I’m a mystery author, which means I dig deep into my head to pitch tent and remain for hours, days, months or more. Authors become their characters. It’s not too unexpected to find me writing late into the night, because there I can experience the anger, hurt, and tears my characters do. That’s when the world quiets, and reality and make-believe can intertwine and seep as some sort of hybrid onto a page. Parts of my books I cannot differentiate between life and fiction.
All my stories take place in South Carolina. In my prior life on a time clock, I worked and traveled in every single county, so I know it well. However, I never knew how much setting meant to my writing until I tackled my most recent book, and via some subconscious need, placed my character on Edisto Beach.
Crossing that bridge . . . oh my, it’s like sliding through a time warp where clocks don’t matter and you have forever to sit on the sand and marvel at what God hath wrought. Deadlines, social media, bosses and turmoil just slide out with the tide, and if you’re lucky, they never come back. Just ask the natives who have all left another life behind, never returning to their pasts.
By choosing Edisto for my current mystery, I fed the creation of a character. A girl running from overbearing parents. A Southerner hiding up North. A detective who enjoyed being in control, and paid a price for it. A wife who lost her husband. A mother who lost a child. A person so badly broken from life that she needed a haven to simply learn how to open her eyes in the morning and continue living.
Yes. She needed Edisto. I needed Edisto.
Retreats abound for writers. Places where they can escape from the real world and tap into their talents without family, friends, and phone. They return energized, gifted with wonderfully fresh ideas for their stories. Southern author Karen White runs off to the Florida panhandle. Karin Slaughter built a cabin in the mountains, and E. B. White a cabin on the shore. In New York, there’s a place called The Writers Room where writers can grab a desk and create amidst all the other writing creativity in the air. Then there’s the proverbial coffee shop, which is more of a writer’s haven and less of a cliché than you may realize. Libraries, of course.
My haven is my study, in my house. A map of Edisto is taped to my wall, snapshots of the surf and marsh on my screen. Shells on my desk. But at any given time, when I feel that the salt spray no longer clings to me as intensely as I need it to, I drive 150 miles to Edisto.
And I don’t write. I absorb. I sink into Callie’s head and enter her world again.
And she enters mine.
And we tell stories.
Hope Clark is mystery author of Lowcountry Bribe, Tidewater Murder, Palmetto Poison, and her newest release, Murder on Edisto. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina, when she’s not walking the shore of Edisto Beach. www.chopeclark.com