Gerri Hill discusses her new novel Red Tide at Heron Bay and her deep love of its setting: Rockport, Texas.
If you’ve read most of my books, you’ll find a number of them that take place along the Texas Coast, mainly in the Rockport area. Rockport itself, Port Aransas on Mustang Island (Port A to the locals) and even Corpus Christi (Corpus to the locals). You’ll find yourself there in Gulf Breeze and Love Waits. You’ll be there in Pelican’s Landing. The Midnight Moon and The Scorpion will take you there. And Moonlight Avenue too. Now comes Red Tide at Heron Bay.
My obsession didn’t start until my mid-20s when I made my first trip there. A friend took me to an old, rundown (think cheap) motel, The Surf Court. It was right on the bay with rooms on stilts that made you feel like you were in the water as high tide lapped against the wooden pillars. Goose Island State Park is there too. Subsequent trips involved camping. If it were the rainy season and the mosquitoes were too bad in the woods, we’d always have a fallback plan…The Surf Court. (Sadly, it was demolished a few years ago and replaced with a public park and pier that juts out into the bay. Not that I would have actually stayed at the place! It’s solely for nostalgia.)
I spent my 30th birthday in Rockport. Alone. My girlfriend at the time was supposed to go with me. Something came up and she said she’d join me the next day, that I should go ahead without her. The next day came but she didn’t. She also wasn’t answering her phone. I remember walking on the beach near Port A on my birthday, alone, and stumbling upon a fist-sized rock with shells imbedded in it. It was a chunk of flint and I picked it up, wondering what the hell flint was doing washed up on the beach. I would have thought someone had dropped it there if not for the shells on it. I still have it, sitting on my desk. It’s a reminder. (And yes, she soon became an ex GF!) (In my fantasy, I imagine a long ago traveler, hundreds are even thousands of years ago, dropping the flint rock, just waiting for me to find it.)
My visits to Rockport became more seasonal after that. Usually the week between Christmas and New Year’s was spent there. Oftentimes Thanksgiving too. It was there that I became interested in birding and a trip during April and May was a must to catch migrants! And it’s remained a favorite place to spend my birthdays.
It’s a touristy town filled to the brim in winter with people escaping the snow, yet it retains its smalltown charm. Art festivals, market days, music festivals, oysterfest, fireworks on the 4th, the hummingbird festival and on and on it goes. Any excuse to celebrate anything! Who doesn’t love wearing shorts and flip flops year ‘round as you meander Rockport Harbor during festivals? (BTW, the beer tent is a big draw!)
Whether it’s sitting at a pier on the bay or walking the beach and watching the waves, it allows my mind to wander. Many a book was formed there as I strolled along, and not all of them having to do with the coast. Storms was born there, a story that takes place far away, in the mountains of Montana. It was also there that the idea for After the Summer Rain hit me, a story that takes place in the desert southwest of New Mexico. And it was there that Gillette Park came to life, a story set in the Rocky Mountains.
I’m sure there’ll be more, either set there or born there…but Rockport feeds my muse and I let it.