My Writing Process: Place as inspiration for Islands

Countdown for the new ebook edition of Islands available May 6 from Book View Cafe! People have been asking if the freediver on the cover is a photo of me, and I wish I could say yes. If I had photos of my underwater explorations from my time teaching scuba in the Virgin Islands and other Caribbean locations, this could have been me. In those hot, tropic days, I practically lived in the sea, and like my character John in the novel, I wished to be reborn as a dolphin.

The question raises the issue of inspiration for my stories, and place has always been a big one for me. I’ve traveled and lived in a number of exotic locales, and my fascination with the geography and culture of foreign places stirs my writing muse. The Islands storyline started with my journals while living in the Virgin Islands – the diving and sunken treasure angle pretty obvious, since I did some diving on wrecks and found a lovely antique perfume bottle exactly like the one Susan inherits from John.

Then I started research in the island archives, and pieced together bits of actual ship logs for the “Parker Manuscript” that starts the novel. And yes, crew of ships caught in storms actually did seal notes or pieces of their logs in bottles or tubes and toss them into the sea, hoping they’d be found! The story blossomed with the colonial history of the slavers and African religion as the roots of Caribbean Vaudun (Voodoo). In one of the St. Thomas “jungle towns,” as the native quarters were called by many locals, I stumbled upon a lovely little hole-in-the-wall café, Le Lambi’s, pretty much like the one where James takes Susan for lunch. And there I noticed some interesting décor suggesting the owners might have connections to the Vaudun, which officially didn’t exist in the formerly Danish Caribbees.

GlyphsCaribI started hearing references to “Jumbies” (mischievous spirits) and “power spots,” and some of these seemed connected with the petroglyphs Susan is researching in the novel, so of course I checked out any sites I could find.

I also did some cruising through the islands as deck hand on virgin-islands-wallpapera yacht, absorbing the larger expanse of sea and islands, and I try to capture that glorious, sensual paradise that exists beyond the frantic pace of tourism taking over some of the more developed islands. There are so many contrasts of people and place, and that tension helps drive the plot and character issues for me.

People have asked for a sequel, and Susan and other characters clearly have issues and further adventures to explore.  I’ve started the next novel, set in southeast Mexico, SaraOnRuinsBelize, and Guatemala, drawing on my explorations in those areas.

Up soon: Inspirations for characters in my novels.

To my readers: If you enjoy Islands, please comment on my blog or send an email to let me know. And I would very much appreciate reader reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. Happy trails and pages to you!

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