People, Places, Apologies….

December 26, 2014

Hello and welcome to Florida.

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.

http://s97.photobucket.com/user/Paleoc/media/fossils/GARDNIER.jpg.html

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.

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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.

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