In the second in our tour of fascinating locations that have inspired the Prime Writers, Vanessa Lafaye talks about the Florida Keys.
Summertime was very much inspired by the unique geography of the Florida keys. These tiny, low-lying tropical islands are extremely vulnerable to hurricanes, and the one which struck Islamorada on Labor Day in 1935 still holds the record for being the strongest ever to strike North America. I was fascinated by the story of how the residents of a tiny, racially segregated town coped with such a cataclysmic event, and moved beyond measure by their incredible resilience.
In dramatizing the events around the hurricane, I drew heavily on my childhood memories of growing up in Florida, where hurricanes were frequent summer visitors. Writing the book was much like opening a time capsule in my mind, where all the sights, smells, and sounds still live.
My next book, Isle of Bones, is set in Key West in 1920, and also based on true events – this time an epic love story and an unsolved murder. Again, the setting is a character in its own right.
Key West, also known as the ‘Conch Republic’, has a long and well-deserved reputation for eccentricity and lawlessness which persists to this day. It’s one of my favourite places. I hope that readers will enjoy taking the tour with me.