Location, Location, Location:
How Vacations Inspire My Books
by Clara Grace Walker
If you’ve read my books, you know; my characters live in warm places. The Desire Never Dies series takes place in Florida, and my upcoming series Sex & Secrets, makes use of sunny locales also. Exploits, Book 1 of the new series, is another Florida setting, except for a brief stint at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania.
Tropical bliss is inevitable when you consider how my creative brain works. Plunk me in a lounge chair, poolside or on the beach, and stories flow. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because once my body comes to rest, my mind searches for something more to do. Or maybe it’s because, having suffered through many a Michigan winter, the muse within me calls for escape. Whatever the reason, there’s no denying the settings for my books, and sometimes the stories themselves, are directly influenced by my vacations.
For most people, work and vacations are contradictory ideas; polar opposites destined to tug a person in one direction or another. For me, vacations are the stages on which my characters play out their stories.
Gratification’s setting in Key West is a great example of this. I traveled there once, and naturally I visited a local watering hole or two. While sitting at a bar, sipping on my vodka and soda, I wondered, what would my life be like if I lived here and owned one of these bars?
Enter Maggie McKenzie, owner of a bustling dance club on Key West. Being the romantic sort, I gave her a hero. One from the time-honored theme of second chances. Maggie spoke to me right away, and told me how she came to live in paradise, running her bar. She told me about Preston, the obstacles keeping them apart, and what it would take to reunite them. The relaxed environs surrounding me really loosened Maggie’s lips. Half the story line for Gratification had played out in my imagination by the time I finished my drink.
My second book, Gossip, was an extension of Gratification, taking supporting character Nicholas Beck and making him the hero. Nothing about the tabloid story line or gritty world Nick lived in said laid-back party-island, however. Nick’s story screamed big city.
I may have written much of Gossip parked poolside, but I did it with another vacation in mind. Gratification’s hero, Preston, made his home in Miami, and as I thought back to a previous trip there, I knew I’d found Nick’s home. So much of Miami made sense for Gossip; the glitz and glamour, the fast pace of city living, and the urban undercurrent needed to give the setting grit.
Redemption was borne exclusively from my visit to a very swanky resort on Key Largo. So swanky, in fact, I’m going to be nice and name it. As soon as I stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac at the private FBO, I envisioned the club as the setting for a book. Characters took life, the way they do, and this swanky resort transformed into a swanky rehab center. One with the exclusive feel left intact. Adding a sense of foreboding and isolation made the setting perfect for Redemption. By the time swanky resort became a spec in the airplane window, I had Redemption’s heroine, Mindy LePage, trapped there and plotting her escape.
Now, that little foray into Pennsylvania I mentioned for Exploits: that came from a vacation also. Three, to be exact. Nemacolin happens to be a favorite vacation spot of mine. Pay special attention to the scene involving the Louise Party Bus. Yours truly has been on that bus, and Louise totally rocks. While a definite departure from my normal sunshine-kissed settings, Nemacolin provided an opportunity for a great game of hide-and-seek for my kidnapped heroine, swaddled in the sheen of luxury.
Vacations, I believe, are necessary nourishment for the human soul. For me, they are also a key ingredient in crafting a book. I would say they’re part work, part pleasure, but since I love writing, they’re really a huge dose of happiness. If my reader feels just that little touch of vacation in the pages of my books, my work feels complete.
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