Tampa Writer Taps Naples for Settings
BOOK BEAT Naples Sun Times October 4-10, 2006
by Philip K. Jason
“Lainie Ames’s return to Naples was supposed to be the sort of local-girl-makes-good story that would make viewers of Oxygen or the Hallmark channel wish they’d bought stock in Kleenex.” So opens Beverly Brandt’s brand new novel, Dating Game, her third book to use Naples as an important setting. In Dating Game, Brandt takes readers to our beloved Ritz Carlton, to a very familiar street of shops and restaurants, and also to somewhat less posh quarters of elegant Naples. Dear Naples reader, how could I resist finding out more about a writer with such good taste?
PKJ: What led you to set Match Game in Naples?
BB: When I moved to Florida from Seattle three and a half years ago, Naples was the first city I visited for fun. I had a much-needed long weekend off with my husband, and we drove down and stayed at the La Playa hotel on Vanderbilt Beach. The beach was gorgeous and I thought it was so cool that we had to close our drapes at night so as not to disturb the breeding sea turtles. We shopped and ate several fantastic meals on Fifth Avenue South and I just kept thinking that if I set a book down there, I’d have a reason to come back more often!
Around the time I moved, I had just sold a three-book romantic suspense series and I wrote it into the first book (Dangerous Curves, written under my pseudonym Jacey Ford) that the heroine of the third book (Dead Heat) would be working a job in Naples. The mission of the heroine in that book is to tail a bank president’s girlfriend to a (fictional) firm called Rules of Engagement, which is in the business of advising their mostly-female clientele on how to motivate their reluctant significant others from “I’m not sure” to “I do.” I thought Rules of Engagement’s mission was so fun that I wanted to use it in a couple of my romantic comedies as well, which is why Match Game and Dating Game are set in Naples.
PKJ: How much time have you spent here?
BB: Unfortunately, not as much as I would have liked! Almost as soon as I moved to Florida, I sold not only the romantic suspense series I mentioned above, but another two romantic comedies to St. Martin’s Press. Then, just as I finished the fourth contracted book, I sold another two comedies and three novellas to Berkley, which means I’ve written seven novels and three novellas in three and a half years, leaving very little time for even short trips down to one of my favorite cities in the state!
PKJ: How did you draw upon this town?
BB: Despite the deadlines I mentioned above, I was able to make a few more trips into town and took photos of the buildings along Fifth Avenue South, which I used to create my own fictional Sunshine Parkway. I decided to use fictional businesses (and even an airport) instead of real ones because I didn’t want to inadvertently use the name of a real one and end up with the owner angry at me because I set some sort of crime or nefarious activity there. Hopefully the true feel of Naples comes through, though!
Beverly Brandt did not emerge full-blown as a successful novelist. Though it was one of her earliest ambitions, no one encouraged her and she made her way in the world as a clerk and later a receptionist in an insurance company. Job assignments revealed her facility with computer software, and this skill plus a degree in finance enabled her to become a financial analyst. But the work was deadening to her mind and spirit. She finally made the break and committed herself to her first love – fiction writing.
“For five of the last seven years,” Brandt writes, “I’ve been a full-time writer. The work is sometimes difficult (but, hey, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!), but more rewarding than anything else I’ve ever done. There is nothing like typing ‘the end’ on a manuscript you’ve labored over for months. When my first book came out, I slept with a copy of it under my pillow. I went to a party around the holidays last year and mentioned to a stranger that I was a writer. When she asked what names I wrote under and I told her I also write as Jacey Ford, she screamed and then threw her arms around me. Then she called her daughter from her cell phone and said, ‘You’ll never guess who I just met!’ How cool is that? I can tell you, no one ever gushed that way over a spreadsheet I created.”
Dear reader, I can do no more to whet your appetite for Beverly Brandt (or Jacey Ford) than to provide this overview of Match Game: At her wedding ceremony, Savannah Taylor, an accountant, is arrested for money laundering and tax evasion. The unsympathetic would-be groom decides not to set another date, even though young Savannah has been exploited through identity theft. The list of items she has supposedly charged leads Savannah to head for Naples, Florida – where the upscale items were purchased. There, as she investigates the cause of her dilemma, she runs into Mike Bryson, a U.S. Marshall. A job at a place called Refund City puts her dangerously close to the thief – and pleasantly close to Mike. Are you hooked?
Explore this talented writer’s two worlds by visiting beverlybrandt.com and jaceyford.com.
Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at firstname.lastname@example.org.