I love the outdoors. Well, at least, I do when the weather is nice. The kind of heat we’ve had the summer doesn’t really fit the bill. But when it’s a reasonable temperature for whatever outdoor activity I want to do—hiking, running, walking, just sitting around—I could almost stay outside forever. Being outdoors is what recharges my batteries faster than anything else.
I particularly like being around water. I’d much rather be on or near the water than in the water; I’m not a big swimmer. But sitting on a dock by a lake, or near a river, or on a boat, or on the beach—it’s all a slice of heaven to me.
That’s part of the reason I set Sand & Water primarily on Tybee Island. Tybee sits off the Georgia coast at Savannah, in the curve of the Southeastern shoreline. I grew up in South Georgia, and over the years I’ve made lots of trips to Georgia’s barrier islands. I’ve spent more time on St. Simons and Jekyll Islands, but I have a soft spot for Tybee.
The last time I visited was about 5 years ago, on a weekend trip to Savannah with my sister. We spent most of a day on the island, eating lunch at Stingray’s and hitting the Marine Science Center, walking on the pier and the beach. While we were there, I took the two images that were used on the cover of Sand & Water, of the beach and the pier (the latter is the picture with this post). The beach shot is also the one used for the header here and in some of the promotional materials I’ve had made.
Like most beach spots, large or small, Tybee has its fair share of kitsch and tourist-related annoyances. A Miley Cyrus movie was filmed there since my last visit, and I’m sure that wasn’t a whole lot of fun for the locals and has surely added a layer to the tourist-trappiness. But Tybee has the laid-back, small-town feel that most beach towns do, with lots of local businesses and restaurants, so it doesn’t have a “Disney-fied” feel that some places. Plus pretty much everything is within walking distance to the beach, and it’s hard to argue with that.
I use a few local businesses in Sand & Water. Tradewinds, which John mentions briefly, is a real ice cream store and coffee shop, and I’ve visited both the Marine Science Center and the snack bar on the pier. The location of Meghan’s restaurant, Let’s Be Shellfish, matches up with a seafood restaurant located along the beach, and the island has an Episcopal church too, but the versions of both in the novel are fully fictionalized. The specific locations of the homes and local parks described are also fictionalized, but Tybee has a number of Victorian-era houses like the house John, Beth, and Meghan share and the bed and breakfast where Bryan lives with his sister and her family. A lot of those have been restored in recent years, and that’s a wonderful thing to see.
Writing Sand & Water made me want to buy a place on Tybee eventually. I’d probably need to win the lottery or produce a major bestseller first, considering the real estate prices. But with the beach on my doorstep and the beautiful history of Savannah such a short drive away, it’s high up on my wish list.