Ocean adventure swells in first novel by Evergreen native

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By Sandy Barnes

Scuba diving off the coast of California inspired Ryan Lockwood to write his first novel, a thriller set in the vast ocean.


“I’d always wanted to write a novel. I really just dove into it,” said Lockwood, who grew up in Evergreen.

Lockwood’s book, titled “Below,” is officially hitting the shelves at area bookstores this week. 

“It’s based on a real-world current event,” said Lockwood.

The author didn’t want to give too many details to preserve the suspense element of the novel. It doesn’t center on a shark attack, like one of his favorite books, “Jaws.”

“Below” does incorporate sea creatures that Lockwood encountered while swimming underwater in the Pacific Ocean.

“It does involve the sea,” he said.

While diving at various places in the California Pacific, Lockwood said he saw an amazing variety of ocean life, including bat rays and octopi. On the cover of “Below,” large tentacles appear in brilliant blue water on which a small vessel rests.

 The first chapter of the book begins with this description:

“The water was deep. Miguel couldn’t see the ocean around him in the moonless night. But he knew it was very deep underneath the boat. The lights from the shore had vanished many hours ago.

“The long narrow panga rode over dark swells faster than a man could sprint. Seeing anything in the water would be impossible, even in the daylight. Yet Miguel again peered over the side of the boat. He was certain that below the frothy chop dancing on the dark surface were thousands of feet of nothingness.”

Lockwood’s idea for the book surfaced after moving to California with his wife a few years ago, he said. While living near Huntington Beach, Lockwood began studying marine life and earned a second bachelor’s degree in environmental science. 

And he did a lot of scuba diving — a skill he learned while a student at Colorado State University, which he attended after graduating from Evergreen High School in 1993.

“I’ve been a scuba diver for years,” he said.

Because the water is so cold on the California coast, Lockwood said he had to buy “the whole nine yards” of scuba gear, including a thick wet suit to protect him from temperatures as low as 54 degrees.

Lockwood’s degree in journalism also helped hone his writing skills, he said. However, before he began his book, Lockwood said, all of his writing was nonfiction.

“In a novel, you get to use your imagination,” he said.

Lockwood now works in media relations for the State Forest Service at Colorado State University. And he is writing his second novel, which also has a marine setting.

“I was writing a book set in Colorado,” he said. 

When he had written about a third of the second work, Lockwood said, his publisher directed him to write another ocean book because of its marketability.

Beginning June 25, “Below” will be available for purchase at Hearthfire Books in Bergen Park and at area Barnes & Noble stores. Lockwood’s book is also available at the Amazon.com website.

“The book is a perfect beach read,” said Lockwood.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.