The follow scenario happens to me over and over. Every time I have an author book signing or talk to someone who finds out that I’m an author, I get asked this question about my first book series: why did I choose the Florida Keys as the setting for my stories since I live in Charleston, SC?
At first I couldn’t decide how to answer. It had a very personal meaning and I wasn’t sure how to share my story. But I came to the conclusion to just tell the real reason and it has opened many doors to new friendships and helped others more than I can say.
The main reason I began writing was really by chance. I had two of my doctors ask if I had considered writing my story about living with a chronic rare invisible illness while being the caregiver of a disabled child. Though I had wanted to help others going through situations similar to mine, writing didn’t seem like a likely channel for me. I barely made a high “B” in English throughout high school and college. But I decided to give it a try to see what would happen.
As I began typing on my laptop, I couldn’t help the tears that would flow. Yes, I cried like a baby! It was bringing back SO MANY memories of things I had put on a shelf in my mind, tucked away all nice and neat. So I stopped writing. I knew that telling my story this way certainly wasn’t helping me so there was no way I would be able to help others.
Then I woke one morning with the idea that maybe I could convey my thoughts in a story. In my mind, I envisioned a woman with my illness. She would travel to get away from everything around her just so she could try to see all the pieces of her life and try to make sense of it all. This getaway would take place in the Florida Keys.
You see my first trip to the Keys was in 2011 when my parents took my husband and I for a quick trip. That was all it took for me to be completely hooked! I have always been a beach girl since I was born and to be surrounded by the tropical climate was so soothing. Then my next trip was a vacation – just Jeff and I – for a week long stay where we explored much of the Keys from Key Largo all the way to Key West. It was relaxing once again but this time I noticed that when we were down there, a lot of my daily symptoms were much, much better. I felt good. It had to be a placebo effect. I mean I was on vacation, right? But it didn’t matter. I loved the way I felt, mentally and physically. This was also the same year that I was encouraged to share my story.
So in 2015, when I decided to take the story to task, my mind suddenly went to the little tropical islands. That’s where Maddy – the main character of “The Keys to Love” – would go to take time to help her find a new perspective on life since she had been through so much upheaval: a rare chronic illness, a divorce and newly married daughter – all of this leaving her on her own and wondering what to do with her life.
I do have to admit that we have discovered that my symptoms do get better for me when in the Keys. My trips since then have confirmed it and I have talked to many doctors about it. It has to do with the environment, air quality and more. So maybe one day we will own a house there that I can get away to every now and then. Many have asked why I don’t just move to the Keys but I love my SC roots and my family is here. But staying in the Keys a few months out of the year? Sounds like a great plan to me!
So now I have a question for you: is there a place that you go that you just absolutely love? A place that when its time to go home, you maybe have a tear in your eye? When I’ve told people my story, they always tell me their special place. It’s not that we don’t like our homes. Just there are places that draw us like magnets. And for me, right now, it is the Florida Keys.
But with that being said, I’m in the process of writing the first book in a series that will take place here in the SC Lowcountry. It is going to be fun to write about my hometown and the places I sometimes visit daily. But I wouldn’t be adverse to spending a few weeks in the Florida Keys writing this new book!
Big hugs to all!
Is there a place that you go that you just absolutely love? A place that when its time to go home, you maybe have a tear in your eye?