Monday, August 1, 2016
Guest Post: Edisto Beach – Setting Mystery in Eden by C. Hope Clark
Yesterday I reviewed Echoes of Edisto here on MysteriesEtc. Echoes of Edisto is an intriguing mystery set in one of the most peaceful and beautiful locations...South Carolina's Edisto Island. Today I invite you to explore Edisto Island with the author of Echoes of Edisto, C. Hope Clark.
By C. Hope Clark
My publisher asked me to set aside my first mystery series and create a new one, setting it in a place I could easily return to over and over again, in case the books took off. A place that the public would be drawn to, both in person and in print. A setting with both a taste of the romantic and the ominous. A sense of home while encouraging a sense of intrigue.
And there I was . . . at a total loss where to start a virgin series from scratch.
I spent almost four months struggling with the decision. Then I realized where I ‘d visited to set my own head on straight many times. Where I yearned to one day retire and lay my head, surf in the background every hour of the day and night. Edisto Beach.
My publisher was thrilled. They could sell a beach setting, they said. But it wasn’t just sand and waves to me. Edisto was way more than that, and I realized I could only explain its meaning by writing tales about it. My mission was to sculpt Edisto Island as a solid character, impacting everyone who set foot across the Dawhoo River onto its ground.
While I grew up in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, I’m not a beach fan. Except for Edisto. I dodge the tourist hordes on vacation. My personal beach visits take place in January, February, March, maybe April. Then again in October and November, when I can walk the sand and dissect thoughts in my head, not get cooked, and avoid stumbling over towels, coolers, and beach castles.
For me to fall in love with fresh characters, they also had to fall in love with my chosen setting. And with months of trial and error, I developed a world I could get lost in, amidst characters I believed in, planted in a setting that served as almost a breathing, bleeding, crying, laughing entity under the feet of these players.
You see, Edisto isn’t a typical South Carolina beach. It’s in the middle of nowhere, without franchises, thank goodness. You rent houses instead of staying in motels, which aren’t allowed. Lights go off along the sand because of the loggerhead turtles. Half the year you can run along the water with your dog off leash. No raucous from bars. No honking horns. A beach haven reminiscent of a time when the beach wasn’t destroyed by commercialism and families went to just play at the water’s edge without thought of modern conveniences. A softer time. A softer place.
My heart stirs just thinking about it.
Like the hearts of my characters, many of them with hearts that need healing.
Edisto is considered a refuge to regular visitors and residents. The one-timers don’t really get it. It takes visiting, then leaving, then realizing you miss it for you to understand the healing properties of the place . . . and its magnetic siren call. Problems are left on the other side of that big old McKinley Washington Bridge hooking Edisto Island to the mainland. The island has no room for stress.
Which, in a mystery author’s twisted mind, makes the perfect place for crime.
I opened the series moving a broken, flawed Callie Jean Morgan to Edisto. She arrived an unemployed, semi-alcoholic widow bearing the burden of her husband’s murder thanks to her past actions as a homicide detective. She feels she flew too high and paid the ultimate price, so she gave up the badge. Nobody cares what you were prior to your arrival on Edisto, so she retreated to collect all her broken pieces and make sense of her life amidst people who wouldn’t ask questions.
But she’s too gifted, and in contrast to the island’s reputation, crime follows in her wake. Add that to the fact that she sees crime where others do not, and she solves crimes when others cannot, and we have the perfect contrast. A Garden of Eden that the devil occasionally comes to visit, with Callie the only angel able to identify him. Her heart dedicated to protecting the people she’s come to love, her head vowing to maintain the beach’s reputation. Her soul needing Edisto to remain forever as it is, unsoiled.
The gulls call her, dipping and shouting life can still be carefree. The sharks slide into St Helena Sound, reminding her to be alert.
I couldn’t have found a better setting for a mystery series. Edisto beckons, nurtures, its briny breezes soothing. But every Garden of Eden comes with a snake or two. And every hero has a crack in her armor.
C. Hope Clark visits her beloved Edisto several times a year. Her latest, Echoes of Edisto, releases August 5 on Amazon and, as always, at the Edisto Bookstore on the island. You can see all of Hope’s books wherever books are sold, or visit her website at www.chopeclark.com .