When I first moved to the Caribbean from upstate New York I was nineteen with a middle-class, white-bread, sheltered background. I went through a lot of the same culture shock my protagonist goes through during my first years in the Virgin Islands (yes, the whole “good morning” scene really did happen to me).
Throughout Marina Melee people tell George he has to read Herman Wouk’s Don’t Stop the Carnival, the expat “Bible” for living in the Caribbean. I was rereading it after I’d been in the islands for about ten years and while I was doing a lot of work with marinas. The stories the marina folks shared with me about mishaps and island characters reminded me of the situations Norman Paperman runs into in Wouk’s story. I thought the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same is especially true in the islands and wouldn’t an updated Carnival be a fun story? The idea spun around in my head for years, but I didn’t actually write it until I’d left the region and was living in Germany—about as far removed from the Caribbean mentality as it is possible to get!
Why did you choose to write from a male protagonist’s POV?
I wanted to write Marina Melee for a number of years, but every time I tried, I wasn’t satisfied with the results. I had published before, but only research articles in scientific journals. As I quickly discovered, science writing and fiction writing are two very different beasts and I needed some practice to make the transition, so I started a blog and joined an online writing group—the Internet Writing Workshop. Occasionally, I would write a blog piece as my husband, or submit stories from a male protagonist’s POV. Those were the pieces I got the best feedback on. My mother even called me after one blog post from “Matt” and said I should give up writing and let him do it! I’m not sure what it says about me, but I definitely feel my voice is more authentic writing from a male POV.
Did you incorporate yourself into the story?
Not as a character, but the story itself is a part of me; my experiences and my love for the Caribbean and its people are woven into the story. The biggest part of me in the story is my belief that home is where you find it. No matter how long I’m away, when I return to the Virgin Islands, I always feel I’m returning home.