First, the important stuff. The newest Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, in the Bay Pines area of western St. Petersburg, should be open for business by the end of the summer.
This according to New York Times bestselling author Randy Wayne White, who owns the franchise; his business partners (HM Restaurant Group) build and operate the actual restaurants.
Mystery-solving marine biologist Marion “Doc” Ford is the central character in most of his 30-some novels.
“The signs will say ‘Doc’s Jungle Terrace,’” White explains. “I love the history of that area.”
The author, who lives down the Gulf coast on Sanibel Island, was back at the Bay Pines site recently. “We’ve got the permits for the new dock, which is going in now,” he explains. “It’s going to be a beautiful dock.
“The inside will be completely re-done. These people are experts; they did our last two restaurants. They re-use salvaged wood, really beautiful wood, and cover it with epoxy. And reclaimed tin. It’s going to be spectacular.”
White recently published Crocs, the third in his series for Young Adult readers. Its protagonists are three pre-teens (Maribel, Sabina and Luke) who work with Doc Ford and fishing guide-slash-sleuth Hannah Smith in fictional Dinkins Bay, Florida. The trio refer to themselves, collectively, as Sharks Incorporated.
He’ll be at the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center – on the St. Pete Pier not far from the city’s other Doc Ford’s restaurant – Friday (April 22) for an “Earth Night” fundraising event. Tickets are sold out.
St. Pete Catalyst: Why did you create the Sharks Incorporated series?
Randy Wayne White: When I was a kid, growing up in rural areas, I fell in love with books. For whatever reason, I don’t know. But I did. And I would read books for so-called young adults, and the writer would write as if I were just – and I’m going to censor myself here – a doggone idiot. I found them not the least bit interesting.
I was offended, and I assure you, I was no genius. I was a terrible student.
But there were also books supposedly written for young adults that were spectacular. Treasure Island, Huckleberry Finn. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I mean real works of literature that resonated with young people AND adults.
So I was interested in writing for that age group simply because of my long-felt allegiance towards people who wrote good books for young people.
I told my publisher I was not going to write books for young adults, I’m going to write books for readers – young adults and adults. But I’m sensitive to the fact that profanity, sex, violence is just not necessary, and probably taboo. And that’s the way I approached it.
These kids exist in Doc and Hannah’s world. At one point did it cross your mind to start fresh, with all-new characters?
It did cross my mind to create completely new characters, but I love the backdrop of Dinkins Bay – Tarpon Bay, where I used to be a fishing guide for 13, 14 years. I love that backdrop, ready-made for me. Another component was I saw this as an opportunity to share with people – not just kids – my experiences as a fishing guide, regarding boating safety. Bad things happen fast on a boat, and if you’re not prepared, if you haven’t projected that possibility, people can die. And they do die, from the simplest things.
I thought, well I can write about boating safety without preaching. Just in the context of this book. And I did.
As a fishing guide, I tagged sharks for the National Marine Fisheries Service. And I found it fascinating, the varietals of sharks. And the chance to delineate that in print, I found it compelling.
I also saw it as an opportunity that, when I pass, young people that start reading this series will quite naturally move on to the next books. I hope so.
You’ve often said that writing is kind of a painful process for you. Surely by now, with the passage of time and all your success, it’s become less painful?
If anything, it’s gotten harder. I was talking to my wife about that: I’ve written so many books, Jiminy Christmas you’d think it would have become easier. It has not. I’m laboring over a book right now, a new, so-called Young Adult book called Megalops. It’s about tarpon.
The precision required … you have to actually friggin’ think, which is exhausting. I hate thinking.
In these books, I attempt to simplify concepts and visuals, and writing simply and with clarity, yet communicating more than just the sentence alone, is hellishly hard.
Hemingway wrote, at the end of a letter to a friend, “I’m sorry this letter is so long. I didn’t have time to make it short.” That’s good, isn’t it?
What will you be talking about at the Discovery Center?
Frankly, I’ve never planned any speech I’ve ever given. And I’ve given a lot of them. I’ll tell some fishing guide stories, which will illustrate my interest in sharks. And hopefully communicate that passion to other people.
For this one, I think I’m going to talk about writing. And the importance of paying attention to detail.