Originally, I had planned for DRIFT AWAY to take place on Australia’s Gold Coast. I thought that might make a nice hiding spot for a guy who is trying to hide. I knew Noah was on a beach somewhere, looking up at a lost boy. I didn’t know much beyond that.
The novel itself had stalled out, though. It wasn’t under contract. I wasn’t sure it would ever get written. There was no reason to think much more about it.
As usual, she was right. It made sense. The logistics of getting Noah to Australia seemed far-fetched (not to mention the fact I’ve never been there and would probably look like a bigger fool than normal trying to make it sound like I knew the place) and I wanted his hiding to feel real. I wanted readers to say “Yeah. I could see him going there.” It felt like a place he could get to and stay awhile.
We spent one afternoon driving around the local neighborhoods, looking at the streets, the homes, the people, just to get a sense of what it was like to live there if you weren’t a tourist. We ate amazing hamburgers at Tops, the walk-up place attached to a car wash that’s mentioned in the book. (They were so good we went twice.) And every morning, we’d watch the guys set up the umbrellas and chairs on the beach for the tourists to rent. It seemed like a job he’d be doing in order to make some cash.
So I started writing it again in our condo that week. I sat on the couch in our living room and stared at the Gulf while I typed. Thought about the story while we sat on the beach. We hashed out the details of the plot over the course of the week. It all came together. Right place, right time.
So that’s why Florida.
You can read more about Fort Walton Beach and Noah’s time there in DRIFT AWAY.