Q: Where did the idea for NATURE GIRL come from?
I'd always fantasized about tracking down one of these telemarketing creeps and turning the tables -- phoning his house every night at dinner, the way they hassle everybody else. In the novel, my heroine takes it a whole step farther. She actually tricks the guy into signing up for a bogus "ecotour" in Florida, and then proceeds to teach him some manners. Or tries.
Q: Have you ever met anyone like Honey Santana?
I think there are lots of hard-working, single moms out there who are fed up with all the crap they have to deal with. Everybody has a snapping point, and Honey's threshold is just a bit lower than most people's.
I have to say she's one of my favorite characters -- she simply can't abide incivility, and of course South Florida is a hothouse for that.
Q: Why did you set this novel in the Ten Thousand Islands?
It's one of the few remaining places that haven't been wrecked by development; a truly raw wilderness. I spend a fair amount of time fishing in that area, and it's just breathtakingly vast and remote. Luckily, it's also a mangrove jungle where the mosquitoes are so thick that you literally inhale them. This discourages all but the hardiest (or dumbest) of tourists.
Q: Honey's teenaged son plays an important part in this book. It's almost like he stepped out of the pages of HOOT or FLUSH.
Writing those novels for young readers has made me more comfortable developing young characters.
Kids can be incredibly sharp and funny, and they can also be trouble. I wanted Fry's relationship with Honey and his father to ring true, but I also wanted him to be a fully formed bioality, because he has some heavy responsibilities. I mean, neither of his parents is exactly normal.
Q: Is there really a Dismal Key?
Indeed there is, and it's pretty damn dismal, unless you're a land crab.
I went there with a friend of mine, Capt. Steve Huff, and we walked the whole island. Or tried to.
Hundreds of years ago the Calusa Indians lived there, and the central feature of the place is an oyster midden that they built as part of a fish-trapping operation. They were amazing engineers, as well as artisans. Today Dismal Key is overgrown, and lousy with spiders and cactus plants -- only hardcore hikers would dare step off the boat. It seemed like a perfect place for Honey to take Boyd Shreave, the obnoxious telemarketer, and his mistress.
Q: Sammy Tigertail, the fugitive halfbreed Seminole, is a new character who is related to one of your old ones. Why did you connect the generations in this novel?
Tommy Tigertail was the young Seminole bingo millionaire who joined Skip Wiley's gang of misfits in TOURIST SEASON. It's been 20 years since that book was published, so I thought it would be nice to peek in on him again. Sammy is Tommy's earnest but confused nephew.
In the begining of NATURE GIRL, a tourist croaks on Sammy's airboat, so he frantically calls his uncle for advice. Tommy tells him to ditch the body, and that sets off the chain of events that eventually leads Sammy to Dismal Key, and to his encounters with Honey Santana, Boyd Shreave and other unusual white people.
Nothing that happens there couldn't really happen in Florida. Trust me.