One of the best things about being a romance writer is that you have the opportunity to meet all kinds of great people, interesting women (and a few men!) who genuinely love what they do and bring that joy to their work and to their friendships with other writers. Today I’m hosting one of my favorite writer pals: Cheryl Alldredge, who I met when I joined the Jacksonville, Florida chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Not only is Cheryl smart and kind, she’s a talented writer who has recently released her contemporary romance, Ladybugs and Fireflies, which is set in her home state of Florida.
Now, lots of people visit Florida and come away thinking they know all there is to know about that state. But that’s only the Florida of ocean resorts and tourist playgrounds. The Florida that Cheryl uses for the settings of her stories is quite different from Miama, or Disneyworld, or Tampa, or all those other places where tourists flock for vacation. I’m going to turn the blog over to Cheryl now, and let her tell you about the Florida she loves and uses for the settings of her books:
When I was younger I used to like to say I was a California girl. It’s true that I was born in California, but we moved away when I was a tot. My desire to claim the state probably had more to do with that old Beach Boys song than any sentimental feelings. I actually grew up in Florida. Not the part with the beaches. My Florida was more about swamps and gators and rednecks, oh my! I didn’t realize how much Florida had shaped me until other people started reading my writing. One of my trunk novels (as in tossed in a trunk and all but forgotten) was accused of sounding like a Florida travelogue. A more tactful beta reader said I made Florida a character in my book. The no-nonsense comment came from a ‘Yankee’ friend and the gentler comment came from a southern gentleman. If that’s not cliché come to life I don’t know what is!
So how did Florida shape me? I suppose it taught me not to be too vain. If you wear too much make-up in the summer, it’ll just drip right off when you walk out the door. It also taught me that fun is never far away—we do have a lot of theme parks around here. I think fun is mostly a state of mind, one theme parks have learned how to tap into and turn on at will. It also taught me to tread carefully to avoid snakes on the ground and to look more deeply at things. Florida may be all glitz, beaches, and theme parks in the brochures but it also home to wondrous natural beauty. We have springs so clear you can watch the fish frolic in the river-bottom grasses and oak trees so big they look like old giants with their mossy gray beards scrapping the ground.
In my short novel, Ladybugs and Fireflies, Callie Roberts and Taylor Powers meet when Taylor returns to his home state of Florida after establishing his career in the North. Taylor is a high powered attorney and Callie is a small fry investigator on the opposite side of a case. It’s an impossible relationship on the surface. To find love they will have to look deeper and see who they are in their hearts. Florida is very much a part of this story, but hopefully not in a travelogue-ish way.
I’d love to hear how your home has shaped you!
Vanessa, here. Doesn’t Ladybugs and Fireflies sound great? I love stories with characters who return to their hometown after life in the big city, especially in romance novels. Coming home, rediscovering a life that seemed gone forever, is one of my favorite themes and Cheryl does a great job with it. It’s a lovely story and a perfect summer read. Ladybugs and Fireflies is available on Amazon, and at a number of other retailers. Get all the details and read an excerpt on Cheryl’s website.
Cheryl also has two short stories available in e-book and anthology formats, which you can check out on her website. She also blogs about books, life, and Florida on her Cheryl Alldredge blog, and about all things SciFi on her Smart Girls Love Sci Fi blog. I really love this blog, which covers Sci Fi from all different angles, including books, movies, TV, and Sci Fi geekery!
On my blog today, Cheryl will be giving away a copy of Ladybugs and Fireflies, in either e-format or print book. Let’s answer her question, which I think is a great one: how has your hometown or state shaped your life? One person who comments will win a copy of Ladybugs and Fireflies.