The last scene in my latest novel, Chasing Sunsets, begins with the fact that four bridges lead into Cedar Key, but only one road. Those bridges and that road are real—they have led me to hours of my favorite moments.
I heard about Cedar Key, Florida, in 2004. When I crossed the first bridge for the first time, I was stirred by a land—and a time—that would challenge my ability to capture it in words. The beauty, the people, and the history of Cedar Key beckoned me to return.
And so I would.
During one such trip, as I flipped through a magazine, I came across an advertisement—the kind that tells a story, if you can figure it out. And I did. There was only one thing to do: set that story in Cedar Key.
Why not fictionalize?
My previous novels had been set in fictitious locations. For the Cedar Key series, I chose to keep the locations—Orlando, Windemere, Otter Creek, Rosewood, Cedar Key—true to life. This decision led to trepidation. I had to get the details right. My protagonist’s home had to architecturally fit Windemere. The same was true of her family’s house in Cedar Key.
But there was more—the layout of the streets, the shape of the buildings, the cracks in the sidewalk. I had to capture the smell of jasmine in the spring, the gray clouds of winter, and the tropical paradise of spring and autumn. And I couldn’t ignore how the island feels as the sun rises and the way it looks when it sets.
Most important was the unspoken past that drives the people of such a place. It all had to be reflected in my characters and the setting.
Getting the details right
Though I visited Cedar Key frequently, writing this story wasn’t left to memory. I spent time in her museum, researched in her library, hiked her trails. I boated her waters, sat on her dock, and spent money in her shops.
I talked, but mostly I listened—especially to the local artists and old-timers.
It’s important that I experience as much of a location as possible—so my readers can as well.
Eva Marie Everson is an award-winning author and speaker whose passion is to see others drawn to God. She’s written fiction, nonfiction, devotionals, and articles. Her books include Reflections of God’s Holy Land, This Fine Life, Things Left Unspoken, The Potluck Club series, and Chasing Sunsets.