Award-winning women’s literary fiction novelist Rayne Golay joins us today to discuss the seduction of Southwest Florida and how it’s played a part in her writing. Life is a Foreign Language is her first novel. Her second novel, The Wooden Chair, will be released later this summer. Learn more about Rayne at her website. -- AP
Southwest Florida Seduces
Quite a few years ago, my aunt and uncle used to flee the soul numbing cold and snow and darkness of the winter months in their homeland, Finland. They stayed in a condo in Fort Myers, Florida, and painted delicious pictures of the pleasures they experienced. Together with my husband, we ended up by renting a house in Florida, complete with a pool and a back yard with an orange and a grapefruit tree.
This was the beginning of my love affair with Southwest Florida; the heat, the sun, the glittering waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the lush vegetation, I loved it all, still do. I’d go for walks in my neighborhood and gasp, “Oh, look at that”! I’d grab my husband’s arm if he was with me, point at a flock of pristine white ibis and say, “Isn’t this lovely,” as I stared in silent admiration at the sky with ever-changing clouds and super cells.
When I started writing my first novel, Life is a Foreign Language, it was a given I’d set the story in Southwest Florida. During one of my walks, I stopped to admire a tall jacaranda tree with blue-purple flowers. The florescence was rich, an azure cloud against the white billowing clouds.
When Nina, my female protagonist, meets Michael, much about him attracts her, but she “falls” into his jacaranda blue eyes, compelling, arresting in their intensity. I was able to pour into this story my passion for gardening, experiencing it vicariously through Michael’s trial-and-error attempts to grow the perfect rose.
I must have inherited my fascination for gardening from my father. Despite the harsh weather conditions in my native Finland, my Dad tended a gardenia in our home. When he first planted it, it was no more than a twig. Over time, and with tender care from my Dad, it grew into a bush. Each year in early April it carried a few buds. For my father’s birthday at the end of April it produced one white flower to honor his day.
When I bought my house here in Southwest Florida, before I did anything at all about the yard, I planted a gardenia outside my bedroom widow. Its spicy and exotic perfume fills the air when the bush is covered in white flowers—in April. And of course the intoxicating scent of gardenia wafts through the pages of Life is a Foreign Language.
Life is a Foreign Language
After thirty-seven years of her husband's infidelities, Nina has had enough! Wounded she files for divorce, leaves family and native France. She meets Michael with whom she experiences fantastic joy that tuns to agonizing sorrow when he is brutally torn from her. Alone and bereft, she must continue the legacy Michael has left; trust, the awareness that she is strong enough to survive on her own, against all odds.