So how the heck does it seem I am becoming a "Caribbean writer"? I was born and grew up in Pennsylvania, yet aside from some very early stabs at fiction I have nothing among my stories so far that is set in Greensburg, Cambria County or Lebanon County. I live in Richmond, Va., which appears in my fiction just twice ... and then as a counterpoint to the native island of the characters. Instead, I write and rewrite the geography and culture of North Caicos Island, where I lived for only 4 1/2 years and which I visit for about three months out of each year.
As I prepare to spend another month on North, I find myself wondering how and why I chose that place as my muse. Somehow the place got stuck in my imagination, and I continue to explore its effect on people in my stories. What are the feelings of a young man forced to give up his dreams because of his family's demand? What if there are spirits out there in the pine yards who can reconnect soulmates? How do two women continue to get along when they find themselves "sharing" one man?
These are not specifically island concerns or stories, but setting them in an island community draws a circle around them and contains them for study. I write not about big, sweeping ideas but small, specific things, and the contained sphere of the island just feels right for me.
So, OK, I'll accept being a "Caribbean writer," even though I'm not a native islander, which makes acceptance in that community so much harder. But it's where I want to write and what I want to write about.