There were stops and starts along the way. During my first attempt at college, my composition professor encouraged my writing. Years later, after dropping out of school, working dead-end jobs, a hitch in the Army, and returning to school to get a business degree, I took up writing again at the urging of two of my college writing professors.
The story that grew to be my first novel, River Dream, and then the River Dream Trilogy, started as a short story about the time a storm caught my father and me while we were fishing along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. That story wouldn't stop morphing and growing. I kept asking myself questions about the characters' lives before and after the storm. In the end, the original story was edited out of the manuscript.
After the River Dream Trilogy set at Wrightsville Beach, I realized that creating a fictional town would allow me more independence in establishing a setting for my characters. Thus, Buzby Beach was founded.
I located Buzby Beach on an undeveloped island between Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches near Wilmington. The town and its familiar, reappearing characters have grown with each new Buzby Beach book.
The first draft of The Boy from Buzby Beach was my initial attempt to reach the NaNoWriMo Winner's Circle. Also, at my wife's suggestion, some might say insistence, I named the main characters after our family's dog and cat members at the time. Jacques, the main character, was named after my wife's French Brittany. Ginger was named after my youngest son's dog. The veteran of few words, Scout, got his name from my older son's dog. My cat, Joe, lent his name to the man who drove the bakery truck.
A good deal of the story was set inside Jacques's mother's coffee shop. Marie O'Larrity owned and operated what was, during the time The Boy from Buzby Beach took place, the only coffee shop on the island. She called her establishment the Parisian Bean. Marie's family history with the coffee business dates back to French Colonialism in Indochina. Opening a coffee shop after her alcoholic husband abandoned her and three-year-old Jacques was the natural thing for her to do.
My inspiration for the Parisian Bean was Janeen's Majik Beanz in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Over the years, I have spent many hours sipping coffee and writing on my laptop in Majik Beanz during my visits to the beach.
The coffee shop is one of four businesses in a decades-old building along Sound Street, one of the island's three main north-to-south roads. The two-story building backs up onto the sound. The three other businesses include a sandwich and ice cream shop, a t-shirt and hat shop, and a bicycle rental store.
On the building's second floor are three apartments: two one-bedroom at each end and the two-bedroom apartment Jacques shares with his mother.
Across Sound Street from the Parisian Bean is the News Stand, a book and gift shop owned by Cienna's grandparents. Cienna visits the island every summer and is one of Jacques's best friends. The News Stand is modeled on Carolina Beach's Island Book Store.
Buzby Island also boasts a fishing pier, a high-class resort, a county park with a campground and freshwater lake that still puzzles scientists, an eclectic collection of restaurants, stores, shops, vacation homes, hotels, an arcade, and a small amusement park.
The most iconic spot on the beach is Iggie's Cheeseburgers and Onion Rings. This walk-up, take-out-only burger stand claims that its cheeseburgers were the ones Jimmy sang about but never have the owners specified which Jimmy. Iggie's is the only business besides the fishing pier allowed on the ocean side of Ocean Street. It has occupied the same piece of sand since the days before Ocean Street was paved and has been rebuilt numerous times after Atlantic storms knocked it down.
Over the years, readers have asked me for directions to Buzby Beach. With a smile, I tell them the only way there is to open one of my Buzby Beach books and dive in.