Greetings and Salutations Internet!
Today I am excite to bring you a guest post from Jill Baguchinsky who is the author of the book Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator which was recently released from Dutton. I was thrilled when Valerie wanted to do a guest post here on Ticket to Anywhere and when asked for a topic I immediately thought of books setting. Any regular reader of this blog knows that I love seeing where books take me to and so what better way to explore that then in having the author talk about why they chose the setting they did. So without further ado, here is Jill Baguchinsky:
When I wrote the first draft of SPOOKYGIRL: PARANORMAL INVESTIGATOR, I knew from page one that I wanted to set it in Florida. There’s something fun about the juxtaposition — a supernatural tale set in a state known for being bright and sunny and, well, not particularly spooky. Violet, SPOOKYGIRL’S main character, is as out of place in her cheerful, breezy hometown as she is at her high school.
Although I set SPOOKYGIRL’S fictional towns of Palmetto Crossing and Riley Island on the east coast of Florida , they were heavily inspired by Marco Island and Naples , which are on the Gulf coast in the southwest region of the state. I grew up on Marco Island, so I’m very familiar with how the area looks and feels to a teenager — the heat, the humidity, the pretty houses surrounded by manicured yards full of palm trees, the limited means of transportation available to someone who doesn’t yet have a driver’s license, and a population made up largely of retired folks. Hardly a teenage dream!
Focusing on those aspects, however, leaves out the area’s many wonderful features — beautiful beaches, wide waterways, gorgeous views, and chances to glimpse local wildlife. I regularly spot manatees in the canal behind my house, and it’s common to see dolphins and osprey while driving over the Jolley Bridge , which connects Marco to the mainland. Herons and ibis roost in the nearby marshlands. When I was younger, it wasn’t unusual to spot Florida panthers or bobcats on their early morning prowls; as the island’s human population has grown over the years, that’s become far less likely, but it still happens now and then.
Basing SPOOKYGIRL in Florida let me play with my characters’ choices and preferences a bit. For example, Violet hangs out with a group of Goths who sneak up to the school roof during lunch period. An exposed roof in September (when daytime temperatures can still reach 90-95 degrees and humidity is often at 100%) seems like the last place a bunch of pale kids dressed in black would want to go — but it’s worth it to avoid the jocks and other populars in the cafeteria.
Florida also gave me the opportunity to use thunderstorms in several key scenes. During Florida’s rainy season, it’s uncommon to go more than a few days without a noisy, soaking downpour; it was a given that Violet would see some rain and lightning over the course of the story.
Finally, I was able to use the setting to make the Logan Street house, a reputedly haunted property on Riley Island , stand out even more. The Logan Street house is a strange beast — a foreboding, run-down, vaguely Victorian structure with gingerbread trim and a tower room set amid a sea of typically Floridian pastel ranch and stilt houses. Built by the eccentric James Riley Sr. a century before the story takes place, the house plays a key role in one of SPOOKYGIRL’S main storylines. One of my favorite houses on Marco is of a similar design, although it’s much newer and lovingly maintained. Situated near the Jolley Bridge, it certainly stands out — it’s visible in the background of this photo.
It would have been very easy to set SPOOKYGIRL: PARANORMAL INVESTIGATOR somewhere dark and gloomy. Basing the book’s towns on locations in Southwest Florida was a bit more of a challenge, but it allowed for some fun contrasts and brought more quirkiness to the story. Oddly enough, SPOOKYGIRL probably wouldn’t be nearly as spooky without all that Florida sunshine.