I spent last week with my crazy family down in Longboat Key, Florida—the real life setting for my Bite Somebody series. This pilgrimage has been going on in the Dobie-Schwind clan since I was a little kid, although I’ve only partaken in the trip (usually alone with my Aunt Susie) for the past five years.
It is a week filled with decadent drinking and eating, silly stories about sex, tumbles in the waves, and shameless flirting with strange beach boys. For Susie and me, it’s a time to laugh and grow closer. It is a time to unwind and leave worries behind for a bit.
(You can read about my first year on Longboat with Susie HERE. It’s funny to think I had no idea that trip would change my career and my life.)
Something about being in Longboat inspired Bite Somebody years ago. I don’t remember the exact moment of conception, but I assume I was laying on the beach, making up stories in my head (like I always do), and awkward vampires in Florida just sort of happened—along with a cute, black-haired surfer boy named Ian. And Imogene, of course. Imogene, who I closely resemble during the annual visit to Longboat Key.
When not reading, I walked the beach. I wandered past the Little Gull Cottages, the real life basis for the Sleeping Gull Apartments in my books. Each night, I put on a tiny dress and high heels and wandered familiar locales from the Bite Somebody series, like St. Armand’s Circle, the Daiquiri Deck, Café L’Europe, and (perhaps most famously) the Drift Inn.
When I visit these places, I often tell the owners “I wrote a book about Longboat.” At Café L’Europe, the handsome maître d’ offered to buy me a drink. At Drift Inn, I asked about Angry Santa (David) and was saddened to hear he was in the hospital with pneumonia. I miraculously sold three copies of Bite Somebody to people who went on their phones and ordered a copy on the spot.
And yet there was something a bit melancholy hidden along the edges of my alcohol-fueled, sun-spattered euphoria.
For my aunt and my mom, Longboat Key always makes them cry a little because it reminds them of my grandparents, now gone. Susie even once saw something like a ghost on the beach at sunset—my Grandpa Schwind in his big hat, waving at her. When we scattered my grandma’s ashes, a green flash lit the beach as the sun went down and a bagpipe player played “Amazing Grace.”
Although Longboat doesn’t remind me as much of my grandparents, it does remind me of Celia, Ian, Imogene, and now, Nicholas. It reminds me of their adventures and their love. It reminds me of writing two ridiculous, wonderful books about Longboat Key—books that encompass the perpetual joy and hilarity of my trips down south. However, this year, I was also reminded that … the series is over.
As of June 20, 2017, Imogene’s story will be released. Bite Somebody Else will leap into the world, fangs bared, and there won’t be another. This makes me take pause. Makes me want to do it all over, really, start from the beginning, write these characters and fall in love with them again. Go back to the Longboat Key of my vampire pals!
I call my yearly trip to Florida the Bite Somebody Pilgrimage, and I think I always will. Whereas my mom and aunt harbor memories of their parents, I will always walk the beach with memories of my fictional friends and a dream come true: the publication of my first novel, my first series.
In Bite Somebody, Imogene explains love to Celia through the lyrics of a song:
“It was about this guy who was looking for love and then he met this girl—this one girl. And the chorus was something about ‘I never knew it could be this easy.’” She shrugged. “I think that’s what happens when people are supposed to be together.”
It has been so easy (and fun) being the marionette behind the Bite Somebody series. As I move toward promotion and June launch parties for Bite Somebody Else, I realize how lucky I am to have found Celia and Imogene, to have found my editor Trysh and publisher Sarena at World Weaver Press, and how easy it is to lose myself in Longboat Key.
Even though this series might be coming to a close, nothing else is. I’ll keep writing and having fun. Next April, I’ll be in Longboat again, and I’ll drink rum punches with the same panache. I’ll remember my first book and all my colorful characters, because the imagination lives on and great memories stay with us forever.
Pre-order your copy of Bite Somebody Else HERE.