Why Squire’s Isle?

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to my occasional blog πŸ˜€ I hope you all had a lovely holiday season!

The main reason this blog isn’t updated more is because, frankly, I can’t think of much to say that isn’t BUY MY BOOK (note: buy it, if you haven’t. It’s a small price to pay for an author’s undying love, don’t you think? :D). But I came up with something I wanted to share, and this is as good a place as any.

Why Squire’s Isle? I’m an Oklahoma boy, born and bred. I live within spitting distance of cows and prairies (not that I would ever spit at a cow, mind you). So why on Earth would I write novels set on an island in the Pacific Northwest?

Squire’s Isle was born of a trip I took in 2004. The purpose of the trip was to visit Vancouver, Canada, but there was a spontaneous sidetrip to the San Juan Islands. I didn’t want to go on the sidetrip. It involved a ferry and lots of water and, like I said, the deepest water I had ever been in was in a bathtub. So I was anxious and not very sanguine about this “wasted” day.

But as soon as I got on the ferry to go to the island, I realized I had made the right decision. There was something about being on the water that was soothing. Calming. It was beautiful, early in the day and peaceful. It was something I had never experienced; just being on a boat and being carried past these lovely little islands.

The island itself was straight out of a dream. An amazing little town that was small, but not a ghost town. It was alive, vibrant, like something from a postcard. All the small towns I had ever seen were Oklahoma ghost towns or near-ghost towns. Faded signs, empty storefronts, nothing spectacular. But the town – Friday Harbor – just seemed alive. I remember standing on the boardwalk with an ice cream cone, waiting for the return ferry after we’d seen the whales (WHALES!), and looking out over the harbor.

I think it was that instant, watching the boats and seeing the evergreen trees on the island’s arm that embraced the harbor, that I realized I’d found my “base.” For the longest time, I had set my original character stories in Chicago. It never really worked for me and I couldn’t figure out why. I changed everything but the setting.

A handful of hours on San Juan Island and I suddenly knew: my characters didn’t belong in Chicago; they belonged on an island.

I knew I couldn’t use San Juan itself. I wanted original characters, I wanted store owners, and most of all, I wanted the freedom to create my own universe. So I took San Juan Island, wiped the slate clean and started filling it in with my own names. Coffee Table Books. Gail’s Seafood Shack. After years of struggling, my world was falling into place extremely easily. I had found the missing piece of the puzzle.

Not long after the trip, the island was still nameless. Until my family was on our way back from a funeral and my father mentioned an old hill we used to live near. I remembered that hill; it was on our way to the old country church that I still remember as the first church I ever went to. It was steep as anything, and going down it every Sunday made your stomach drop into your feet. It was like an amusement park ride in the middle of a boring car trip. I asked what the hill was called and my father said, “Squire’s Hill, I think.”

My father is not known for his accuracy. There may not be a Squire’s Hill anywhere in Oklahoma. But I knew, as soon as the words were out of his mouth, that I had my island name.

I picked Squire’s Isle as the setting for my story because I wanted a small town. A world where people would believably know one another, their paths might cross and they might possibly be friends with each other. It’s a self-contained world in a way that only an island can be. I remember standing on San Juan Island and thinking that it shouldn’t exist in this day and age. A small town with friendly people? Something this beautiful where you can see orca whales wandering by? It was like a dream.

That was what I wanted. A world that was slightly off from this one, a world where you could see that it was the same world we lived in, but could also believe there was a tiny bit of magic there as well.

If you’ve read “On the Air,” welcome to Squire’s Isle. If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for? There’s always room for another tourist. πŸ˜€