Novelists get ideas in strange ways, but the ways we use those ideas is often stranger. Several years ago when I was visiting Cleveland, Ohio, I drove along a street of identical tiny houses, identical, that is, except for one exception. At sometime along the way a homeowner had taken his/her version of that little house, added porches, a stone facade and creative landscaping. I wondered what it would be like to live there, how the architecture affected the way neighbors saw each other, who had renovated the "different" house so thoroughly that it no longer was part of the cookie cutter neighborhood design. Did the neighbors appreciate that creativity? Or did they exclude that neighbor for not conforming?
Happiness Key was inspired by that street. But inspired is an interesting word, because as always for me, there's a mile between inspiration and execution. Happiness Key takes place, not in Cleveland, but in a rundown development on the Florida Gulf Coast--where I grew up--although the fictional Palmetto Grove is a bit south of my own St. Petersburg. The houses in the development are not identical, nor does one stand out. But Happiness Key is a novel about neighbors, about the way we view each other and the lens through which we judge our world. It's about loneliness, and unlikely relationships, and changing who we are and what we think when circumstances require it. Most of all it's about finding our personal key to happiness.
In the end, Happiness Key is a friendship novel. Four very different women are brought together by circumstance, just as the people in that Cleveland neighborhood were and are. I hope that for the people on that anonymous street, real life is as intriguing and rewarding as my story was to imagine and write.