Local actor and author Christine Edwards was terrified of going into the water after watching the film Jaws. After finally beating her fear – and now with more than 1,200 dives under her belt – she has written a new children’s book championing this most-misunderstood of sea creatures
As a youngster, Christine Edwards was scared of swimming in the sea. She wouldn’t even venture to paddle. That fear grew into terror after she watched the legendary film Jaws about a Great White Shark that brought death to holiday beaches.
“The thought of what might be lurking under the surface of the water was too much for me,” she said. “The thought that sharks might be waiting to pounce. I was petrified, and as time went by my terror grew worse.”
Everything changed for Christine after she was dared by friends in to trying a scuba dive in 2006. More than 1,200 dives around the globe later, she now adores sharks. So much so, that she has written a new book, her first, about sharks. The book, titled Sharks Are Scary Aren’t They? is aimed primarily at teenagers as Christine looks to change the perception with a young audience of the sea creatures as marauding killers.
Also a good read for adults, the book tackles themes such as the human impact on the environment and the protection of sharks and their habitats, as well as some of the ‘bad press’ that sharks have suffered over the years as a result of the original Jaws movie and follow-up sequels.
Christine said: “Conquering a deep-rooted fear of the sea and terrified of the sharks that roamed there, the decision to try a scuba dive changed my life. The moment I sank beneath the waves and glimpsed at the world below the surface, I was well and truly hooked. Whenever I would describe my shark encounters to friends or family they invariably expressed concern and questioned why anyone would dive with such a dangerous species. My book came out of the need to redress the balance for this wonderful fish.
“Sharks have existed for 450 million years, well before the dinosaurs, and still exist today. They are being hunted and cruelly killed for their fins and are probably one of the most misunderstood creatures on our planet. The knock-on effect of their demise will be catastrophic. Oceans without sharks will cause negative changes to other species – without this predator keeping other fish in check, our coastlines and reefs will ultimately suffer. The oceans need sharks!”
Born in Chester, Christine, who lives in Wythall, Worcestershire, read psychology at Warwick University before working as a teacher for 20 years. In 2004, she made the decision to change careers and trained at Birmingham Theatre School to become an actor. When we spoke she had just played Mrs Claus at Warwick Castle’s Christmas celebrations.
Her book follows the emotional journey of Charlie Parker, a fearful 12-year-old boy, and Jane Jones, a retired dentist and scuba diver, who meet by chance on a beach. Despite the years that separate them, they discover they have much in common.
Hearing about the struggles and dangers sharks face and how they are on the brink of extinction, brings the two friends closer together. There are stories of shark encounters, the majesty of the underwater world and how the impact of human activity and plastic pollution is affecting their habitat. Most of all, the two characters learn about the power of the human spirit to change in the face of adversity.
“I started writing the book on a boat in 2017,” said Christine. “I’d been on a dive in Indonesia and as I wrote the first chapter, I could see the book and what I wanted to say in my mind. I eventually finished it in 2021.” Christine can dive to around 30 metres (120 feet) and has seen a huge variety of sharks. “They don’t want to attack at all,” she said. “If you think of sharks like dogs – most aren’t happy to bite at all.”
Christine hopes her book will go into schools as she would love to make that connection as an ex-head teacher herself. She’s also promoting the book on radio. Even for someone who adores sharks, Christine admits she stops short of wanting to meet a Great White.
“I’ve not encountered a Great White and frankly I don’t want to. They are just too unpredictable,” she admits.