As some of you know, we spend our winters in Florida, in rural Florida where alligators, cattle and vast expanses of prairie and fields for grazing make up the landscape. People are almost incidental to this area. Without air conditioning, bug spray and fire ant killer, people would not have ventured more than ten miles away from the beaches. Despite the need for modern interventions to make the area livable, rural Florida is probably less polluted by development and more natural than either of its coastal areas where most of Florida’s population resides in communities created by filling in swamps and adding concrete for parking, malls and other amenities that take away that “wild” feel. This is “old” Florida, not much changed in fifty years. Because I’m a country gal, I like living close to the land even if I am forced to share it with large reptiles and lots of cows. But then, I like cows.
We are fortunate that we live only thirty miles from the coast because we are ocean lovers and like the restaurants there offering excellent food and service. Those are hard to find in rural Florida as are stores that sell items such as clothes, shoes, furniture, computers, books, those things we have come to expect will be next door. In one of our trips to the coast last weekend, we wandered into a consignment shop, a rather high-end consignment shop, one reminiscent of the shop owned by Eve Appel, my protagonist in the Eve Appel mysteries, and her business partner and best friend Madeleine. Owning a consignment shop in rural Florida where opening day is marked by Eve finding a dead body on the changing room floor was the original impetus for the series, now six books strong with the sixth book coming out in March.
Looking through that consignment shop reminded me how far Eve and her friends have come from their original discovery of the dead body in the first book, A Secondhand Murder. Both Eve and Madeleine are now married with children. Their business has grown to one in Sabal Bay and a shop on wheels which they take to the coast to a flea market where they sell on weekends. And they have a tailor in the shop, a nice personal touch for the women who buy there. The shop I visited this weekend reminded me why my protagonist owns a consignment shop and not a bakery, bookstore, is a quilter or is in some other line of work. The reason has to do with my paternal grandmother, whom I have said many times is the reason for my own love affair with secondhand items. Grandma Minnie never bought anything new. She reused everything including her own bathwater, which she took from her tub weekly and used to wash down the hallway and stairs. That is extreme, but it is a lesson that water from the tap is not infinite. Whether growing up with her turned me into someone who believes everything has a second life or her genes found their way into a receptive granddaughter, I can’t pass a consignment shop or a garage sale without stopping. And I couldn’t resist this buy.
When I think about it, most of my life is about secondhand something. I write a protagonist who owns a consignment shop, I’m on my second career as a writer (I was a psychologist), most of the houses I’ve owned were not new, much of my furniture and furnishings found their way into my house via yard sales, I purchased my car used, and my husband and I were married to other people before we found each other. And, of course, many items of clothing in my closet have been worn by someone else before I took them home and made them mine. My grandmother would say I’m being virtuous with my recycling, reusing, repurposing approach to life. That’s true, but what is also true is that shopping secondhand is like reading a mystery. You don’t know the outcome.
I hadn’t intended for the Eve Apple mysteries to morph into a series where Eve also found a second career, but it has. Why should I be surprised? Eve is now working for a local private detective trying to learn the investigative business. She’s kept her hand in the consignment shop business. I’ll never let her lose that aspect of her life. There’s also a part of Eve that parallels her love of life in the “used” lane. Eve is not the biological parent to three of her children. They are adopted, although loved as much as if they were children she gave birth to. Eve Appel’s life on the page is all about a life repurposed from a fashionista in Connecticut to a gal taking on a life reshaped by “old” Florida.
In the newest Eve Apple mystery Eve must deal with her past to protect the life she’s made for herself in Florida. Killer Tied Book 6 in eh Eve Apple mysteries will be released by Camel Press in March. You can preorder it now from Amazon. Eve has lived with the knowledge that her parents died in a boating accident when she was nine. Will a doppelganger claiming to be her sister convince her that she has been lied to and her parents are still alive?