It sounds bizarre when I tell people that Maxwell, the handsome demon in the Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter paranormal romance series, was inspired by a trip to Disney World. And yet, I don’t know that he would exist otherwise.
I had come up with the idea of a series about a ghost hunter in Savannah named Betty “Boo” Boorman, but I knew something was lacking. While I was still trying to find that missing spark, I got a call from my mom. Disney World in Florida was closing down its nightclub complex, Pleasure Island. (Many of the buildings are still there and now part of the larger Disney Springs shopping, dining and entertainment complex.)
Pleasure Island had been a favorite hangout of mine for a long time, especially during my senior year of high school. I grew up in Florida, and from the time I turned 18, there was nowhere I’d rather be on a Saturday night than Pleasure Island. Knowing that it was closing, Mom and I decided to drive down to Florida to spend two nights in a row there. We would dance at every club, catch a comedy show, and drink a few Kungaloosh cocktails at the inimitable Adventurers Club.
As we began our drive home, Mom and I started talking about the detailed backstories that the Disney Imagineers had created for the island and each of the clubs. Mom’s favorite dance club was called Mannequins, and it had a rotating dance floor. The backstory for that club is that it was once a roundhouse for an incredibly fast locomotive called Maxwell’s Demon.
Yeah, as in MY Maxwell.
Because as we reminisced about the mural that used to grace the outside of Mannequins—a painting of Maxwell’s Demon, looking like something from an art-deco dream—I suddenly saw a crisp white business card in my mind. The card simply read, “Maxwell, Demon.”
I had found the spark for the Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter series.
Betty’s love interest is a demon, I realized, but what did he even look like? Who was the demon holding that business card? Maxwell sprang into my head fully formed, with those high cheekbones, tousled black hair and ice-blue eyes. I tried to describe what I was seeing in my head to my mom, finally saying, “He kind of looks like Cillian Murphy.” (That elicited a “who?” from Mom, so I had to do a lot of Googling once I got home to find a photo that matched the Maxwell in my mind.)
So while Pleasure Island is long gone (a fact I lament every time I’m at Disney World), I’m grateful that in addition to all of the fun times I had there, it also gave me the catalyst that turned a simple idea into an entire series of books. Pleasure Island gave me Maxwell.