Squire’s Isle

My first-ever real fan asked: “December 07- Thoughts on Squire’s Isle in general.” So yay for THAT! I get to babble about Squire’s Isle! It’s like it’s my birthday! Oh, it is my birthday. Bonus!

When I first started to get series about writing, I had one series. It was about a man who… well, he did a whole lot of stuff before I finally settled on the final version of him. He was based in Chicago, for some reason. I’ve never been there but it seemed less exposed than New York City. Seattle wasn’t even on my radar back then. Heck, the entire Pacific Northwest was basically just a nebulous thing on a map that I never really thought about. But then Gatecon (a Stargate SG-1 convention) rolled around, and it just so happened that it was easier to fly into Seattle and get a ride from someone than it was to fly into Vancouver. If I’d had my way I would have just gone straight to Vancouver. I’m sure the trip would have been just as amazing (Teryl Rothery touched my leg when I sat next to her, Amanda Tapping hugged me, JR Bourne remembered how to spell my name between Wednesday and Sunday…) but I wouldn’t call it life-changing the way I do now.

In the midst of arranging to drive up, the people I was with decided to leave early and take a quick detour. I have no idea why. I mostly ignored those plans, but it seems very bizarre that they would add a whole extra day to the itinerary just to go out whale watching. I was very, very against it, mainly because I didn’t like water, I didn’t like boats, I didn’t care about whales. I spent the entire drive to Anacortes trying to think of ways out of it. “I’ll just stay on the mainland, read a book or something, wander around, but their plans meant they would spend almost the entire day on this puny little island. Plus this was 2004, and it was close enough to 9/11 that someone loitering around a transportation hub would not have gone unnoticed. So grudgingly I went.

I don’t know where exactly I fell in love. The ferry? The drive through the woods where we saw signs for roads like “Duck Soup Lane”? The way that guy smirked at me like “This may be a small town, but we still play Pedestrian Bowling” when I got in the way of his truck? I don’t know. Maybe it happened when I was out on the boat and we watched the orcas play coy until the moment we turned to leave and it chased us most of the way back to the harbor. One moment I remember extremely clearly was when I called home from a payphone (yes, a payphone). While it was ringing I looked out and saw the flags waving over the harbor. It was the most beautiful summer day, and the greens were perfectly green, and the blues were perfectly blue. I remember thinking, “This place is gorgeous… I have to write about this…”

The idea of a tiny little small-town island was planted there, but it didn’t get a name until we were driving home from (of all things) my great-grandmother’s funeral. There’s a big giant hill between where we lived and where she was buried. It’s a massive hill, and I have a distinct childhood memory of all our road trips including the plummeting-stomach of a roller coaster when we were on it. I was obviously not feeling very well because… well… funeral… and out of nowhere my Dad (Mr. Know-it-All-and-Make-Up-the-Rest) mentioned it was called Squire’s Hill. I loved the way that sounded, and it melded with the island in my head to become “Squire’s Isle.” In years since I’ve asked for confirmation from Mom (Dad would just lie). She swears that hill doesn’t have a name, and I can find no confirmation of a Squire’s Hill anywhere in Oklahoma. So kismet? Who knows. The name was mine, and it was too perfect not to keep.

So with all of that, Squire’s Isle was still the place Neil Miser would live and work. He was a suicide investigator. People kill themselves without a note, he comes in and figures out why for those left behind. It was a neat idea, but I just couldn’t make it work. His office was over a little place called Coffee Table Books. Yep, Amy was the first Squire’s Isle lady I ever created, and she was a side character in another novel. She was a lesbian, of course, but she was just window dressing to flesh out the town. Then one day I was joking with a friend about a West Wing spinoff (or maybe an uber) about CJ Cregg running a small-town newspaper with Annabeth Schott as her star reporter who accidentally outs herself. That’s right, Nadine and Miranda were born as Allison Janney and Kristen Chenoweth. Eventually the idea evolved and I realized, “Small-town… why not set it on an island? Or SQUIRE’S ISLE?”

I added Amy to tie it into Miser (Sheriff Rucker was also a major character in Miser) and I figured it would be a nice side story when Miser got published. All these years and novels later, Miser is still sitting in a drawer and Squire’s Isle has taken on a life of its own. I seriously wouldn’t have it any other way. I also find it very convenient that I set it in Washington state just early enough to have same-sex marriage become legalized so my characters who were at that point could start pairing off. I never expected to feel the joy I have when I write “Nadine and Miranda Powell” or “Jill and Patricia Hood-Colby.”

My thoughts on Squire’s Isle aren’t very complicated. I love it. I know how unrealistic it is, what with a lesbian-heavy population, but I think it’s handwaved enough that it’s a peculiar demographic. I love the interconnected couples, how one person can cross over into another character’s story. They know each other, but they all have their own things going on. It’s a true ensemble where Patricia can hear Nadine on the radio when she stops into Coffee Table Books for a breakfast meeting with Alex Crawford. I would have been overwhelmed by the idea of creating this island from scratch if I’d let myself think too hard about it, but where it is now… I love it, and I’m so proud of it. I really love how the characters surprise me. I wouldn’t have thought of Patricia as the mayor, or thrown Alex and Rachel to the wolves of “taking a break” if that hadn’t been where the story led me. I would never in a million years have decided, “You know what? I’m going to make this relationship polyamorous.” I’ve gotten some credit for making Kate, Amy, and Nicole polyamorous in a realistic fashion but to be honest the first story was mainly “I want to write a threesome.” But the story wouldn’t let me leave it there. I’ve learned to keep out of its way when the story does stuff like that.

If you couldn’t tell (or tl;dr), I’m so proud of this little town, and how it’s given me a rich cast of characters. I posted a story recently about one couple. The first comment pointed out the couple wasn’t a favorite, while the second comment was gleeful because it WAS a favorite couple. I’m really proud of the fact that people have favorites among the Squire’s Isle residents. If you want to reply to this with your favorites, please do! I’m interested to know, and knowing if people want to revisit a couple means I write them faster. ;D

Whatever else I write, I think Squire’s Isle will always be tops in terms of creating something large and fantastic that I’m just thoroughly, utterly proud of having a hand in.