People, Places, Apologies….

December 26, 2014

Hello and welcome to Florida.


If you’ve never been to Florida, let me start our tour by assuring you that, yes, everything you have ever heard about it is true. Whatever you’ve heard is true.  Snakes, gators, crocodiles, Publix, zombies, sharks, Disney, whatever. It’s true. I just watched a spider the size of my head devour a small bird right outside my window. We’ve got wild lizards 6 feet long, crazy people, and rides. It’s safe to say that Florida is really just Jurassic Park minus Jeff Goldblum.

We’re starting our tour in the dead center of the state.  Now, the closer to Disney, the closer to insanity, but if you go beyond the safety of the theme parks, you can actually find some amazing culture hiding out in the small towns of central Florida.

Playing Hard to Forget is set in one of these small towns: Lakeland. Nestled in the heart of a very conservative county smack dab in the middle of the state, it’s home to (obviously) a zillion lakes, twice as many orange groves, and, more to the point of this story, our two main characters, Ethan Robertson and Liam Kinnaird.

Why such a heartland kind of place? Because I went to a very progressive and diverse high school there in the late nineties and it was a place where everyone was not only accepted for who they were, but celebrated for it. I’ve gone back at least once a year since then to visit friends and family and I’ve watched that attitude spread throughout the city and I’m proud to have once called Lakeland home.

Beyond that. it’s a perfect Florida city. Geographically, it’s a crossroads that reflects the north, south, east, and west cultures that make up the state. When we start our story, Ethan lives in the southern part of the city. A little more affluent and modern, but a lot of old money. Liam lives to the north. It’s a bit more rural out there. Lots of farms and fields that eventually give way to forests and the Green Swamp. A perfect place for a family of shifters to live without drawing too much attention to themselves.

Later in the book, there are a few mentions of a place called Bone Valley, which is one of the coolest places in the area. It sits south of the city and is heavily mined for phosphate, but is also one of the best places to find megalodon and rhino teeth fossils (although they have restricted access to the area these days). It’s a fascinating place because it doesn’t even look like Florida.

I mean, COME ON. This looks like a Star Trek set.
(image from Flickr. See alt text for details)


Even the outfitters Charles owns is based on a real place in the area (probably can’t mention it by name, but if you know Polk County, you know the place), as well as the restaurant Ethan has a funny encounter at (It was called Vito’s and the vintage neon sign above it said “Vito’s–Air Conditioned” so that’s what we all called it before it closed).

We eventually see our characters in cities to the east like Cocoa Beach and to the north, up in the panhandle area, but, to my boys, Lakeland is their home.


Everyone in Playing Hard To Forget is based on a real person in my life. From my insanely abusive father, who made it into the book as Charles Robertson to my high school best friend, who, along with my 11th grade Honors English teacher, influenced my favorite ever side character, Penelope. It was very important to me to put as many real people from my life into this book because, even if they are evil, terrible people, they often have motivations and character traits that are real.

It’s much easier and more satisfying to draw on that one friend you know who would risk his own well-being to help out a friend or your father who believed that he was doing the right thing by trying to beat and berate his children into becoming his perfect idea of a family than to try to create them from scratch and spend time figuring out their back stories. Real people are just so neat. Crazy Floridians even more so.

And let’s not forget that the entire setup for the story is based on a family folk tale (Which I’ll go into in the next post). I drew on a thousand years of people in my life for this one!

So, to anyone who knows me personally, if you think you recognize yourself in a character, you’re welcome. Unless you recognize yourself in Penelope. Then I apologize. But, and you know who you are, that was totally you back in the day, girl. If you’re my father and you’re reading this? I apologize for nothing. This was better than years of therapy.

Playing Hard To Forget–in Paperback or ebook on Dreamspinner or in ebook at Amazon.

You can find me on Facebook or on Twitter.


Let’s talk. Would you be flattered or mortified if you recognized yourself in a book? Do you prefer the authenticity of drawing from real people and their motivations for the things they do? One of my biggest problems with tv these days is that sometimes characters’ motivations don’t line up with how they act and react to things. It’s like showrunners don’t know any real people at all. I’d also love to see your examples of characters who have great reactions relative to their back stories.

8 Responses to “People, Places, Apologies….”

  1. Susan says:

    My one foray into fiction (in 8th grade) was based mostly on my friends, so I can understand drawing on real people for authenticity. Since I exaggerated all my friends quirks, but would hate to see my own, I would probably be mortified to find myself in a book.

  2. Piperdoone says:

    I know there are a few characters out there for which I was partly the inspiration. I’m pretty extroverted, though, so it doesn’t bother me at all. My friends are outgoing, too, and I think a lot of them will be pretty upset if they DON’T end up a character soon.
    I can certainly understand and respect people who would not want that, though, and I would never do it to someone who wouldn’t be totally down for it (save, of course, good old dad).
    But that’s also a part of why I love people so much. Everyone has their reasons why the like or don’t like things and rarely do they not know why they feel that way. I love that. I love knowing why because there is almost always a story behind their reasoning. People are fascinating to me!

  3. Carolyn says:

    I barely have time for reading this post before heading out the door, but it was another great one. With I could comment more, though! Just have to say I’m glad you’ve set me straight on some of Florida. All I know is from news stories and Dave Barry. ;)

  4. Piperdoone says:

    I think Dave Barry has it pretty close to how it is. I LOVED his book Big Trouble more because of the little Florida moments than the overall plot. The part about the giant cane toad is my favorite because it’s true! We have to keep our animals away from them because they are so poisonous.

  5. Angela says:

    Would i be flattered or mortified if i recognized myself in a book? Well that depends on the character of the person in the book :) .
    But as far as i know i never was an insperation for a character in a book.

  6. Piperdoone says:

    I tend to live my life by two philosophies:
    The first is from Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age:
    “If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that shows you’ve tried”
    and that really awesome quote from Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones:
    “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
    I’ve got good traits and bad and I am fully aware of the bad, so if someone chose to model a character of me using the bad and totally made me a villain, I’d probably be just as flattered, if I’m being honest with myself.

  7. Trix says:

    I’ve never understood why TV shows seem to get less believable after a few seasons, instead of more. Fanficcers understand the value of canon, so why don’t the actual scriptwriters? I guess they figure they have to inject new life into scripts with out-of-left-field plotlines, but I really hate that.

  8. Piperdoone says:

    Sounds like Supernatural. I loved it when it first started. Dean, to me, was so believable in his reactions and motivations. I understand that kind of life (well, the non-supernatural part of it).
    I had to be the parent from a young age. I was moved around all the time, sometimes within weeks of the move before. I understand having a parent like John. It was so GOOD to me to see that struggle played out and played so well. Hell, my only consistent home growing up was a 1967 Pontiac. It wasn’t an Impala, but she was more beautiful and ran like a dream.

    Now I hear it’s changed a lot and that makes me sad. Dean was written and acted SO WELL.

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