In just over a week, I am setting off on the most important visit that I have ever made to my FL, to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Labor Day hurricane on which my book is based. While I’m there, I am fortunate to be taking part in some truly splendid events. I’ve never done this before, so I’m both excited and nervous – excited to return to my home state as a published author, nervous of my debutante book’s first real ‘coming out’ in the US. Many thousands of people in Europe have already read the book, but it was only published recently in my home country, so this is special. I’m hoping to capture as many of the moments here, as I go, so watch this space.
My travels start in Tampa, where I grew up and went to school. My first stop is the WFLA Channel 8 TV studio on 2 Sept. to cook live on camera. In this whole crazy year of being a debut novelist, this is truly the most bizarre thing that I’ve been asked to do! I will be making authentic key lime pie and kick-ass mint julep cocktails (click here for recipes).
That evening, I will be the guest of the fabulous Seafood Shack in Cortez, FL, thanks to my old school mate Liza Adler Kubik, for a literary dinner featuring four of the area’s top chefs. Each one will cook a course inspired by food in the book, and I will keep the diners entertained with readings in between. It’s all in aid of the Coastal Conservation Association, which is a cause very close to my heart.
The next day, I am off to New Orleans for a brief visit, to do a reading at the lovely Octavia Books. It has been ten long years since hurricane Katrina, but for anyone living there it must seem like only five minutes ago. I’m privileged to play a small part in marking the occasion.
On my return to Tampa, the wonderful Oxford Exchange is hosting a literary lunch on 5th Sept. I’ll be interviewed by Matt Bolton from the American Meteorological Society about the book, while people enjoy coconut shrimp, ceviche, and other tropical delights. A signing will follow in the store.
Next it’s time for the real reason for the trip. I will be heading for the place which has been so much in my mind since I started writing the book in 2010: Islamorada, in the FL keys, which the Labor Day hurricane destroyed 80 years ago. On 8th Sept., as part of the hurricane anniversary commemorations, I will be interviewed by Keys Discovery Center Curator Brad Bertelli about writing historical fiction. It’s a huge honor for me to be there for this occasion, and definitely the high point in the whole experience which started five years ago with the question, ‘Why has no one ever written a novel about this?’
I will leave for Miami the next day to sign some books in a few stores and do an interview for the local NPR station before boarding the return flight to London.
I feel tired just writing it all down, but my health has improved a lot in recent months, and I know that it will be energizing as well. And I SO love meeting existing readers and sharing this story with new ones. My only regret is that there will be no time for swimming with manatees on this trip. That would have made it perfect.
Off to pack now…