I’m Melissa Banczak author of the June Nash Adventure series and when I’m not writing, I’m reading. I started this show to rave about new discoveries, chat with Indie and small publishing house authors, and occasionally share from my works in progress. This is books Cube: Interviews, Raves, & Reads.
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Hey, hi everybody, I am talking with Carrie Jo Howe today, who lives in my favorite city in the entire world, ket west, about her latest book, Island Life Sentence. Welcome Carrie.
How are you?
I am good. (?) Everyday is beautiful in paradise.
I know. I miss the island so much you are so lucky to live there. Except on the days that the cruise ships have three ships in port.
A lot of people…yeah, 1.5 million visitors a year.
Oh my God, I don’t even want to do the math on how many people that is a month.
I know. A lot.
So, tell everybody, a little bit about Island Life Sentence.
Okay, so Island Life Sentence was born out of a relocation that my husband and I made to Key West. Uh, his job changed, he had Florida as his territory, so we went from Chicago to Key West and uh, it was a big change. It’s a big culture shock down here, truly, is like a Caribbean Island feel, but still the United States. So it was ah, so everything is just so is so different her that I just had to write about it.
yeah, and you know when we lived there the joke, it’s probably still the joke, was that you’re closer to Cuba than you are a Walmart.
Right, and that’s true. I mean you do get, you, know like you, you miss malls. You just want to go to a mall. And not even to shop. We’ve been here for five and a half years, you go to a mall and you’re like, ooooo, look at all this stuff they have.
Yeah, we would go up to Miami, and go to Dauphin mall, and walk and there was a guy doing concert pianist one time and another time a guy with a stand up bass. I just sat and listened and it was so nice and I’m thinking, I”m in the mall this is just….
Yeah, yeah, so. You know, this book, is not, she’s not a detective, and you know, thee’s no great mystery she’s solving but I could not put it down. And I just, it’s, there’s so much craziness that happens to this poor woman. So, is this autobiographical?
Ah, there’s definitely part that um, would be sort of familiar in my life. Um, yeah I mean but the stories that are told in there are all true there not they didn’t all happen to me. Uh, but everything that happened in there. From the uh you know the manatee experience, the poison frog, the hurricane actually did happen to me, I wrote the book and it was published, when the hurricane was going on, Irma, so that was insane. She doesn’t have any kids, I have children, I wanted to make her a little bit more flexible. Her husband is not the nicest guy in the world. I have a very nice husband.
Now is he worried that people would think it was about him?
Oh yeah, yeah, (? ) My husband said no I love the book and Clark, Peg’s husband, you’re an asshole.
It’s nice, saying that about him.
Yeah, so the husband’s not a great guy. But I also, I wrote, you know, I like my girlfriends, and I like that some of the harder things of moving down here, I miss my close community of girlfriends. And I have one friend in particular who is Trudy, she truly is that’s her. And so I had to bring her in here because she’s a larger than life personality who takes no prisoners. And so, that’s why she had to (?)
Trudy was great. I really liked Trudy. Trudy will be back? There’ll be a sequel?
Trudy will be back. She’s going to be in Key West with Peg in the sequel and they’re going to have more adventures.
Great, great. So where do you get your ideas from? It’s not autobiographical?
Like Hemingway, he wrote in the morning and then he went to the bar in the afternoon and listened to stories and then he went home and the next day wrote about them.
I do keep notes. Interesting notes as I go along. But yeah, no it’s much more like as things happen. I’m usually just shaking my head saying, “What?” Nobody is going to believe this, I have to write this down. And then you hear other people’s stories just crazy stuff happens every single day and I think like I lived in suburban Chicago for twenty years and I did write a book then too but it was about the kids, and the (?) for the kids, everybody has sort of a similar experience and out here it’s different. The experiences I’m having are different from what other people are having I their regular life. Except the people who live down here.
well that’s what makes it so much fun. Because it’s so different. If you live in you know, Minnesota, you’re gonna wanna read this book because it’s such a different experience than what you’re going through today, you know, so. The grotto features prominently in the book, so, I was sitting in Starbucks and I”m working on a book and I have stickers o the back of my computer case and one of them is something about key west, I can’t remember know, I’m not gonna look because I’d have to move the computer, so this woman, I”d been watching her and her husband and kid for a while, her daughter was being…jumping all around, and kinda of was distracting they get up to leave and I’m thinking, great they’re leaving well, they walk over to my table, and she leans over and she says, you’ve got a sticker from key west, are you from there? And I said, I lived there for two years, she says, ooooo, I said have you been there, oh, I was born there, she starts telling me about the grotto, with just this very serious, it’s completely true, do you understand about the grotto, do you know about the grotto. And I thought that was really funny because, I didn’t really know much about the grotto when I lived down there because nobody had really, I didn’t know anybody who really talked about it. Until, in your book, and it’s featured really prominently, so
Yeah, people take it very seriously down here. It’s a…we…we’re catholic so we go to Mass, and so it’s basically the same around the world. From what I understand. The ritualistic part of it is exactly the same. So there’s comfort in that. I like that, personally. But one thing that was different, and you’re just kind of like going through the motions in Mass and all of a sudden they say, you know with the intention of you know praying to Sister Gabriel and her hurricane protection of the grotto. And I’m like, what’s the priest saying? You’re like, what? (?) Who’s protecting? And then of course, you go right outside the basilica, and ah, there is a grotto. And so that, as I was standing there, saying a prayer, I’m thinking, you know, there’s some rocks, that are fallen off this grotto, I mean, is that…should they be there? Shouldn’t somebody put these rocks back up on the grotto, I mean, (?) it should be whole. So that’s one of the things that started the what would happen if the grotto fell down, so that’s where the part of the story came in my mind. I was thinking this, the ability to take this seriously, I feel like somebody should be shoving those rocks back in there place.
