September 6th is National Read a Book Day!
Did you know that 81% of Americans don’t read as much as they want to? Try to take the time and grab a book to read! There are many fantastic Authentic Floridian authors, and one of our favorites is Carl Hiaasen of Fort Lauderdale!
We were lucky enough to attend an online talk with Carl Hiaasen and James Patterson recently presented by the Vero Beach Book Club! Read on to learn more about Hiaasen and his new book Squeeze Me, set in Palm Beach, Florida!
Carl Hiaasen has spent the majority of his life in Florida and attended the University of Florida (Go Gators!). After graduation, he joined The Miami Herald as a general assignment reporter. Since 1985 he has been writing his own column for the Herald.
Mr. Hiaasen has written several novels, his first being Tourist Season, set in Florida, which came out in 1986. GQ Magazine called the book “one of the 10 best destination reads of all time”. He has also written young adult novels including the award-winning book Hoot. His books have been published in many different languages – 34 to be exact! He says this is 33 more languages than he can read or write.
Some of his other novels Skin Tight, Native Tongue, and nine national bestsellers – Strip Tease, Stormy Weather, Lucky You, Sick Puppy, Basket Case, Skinny Dip, Nature Girl, Star Island, and Bad Money – all of which are set in Florida!
Known by The London Observer as “America’s Finest Satirical Novelist”, Mr. Hiaasen has also received numerous honors including the Damon Runyon Award from the Denver Press Club and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
Carl Hiaasen’s Newest Novel – Squeeze Me
Mr. Hiaasen’s newest novel, Squeeze Me, was released on August 25th, 2020. The political satire novel is about the wealthy people of Palm Beach, specifically those who support the president. Palm Beach is home to a reality TV star who is now the president, along with a country club of wealthy loyalists (known as “POTUSSIES”), one of whom is eaten by a Burmese python!
All of the Palm Beach Chaos takes place at Casa Bellicosa and the novel’s heroine Angie Armstrong dreams of being invited to Casa Bellicosa and asked to sign an N.D.A. not to reveal that she has seen the president without his hair.
Angie Armstrong is a plucky critter removal specialist who is hired to attend the “Stars-and-SARS” benefit and eventually becomes entangled in the drama of Casa Bellicosa.
Carl Hiaasen in Conversation with James Patterson
Characters & Setting
Mr. Hiaasen speaks fondly of Squeeze Me’s main character – Angie Armstrong, a wildlife wrangler who used to be a vet. He loved the idea of a strong female character who had a job like a wildlife wrangler! Originally written with 50-60 pages with Angie as a man, Hiaasen said her character didn’t seem quite right. He said “It just wasn’t working as a man. I just knew she’d be great in the book as a woman. It’d be a lot more interesting.”
Squeeze Me also brings back a favorite character from many of Hiaasen’s stories – ex-governor of Florida Clinton Tyree Skink! “He cares about Florida in a really deep and maybe overly passionate way. You got pythons, you got the everglades, who else are you going to bring on stage at this point?”
While his novel focuses on the Palm Beach culture and the charity balls there, he debunked any rumors that he tried to buy a house there but was blackballed! He says that he never tried to buy a house in Palm Beach, but he thinks it’s a fantastic story!
Journalism vs. Novels
James Patterson asked Mr. Hiaasen, “You care deeply about dolphins, manatees, pythons, etc. but what do you have against humans?” He responded that since his background is in journalism, he believes that it is a business that makes you cynical. He graduated around the time of Watergate, a massive turning point of people changing what they believe about journalism.
Speaking of his journalistic background, Carl Hiaasen has a column with The Miami Herald, which he believes is a privilege. While he loves both novel writing and column writing, he does think that column writing offers instant gratification when compared to the long time it takes for a novel to go to print.
On novel writing, Mr. Hiaasen still gets a kick when he walks into a book store and sees his book sitting there. “When you open the box and first see it…I get a high from that”.
Since he normally alternates between kids’ novels and adult novels, next on his docket is a new kids book! While he likes writing both, he does enjoy dealing with kids characters that don’t have the background and baggage of other characters – “it’s energizing”, he says.
Which of his novels is his absolute favorite? He can’t choose – it’s like asking which of your kids you love the most! There are things you love about them, and there’s stuff you can’t stand about them! He does have a sentimental attachment to Hoot, written for the kids in his own family, and inspired by his own childhood.
Lastly, what does Carl Hiaasen think about tourists flooding to move to Florida? “It doesn’t matter how you got here – it’s great that you’re here”.
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