I have been fortune enough to be featured on P.C. Zick’s, Writing Whims Blog no less than four times! An incredibly generous blogger, P.C. does interviews with authors on Wednesday and features her book review of that author’s work on Friday. A great double whammy for readers who want to get to know a knew author. It gives me great pleasure to feature P.C.’s guest post on why she writes Florida fiction as part of the Location, Location, Location series.
Take it away, P.C.
The landscape, the climate, the wildlife, the people —these are all the reasons I set my novels in Florida.
For thirty years, the humidity of the Sunshine State seeped under my skin and into my blood. Even though I moved away four years ago, it haunts my fiction. And I’d not have it any other way.
When my first husband suggested we move to Florida from Michigan in 1980, I asked, “You want to live in Miami?” That’s the only image I had of Florida until we moved to twenty acres in north Florida, sixty miles south of the Georgia border.
My first indication that I’d entered into a unique world came when we were driving to Florida from Michigan. We stopped for breakfast just over the Georgia border somewhere north of Jacksonville. We chose an old diner with a glass case containing dusty toys and candy bars and torn Naugahyde booths and greasy walls. As I perused the menu, a movement on the wall caught my eye. The largest cockroach I’d ever seen in my life crawled toward the ceiling. When the waitress came to take our order, I said, “There’s cockroach on the wall.” She continued chewing her gum and looked down at me as she held her pad and pen poised to write down my order. She never glanced at the wall. “What kin I git ya?” she asked.
I’d arrived in Florida where the word cockroach does not exist. What I saw on that greasy wall that morning was a palmetto bug, I soon learned. What’s not to love about a place that names an insect known for its attraction to filth after a beautiful tree?
Adjustment came slowly. My new world frightened me. I didn’t see the beauty of the live oak trees draped in moss or understand the lure of frogs singing on a summer night. The wildlife of northern Florida held threats to my safety. I saw danger lurking in the surrounding wilderness. One morning I looked in the mirror and saw a tick, fat with my blood, attached to the center of my forehead. The first time I saw a broadhead skink, I threatened to leave my new home and head back to a land of lizard-less landscapes. After hearing that I wanted to leave, a neighbor suggested I read Cross Creek. I had never heard of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings even though The Yearling sounded familiar.
Not only was Ms. Rawlings a writer, something I aspired to be at that time, but she had conquered her fears of a Florida wilderness and wrote with affection about an area much more rural than anything I had experienced. For the first time, I began to understand the rhythms of life in this land that was beginning to own me.
When I began my writing journey in 1998, Ms. Rawlings remained my inspiration, and I found all of Florida’s wonders creeping into my articles, columns, and novels.
The abundant wildlife and their precarious balance with the human population make compelling stories. I try to include their plight within my novels, making their stories parallel to the struggle of the characters. In Trails in the Sand, I used the sea turtles and the danger to them as oil gushed out of the well in the Gulf of Mexico during BP’s 2010 oil spill. The race to save the hatchlings from drowning in oil appeared as the main character, Caroline, raced to save her family. Stories of alligators, Florida panthers, black bears, coyotes, bobcats, and crocodiles abound as their habitat shrinks, and they risk extinction. I haven’t even begun to write about the invasive species that thrive in the tropics of Florida. The Burmese python and iguanas are begging me to include them in a novel.
The landscape may not be as dramatic as the mountains, but a variety of settings—from the beach, to rivers, to the swamps of the Everglades—do exist. North Florida’s rolling hills, live oak trees interspersed with palm trees, and peaceful flowing rivers and springs make ideal settings for a novel. But I also like to set scenes on the beach, and in the swamps and marshes of the coast and the Everglades.
I use the heat and humidity to set the mood, and I employ hurricanes and tropical storms to indicate turmoil in the characters’ lives or create conflict within the plot.
I write about Florida because I know it and I love it. A passage from Trails in the Sand best expresses my awe and respect for Florida’s natural wonders.
Joey took us on the grand tour – we flew through the water until we came to small paths that took us right through the heart of the Glades. Then he slowed down and allowed us to take in the beauty of the land around us. The herons and egrets swooped down in front of us. The hawks glided overhead and the gators came out to take in the warm February morning sun. Simon leaned over at one point and kissed me on the cheek.
“I see why you love it here so much,” he said. “It’s nature’s cornucopia.”
My Review of Trails in the Sand
Follow the trails left in the sand through a blazing and heartrending story not soon forgotten.
P.C. Zick’s Florida Fiction novel, Trails in the Sand, kept me page turning right to the end. I had to actually stop myself from racing through. I’m glad I exercised control because the book should be savoured as much for the story as for the many detailed descriptions of the current state of the environment.
The author’s writing is replete with detailed descriptions – the natural landscape, the gardens and the architecture are all painted in lush words.
At its most stripped down level, the book is the love story of Caroline and Simon. Their decades-long torch-carrying for one another is the live wire that keeps the spark of this book burning, but there are so many more fires that require the reader’s attention. Flitting through and around both Caroline and Simon is the deep-seated trauma of family dysfunction. Gladys Stokley, a woman caught in her own pain, had set-up a rivalry between her two daughters, Caroline and Amy, which nearly destroyed them all. Simon, the man who figures predominantly in the lives of both sisters, is caught in Gladys’ web as surely as the Stokley girls. The dysfunction tracks its way into the next generation and Caroline finds she must act. Family secrets will be traced to their source and hard truths revealed.
Caroline is a freelance, environmental journalist. This proves to be a clever device that allows the author to weave into the story yet another blaze – current events close to her own heart. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burning in the Gulf and the Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion in West Virginia provide a fiery backdrop to the more personal story elements of relationship and family.
And through the traumatic and painful life events of the characters and the tragedy that is countless barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf waters, we follow the trails in the sand left by the turtles. Loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley, the leatherback, the hawksbill and the green – the reader learns about each and comes to care equally for how these wonderful sea creatures will fare as for the human characters that populate the pages of this story.
Please visit Amazon.com to check out P.C. Zick’s Florida Fiction novel, Trails in the Sand. It currently has thirty-eight, four and five star reviews, averaging a 4.7 ranking and the e-book is selling for the great price of $3.07. You can also pop over to P.C.’s blog, Writing Whims, for the links to various formats for all her novels.