by Fran McNabb
The Gulf Coast is my home. Its miles of beaches and line of barrier islands, and countless winding bayous and bays have been an influence on me, and now I find it’s an important influence on my books.
ON THE CREST OF A WAVE, my newest Avalon release, is set on the coast during the Civil War. Unlike Scarlett in GONE WITH THE WIND, my heroine didn’t live on a plantation. In fact, her simple life is that of the daughter of a fisherman. I can relate to that. I, too, am the daughter of a fisherman so I understand many of the feelings she had about her life. She finds herself helping a Union officer who is in charge of a prison camp on Ship Island just off the coast of Mississippi. The tiny strip of sand that housed thousands of soldiers, both Union and Confederate, has always been dear to my heart.
Because my mother’s family run the ferry boats to and from the island, I was able to spend one of my childhood summers there while my family worked. For six days a week I roamed the island, swam and played in the surf, and slept in the simple building that my grandfather built. On Saturday evening I took the ferry back to the mainland to attend church on Sunday morning. What a glorious way for any child to spend the summer!
One night during that unforgettable summer, we had to evacuate into Fort Massachusetts because of a high tide from a storm. I remember the night as if it happened yesterday, and when I used the fort in this new novel, I was able to pull from those impressions.
Granted, most authors don’t have the opportunity to personally experience all the places they write about, but getting to know those places and studying the lifestyles during those periods are important to form the types of characters we create.
Today, when my husband and I take our boat for a day or a weekend of fishing and swimming, we can see the fort from where we anchor. It’s hard to walk the island and not think about what happened there over a hundred years ago. For me, it’s easy to look beyond the fishermen and the sun bathers and see my hero and heroine. I was able to immerse myself in that time period when I wrote the story, and I think we need to do that with every story we write or read.
(As I watched the news this morning to see the oil spreading to the beaches of this island, my heart aches to think that even though the island has survived uncountable natural disasters, we could ruin its natural beauty with our man-made mistakes.)
Fran McNabb received both her BS and an ME from the University of Southern Mississippi. After spending two years in Germany with her husband, they returned to the Coast where she taught English and journalism until taking an early retirement. She now lives on a quiet bayou harbor with her husband and cat and spends her time writing, working for her RWA chapter, and presenting writing workshops.
Besides ON THE CREST OF A WAVE (Avalon, Feb 2010), her writing credits include two contemporary tender romance novels and numerous articles in magazines and newsletters. Visit her at www.franmcnabb.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.