They’d probably freak out.
It’s very very serious. And it’s…it’s…it’s all true. I mean. With Irma, she lost her spirit, and that hit hard (?)
They were. We were there from 2012 to 14 and we just had issac, was it issac?
Well, we moved here 5 years ago so we were 13. and people were asking about wilma. Because it as one of those, people were asking how much water did you get in Wilma?
I didn’t even though they formed in Africa. Until we moved here, I’m like wait, what? I have to look at the weather map there right now.
Yeah, suddenly you become an expert in Geography. And yes, you’re watching the waters and you look at all the dust that’s coming off the Sahara and it’s settling in and changing the water temperature and it’s bad for them but it’s good for us because it changes the water temperature and there’s less hurricanes.
Hurricane so yeah all that all that stuff suddenly becomes very important and it’s no longer just know what the passing time talking about the weather the weather is very important watching their National Hurricane Center looking at all the things that are happening and even in just my pilates class today they’re saying all we’re paying attention are you paying attention like.
Anything goes below Cuba that’s okay but if it goes above because of the mountain range then that’s where you’re into trouble and yeah yeah it’s a yeah you learn where all the islands are all the islands of the Caribbean where Cuba is and everything in relation yeah you learn it you learn it quickly and then you have your you have your hurricane bag.
Right you have your for your purchase and they send out like a pamphlet every year with like you know everything your supposed to have, it’s like, flashlight, your toilet paper, wipes the pass, the little pass, your pass to get back on the islands to get back in which they stayed which weren’t very many there a lot of residence that had stayed the whole lives through all the Hurricanes last and this one but there were people that stayed and it wasn’t the hurricane itself that scary, it’s afterwards because it’s 100 degrees there’s no water. There’s no electricity.
Yeah it can be bad yeah yeah so let’s move away from that so I’m looking at my wall of questions here okay bear with me here okay no not only a novelist but you also have a crime report blog about crimes in Key West I do they have a police blotter in the Key West citizen which you and I have talked about before, we love the Key West Citizen,it’s just such a great newspaper and the Citizens voice, it’s anonymous, people write in anonymous with complaints and (?) with the city. That’s hysterical in its own self. There’s the crime report. Every day, every crime, first of all there’s a lot of machetes Everybody has a machete.
Why is that?
I know how many people need, I’m from Chicago it has it’s own issues don’t get me wrong but not a lot of Machete crime, there’s not, it’s just not a big thing, and I said to my husband, I feel like, I can outrun, I mean, I’m not that fast, but like if I had to, not a bullet for sure, but a machete?
Man Grove crimes people are constantly driving their cars and then stopping and the police were chasing him and then they just jump in the mangroves.
Yeah this, yeah and and we have talked about this before that just a couple weeks ago a guy was running from the police and he jumped into the water now we’ve got an algae problem here so he got covered in algae and he realized immediately that he was in trouble so he surrendered to the police so they can wash them off and take him to the hospital to get antibiotics or something but it’s it’s not something you just just into the mangroves not too sure he could get past and swim away at but with the mangroves there’s nowhere to go there’s nowhere to go it’s shallow and also we have 6,000 on active military in Key West and have extremely large percentage of Coast Guard, he’s just not gonna get very far and it’s an island to it’s like where you going.
An then most of it’s drunk crime or just stupid stuff a lot of money comments that people they always list everything that people say when they’re getting arrested and the comments they make me something whoever is writing this they say staff, Citizen staff, but it has such a good sense of humor even the titles of the articles are so great. I’ll put a link to the Blog in the show notes and I highly encourage people to go and take a look at this blog there’s all kinds of crazy stuff on it crazy stuff and if the Citizen is online which it might be I’m going to take a look at page two with the Citizens Voice is what we were talking about a couple minutes ago was hysterical and people.
It’s like Twitter but in the newspaper right. They write each other daily like one person’s trash talking this pet a lot of trash talking, a lot of animal stuff and your dog and your chicken and Iguanas and kill the iguanas and it’s all back and forth and it is very very entertaining and I got the paper just for page 2.
