Author Spotlight : Katherine Fleet - Author of The Secret of Letting Go

Why I Picked the Sunshine State…

Hi! I’m Katherine Fleet, debut author of the YA Contemporary, The Secret to Letting Go. Thanks so much to Paula for hosting me today!

My novel is set in a fictional town on the Gulf Coast of Florida during that magical summer after high school graduation when the whole world is out there waiting for you. It’s the story of two teens – Clover, a mysterious girl who shows up in town lost in her secrets and fears, and Daniel, a boy who’s drawn into her troubled world despite his better judgment. Life keeps throwing them together, but their secrets keep them apart. Ultimately, it’s a story about living through tragedy and learning to forgive your self.

Being from Canada and now living in the Caribbean, people probably wonder why I set my novel in Florida. It might seem arbitrary, but I had reasons. First, since moving to Curacao nine years ago, I vacation and/or pass through Florida a couple times a year. I also had breast cancer treatment in Tampa, so I’ve become familiar with the area.

But choosing to set my novel in Florida was based on more than just familiarity. I grew up in Newfoundland on the eastern coast of Canada. I also spent five years living in Northern Canada - far enough north to frequently see the northern lights and have people drive their snowmobiles to work. Growing up with more days of winter than summer, I daydreamed about hanging out on the beach and working as a lifeguard. Hey, Baywatch was a very popular show! If you lived down South, I figured your life was perfect.

Given my views, it’s no wonder my husband and I jumped at the chance to move to the Caribbean. But since coming here, I’ve learned a few things. First, vacation and life are always different. If you come to Curacao on vacation, you’ll be impressed, but when you live here, it’s still about the day-to-day activities of regular life – school, work, grocery shopping, and paying bills. Not that I’m complaining. There’s a lot to love about this tiny island, including a slower pace of life I was never able to find in Canada. This means more opportunities for quality time with my family and more time for friends and adventures. But I no longer look at southern living with the same rose-colored glasses I did when I was younger. I now understand that it’s not the location that makes for an ideal life. It’s how I choose to live my life.

Still, when Clover got in her car, running from all the bad things that had happened to her and looking for a new start, I made her head south. When I imagined a hero who appeared to have everything going for him – loving family, good friends, bright future – I knew his idyllic, small hometown was in Florida. Florida, the Sunshine State, where from the outside, things looks bright and sunny, but where life in the end is still life.

Like my own transition to Curacao, both Clover and Daniel discover that being happy in a place is not about the average temperature or the distance to the beach. It’s about the people who surround you – friends and family. It’s about learning to love yourself, which in their case, first requires learning to forgive themselves for past mistakes. It’s about taking the time to pay attention to the things that are really important.

So, that’s why I chose to set The Secret to Letting Go in Florida. What about you? Where would you choose to set a novel?


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