing a recently released romance novel in which the lead character is a teenage protagonist “finding herself” during a turbulent time in her life.
Christine Lourenco, a member of the Union High School Class of 1988, works at a firm in New York from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For a six month period last year, though, Lourenco spent the hours before her morning commute writing “For the Love of the Ocean,” a novel that follows a 16-year-old girl named Summer Wright. The book was released on Sunday, Jan. 3, and can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle and physical form.
“It definitely would appeal to young adults, because it follows the character through high school and college. But I don’t think it matters. It probably appeals more to women than men — it follows a female character — but Summer is someone who loses her parents at 16 and is an only child, so she has to lean on others and it shares the journey of her finding herself and her love for her best friend, Chase,” said Lourenco. “It really talks about passion for the ocean, marine life, and about giving back, there’s an environmental theme to it as well.”
Since childhood, Lourenco has been a regular at New Jersey beaches, where she’s done everything from collect sand dollars to surfing in the twilight — much like Summer Wright in “For the Love of the Ocean.”
Lourenco has also enjoyed writing from an early age, which is how she wound up in human resources. “For the Love of the Ocean” is the first novel she’s written, though, and it took a little bit of extra belief to make the leap from someone who likes writing — and the beach — to becoming a published author, who has a book on her greatest passion to show for it.
That kind of belief, says Lourenco, stems from her time at Union High School and the Future Business Leaders of America Club, which instilled the idea of “going for your dreams.”
“I’ve always liked to write, but you never really envision what it’s going to lead to,” said Lourenco. Finding a publisher before writing the book ended up being impossible, so Lourenco wound up writing the book and then shopping it around. “I started to put out query letters, and tried to get picked up by literary agents or book publishers, but it’s almost like you have to be someone like Snooki for someone to notice you. So after not getting anywhere with it, I said, ‘this is just something I have a passion for, so I’m going to do it.’”
And, several years after she first thought of the plot of the novel, Lourenco got to work and wrote it. That’s how Lourenco reached a deal with Archway Publishing, a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster, for a physical release of “For the Love of the Ocean,” which takes place in ritzy Avon-by-the-Sea.
“My great grandfather had a place in Mantoloking, so we grew up going down there and staying at his shore house all the time. We went to Island Beach State Park, Avon-by-the-Sea and all of these different little towns, and then I got really into shelling — I had a sand dollar collection. I found a lot of them in Avon-by-the-Sea,” said Lourenco. “That town is actually what inspired the book in terms of where it’s located.”
While the mainstream view of the Jersey Shore has been distorted and polluted by pop culture, says Lourenco, “For the Love of the Ocean” is a love letter to the “real Jersey Shore.” There’s no Snooki and no spray tans, but anyone who’s gone night surfing will be able to relate to the adventures of Summer Wright and her friend Chase.
“It’s something my family does,” said Lourenco. “Surfing, and giving back to the ocean. There’s a big thing, in the book, about volunteering and fundraising for the ocean. It’s about the real Jersey Shore. You see those shows about the Jersey Shore, whether it’s ‘Real Housewives’ or the old MTV show. I think this is the real Jersey Shore, people who really do care about the beaches and the oceans and the way of living near the beach.”
The reception received by the novel since it was first released last month has indicated to Lourenco that “it’s doing quite well,” although it’s too early to say if she’ll be quitting her day job anytime soon.
In the meantime, the Union native is already working on her next novel, with a concept that anyone can relate to: the pains of commuting.
“I’m working on another one, it’s called ‘Commuter Bob,’” said Lourenco. “It’s a guy named Bob who’s a pessimistic complainer, and he writes this blog called ‘Commuter Bob.’ It’s the most popular blog in New York, and it talks about the pains of commuting to New York. It also lets him do what he likes, which is complain. It’s more comedic, and I think it will appeal to both men and women.”