For the voice it says it was just so funny because the newspaper never came on time we lived out in the Key Haven so I will get the paper around 3 in the afternoon and some days I wouldn’t get it and I’d call and say I didn’t get the paper she’d say, well I know him he would deliver it. Well, he didn’t. So, one day, I’m in the dentist office and because it’s an island you never know who you’re talking to so I’m in the dentist office and I’m chatting with somebody about the newspaper for some reason and I said to the guy I said I’m going to cancel the paper because I live in Key Haven and I never get it till like 3 in the afternoon and then they always tell me all he would have delivered it while the circulation director was sitting across from me she’s like don’t cancel it I will fix it I always got my paper early after that and I gave her my address and everything so she took care of it but we could have company and we have to go and buy a newspaper to see what was going on because I didn’t get my paper to the date hopefully they’re better now but I love the writing in it and it was just.
I hate to rag on the bus on my paper boy or girl whoever was delivering in there
It’s a local paper and they talk about their community people and the kids and schools and anything that goes on there they’re very supportive of the community as a whole. It’s a great, it’s a great paper.
So, did we talk about your other books you have a nonfiction book of non-fiction book I wrote about 6 years ago and it’s called Motherhood is Not For Babies. (?) of having three boys we had a big crazy dog and my husband who’s not very well behaved either,he’s not Clark but he’s (?) that was written long the lines of asking for it happen in life I feel like this is really hard. So then I’d write about it. And then something else would happen. This is really hard too. That’s were that came from. That was fun. I self published that one. That was my first attempt at writing.
Again the first attempt at writing but I learned a lot in the process so I’m glad I did it. It’s always good to get that first one in and figure out how you’re doing things
And I love that and it got you all ready for this one. I really love Peg she was so much fun so you said she’s going to be back right are you working on the sequel right now?
I’m doing a sequel, I’m getting her going. I want to, I’ve had some ideas, If I’ve, started some things that I might change them along the way you know see how that goes
oh yeah yeah you know you have your outline but then as you start writing your characters have other ideas.
I know, it’s like, wait. Not liking this.
There’s a lot of stories here. A lot of stories to tell.
There are. There really are.
My, my, the sequel that I’m writing, to for my series right now, is in Key West. It takes place in Key West.
I thought people should meet June Nash and Peg and they should have a, they should do something, maybe, a short story where they, get together, we could write it together. It’s not a bad idea.
And yes you talk about Fantasy Fest in here right that was Fantasy Fest? In mine, she’s there in April for The Conch Republic
so there’s festivals all the time in Key West is always something to do it’s it’s a lot of fun and yeah and I used to write a blog about Key West and I’ll put that in the show notes to cuz I from Fantasy Fest and of I had I didn’t get a photo of I did have an experience the same way that that she did in Fantasy Fest with a guy that she posed for the Picture.
Glitter everywhere. There’s so much glitter.
It’s nasty. It’s sticky. Parts. Yeah, then there’s things in mesh bags that should be in clothing covered bags yeah, people only wearing a sock that should have more on. And the sock is not on their foot.
And or just there’s no sock and it’s just painted.
Yeah for most of the time, it’s a lot of fun and not too horribly scary we talked about that I don’t want to talk about that and we talked about that, great. Just getting rid of all my show notes to make sure that I covered everything and that it’s really great to talk to you I really appreciate you taking the time, thank you so much, I appreciate it. I have to tell everybody to go and check this out I will have a link in the show notes. And I see that you got it on eBook now an ebook version. Yes, there’s an ebook version on Amazon too and oh hopefully, we’ll get an audible.
That will be good too, yeah. Audible’s good. A lot of people I’ve been listening to my audio books myself I was listen to one this morning so yeah it’s addicting yeah I know, (?)
okay well when you have the next book ready we’ll talk again okay thanks Melissa.
This is Melissa’s book. Bye.
Thanks Carrie. And uh, next week, I have got, I think, an interview with my friend Todd, who is a poet. Who is going to teach me about poetry. That’s my rant next week. It’s, poetry. Uh, it’s somewhere on my computer. I know it’s there. I’m gonna find it. So, subscribe. Leave a comment. In the show notes I will see you next week. Go read a good book.
Carrie Jo Howe’s books on Amazon https://amzn.to/2PM3yoc
The Key West Citizen on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KeyWestCitizen
Carrie’s Key West Crime Blog: https://carriejohowe.blogspot.com/
The Key West blog I wrote from 2012-2014. Bars, happy hour, and lots of latex. http://twistofkeylime.blogspot.com
Have you read book one of my June Nash Misadventure series yet? You can find the debut novel, How to Sex Your Snake, on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2ytYcaF
The prequel, How to Bungle Your Jungle, is free on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2q4qrYH
For more on me and where to find my books everywhere else, check out my website: https://melissabanczak.com
Need to interview someone and want some great questions? Check out John Fox’s 50 Brilliant Original Questions to Ask an Author. You’ll find them here: https://bit.ly/2R7QQjU
I’ll see you next time! Go read a good book,
ps. Some of these are affiliate links to help support my never ending grocery habit.