By Sherry — I’m looking forward to seeing all of the Wickeds tomorrow at our annual retreat in Maine!

I announced my new Chloe Jackson Redneck Riviera series here on April 18th.

But as you might have guessed from the title of this piece, I have a confession to make. I vacillate between joy and terror as I start on this new adventure with Chloe. For some reason when I started writing the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries, Sarah came to me almost fully formed. I knew where she lived, what she drove, how she felt about life.

Chloe is a bit more of a mystery to me. Instead of popping into my head like Sarah did, she’s holding bits of herself back. I know she was a children’s librarian in Chicago until she moved to the Emerald Coast to keep a promise to a friend and help his grandmother out at her beach bar. I knew the grandmother didn’t want her there, but Chloe was raised that a promise made was a promise kept.

Two weeks ago I was down at the Redneck Riviera visiting my mom and doing some research. (Isn’t that convenient?!) The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The Gulf of Mexico was at its show offy best. The emerald color of the water against the white sand couldn’t have been more beautiful. Digging my toes in the sand as the cool water washed over my feet felt like a bit of heaven. I knew that Chloe would feel the same way.

My friend Clare and I went out on a research trip  — going to a few beach bars and talking about the new series.

First, we stopped at the Whale’s Tail in Miramar Beach, Florida. If you click here you can go to their website and checkout live beach cam. I’ve eaten there fairly often (the view is amazing and we saw dolphins) but didn’t know until Clare told me that there was a bar underneath the restaurant. It’s pretty plain but maybe the perfect spot for the Seaglass Bar.

Next we headed to the small town of Grayton Beach to go to the Red Bar. There’s another bar/restaurant there. It’s not right on the beach but only a block away. It’s one of those places that’s crammed full of interesting things. And just in case you wonder what was in that Bloody Mary there were green beans, olives, banana peppers and of course celery.

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And finally we stopped at The Other End — a bar on Destin harbor. It’s a cool little place with an Airstream as its building. But I think I want something more permanent for The Seaglass Bar.

None of these was the perfect bar but I think I can incorporate bits of all of them into the Chloe books. Then there are so many other decisions. Where does she live? What does she drive? What is her family like and where are they? More on all of this another day.

The area has a definite Southern feel with the heat, sweet tea, and drawls. I started using “you all” while I lived there after a life time of “you guys” that is part of my Iowa roots. The area attracts tourist, Midwesterners, spring breakers. A mix of old/young, South/North, that creates a clash of cultures. I know all of this is fodder for the books.

So I’m excited to learn more about Chloe and scared at the same time.

Readers: Does anyone have advice for me? How do you handle new characters? How do you face your fears?





34 Thoughts

  1. Fear is your friend! Even our best friendships develop over time. Let Chloe reveal herself as she’s ready. Sounds like she’s holding back a big secret that will surprise you and make for a spectacular read.

    As for bars, hubs and I fled Irma to Destin last autumn. We discovered that Hog’s Breath Saloon originated on the RNR, not in Key West. Who knew. I’d have lost that bet!

    1. I love that you think she’s holding back a big secret! Love it! Thank you. I was surprised when I saw a Hog’s Breath in Key West last winter.

  2. You are going to rock this thing, Sherry. When I was starting my first series, I interviewed my protagonist.She answered in her own voice, which helped a lot. And it’s always fun to discover hidden things in your character’s past as you write the book. Have fun!

  3. With any new character in a series, you have to save something for the future. Your character can say a few things that may seem a little odd at first, but don’t feel you have to explain why she said them, and don’t dwell on it–your readers will trust you to explain the “why” eventually.

  4. One of my protagonists was tough to get to know, so I started with common ground–what were our points of intersection and where did he stand on those issues? Then he began sharing his views on other things, whether we agreed or not. By then it was a blast to hear how he thought and felt about things! Also wanted to say your new setting is so colorful. All the best!

  5. I think others are right when they say let Chloe tell you about herself in her own time. Be patient. I’m still learning things about my characters, even after “living” with them for a couple years.

    1. I love it when characters start to reveal things about themselves. In the Sarah books, I knew where Sarah and her ex met but one day the exact circumstances came to me.

  6. Chloe sounds like SHE knows who she is, so I suggest YOU continue bar hopping, beach walking, and letting her soak into your conscious. BTW, loved some of the places you showed — Destin is about 4 hours from me, so San Destin, Grayton, Seagrove have long been stomping grounds for rest and relaxation. Maybe we’ll pass down there on one of your future trips.

  7. I think you need more research. Or an assistant to do the research for you… and I’d totally volunteer for that job! 🙂

  8. I’m not a writer, so I don’t have any suggestions, but I love the whole set-up. I’m sure Chloe will become even more 3-dimentional with time. She needs time and space to grow – to learn more about herself before it can be revealed.

  9. If you need research as you go, just let me know! And let’s give you and Chloe a grand intro on the crime review blog!
    Have FUN at the retreat and giant hugs to the crew~

  10. My only advice is to rethink the word “Redneck”. Some people may find it offensive. Just saying.

    1. My editor and I talked about this for a long time because I had a similar thought. The book isn’t about rednecks but about an area called the Redneck Riviera. The area is very proud to be called that. The manager of the Barnes and Noble in Destin can’t wait for the book to come out and is planning a big event with the press there, etc.

  11. Creating characters is the part of the process that’s most foreign to me. When I try, my characters all come out sounding the same – exactly like me.

    Good luck. I look forward to reading the results.

  12. Hello to all the Wickeds! I’m so intrigued by Chloe and this great new setting. I think everyone’s right when they say you’ve got this – try to be patient – and keep enjoying that research!

  13. Could there be a bowling alley in the basement of the bar? And I think that there just might be a “secret” that she left back in Chicago.

  14. Chloe and the setting sound great. Most times the characters really start to gel in the second or third books. My aunt used to live in Coral Gables so I enjoy reading about Florida even though I haven’t been further north than Orlando.

  15. As a reader, I like learning more about a character as the series progresses. I’m sure Chloe will reveal different parts of her personality, life, history as you write the books.

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