Georgia author finds muse in PSJ
As often as he’s spotted at local haunts, you might think author Kirk S. Jockell lives in Port St. Joe.
You’d be mistaken.
The writer and his wife Joy are residents of Flowery Branch, GA, but visit their second home in Port St. Joe every other weekend for some rest, relaxation and inspiration.
And that inspiration finds its way directly into the pages of Jockell’s books, the "Tales from Stool 17" series.
The first in the series, "Finding Port St. Joe," was released in 2015 and features protagonist Nigel Logan, a Navy Chief Petty Officer, who retires from the only life he’s ever known in order to escape a violent crime he fears may one day catch up to him.
Each collection of short stories, or episodes, peek into Logan’s life as he leaves his home from Norfolk, VA, and winds up on the Forgotten Coast.
The second book, "Trouble in Tate’s Hell," features the continuation of Logan’s adventures and was released in April of this year. The latest installment in the series lets readers find out just what happens when that dark past does indeed catch up.
According to the author, even a weekend visit to Port St. Joe provides enough inspiration to keep the words flowing, and including the locations he knows and adapting the personalities of the people he’s met provides a colorful cast for Logan’s continuing adventures.
Though, Jockell admits that had the cards fallen differently, he never would have discovered Gulf County.
It was 11 years ago that Joy visited Port St. Joe’s beaches on a girl’s trip with some friends. Upon arriving back in Georgia she sang the beach town’s praises to her husband as a spot he might enjoy.
“She thought I’d like the vibe in Gulf County,” Jockell said. “I like low country living, not the hustle and bustle of the city.”
It was Memorial Day weekend six years later, in celebration of the couple’s wedding anniversary, that Jockell made it to the area spending a long weekend on Indian Pass.
It was passing through the doors of Indian Pass Raw Bar early in the trip that the writer’s eyes were opened to a brand new world, one he wanted to become a part of.
“I’ve never been made to feel more welcome so quickly in a place I’d never been before in my life,” Jockell said. “By the third day, as I was walking on the beach, I knew this was it. This was where I wanted to be. I just felt home.”
After returning to his normal life and normal job in Flowery Branch, the salt waters of the coast stuck with Jockell. Ultimately he made the decision to sell his prized sailboat in order to purchase a home in the area.
Returning just a month later, the couple closed on a house off Monument Ave. in November 2012.
It wasn’t long after that those bi-weekly visits began to shape stories in Jockell’s mind.
Having previously contributed stories for his sailing club’s newsletter, Jockell said he’d always had the writer’s itch. As a means of scratching it, he set up an online weblog, posting short stories for anyone who would read them.
“I’ve always told stories whether I put them on paper or not,” Jockell said. “Port St. Joe is such a content-rich environment.”
Taking cues from authors like Randy Wade White, whose novels feature Sannibel Island as their main location; Jockell found connective tissue in the form of Nigel Logan who had arrived in Gulf County via--what else--a sailboat.
“I decided I wanted a thread to pull the stories together,” Jockell said. “I didn’t want to write it as a regular book. The stories are like episodes. It’s a book you can read for a while, put down, and then come back to.
“They’re a fun read with characters readers will connect to and a storyline they’ll want to continue following.”
For Jockell, who describes his perfect Gulf County weekend as one day for the beach, one night for a barbeque with friends and a second day for fishing and catching some live music, when inspiration is low for his writing, he need only walk outside.
“I can go down to the jetty and sit and watch a local throwing a cast net,” Jockell said. “Maybe he’s doing it to feed his family. That kind of stuff talks to me. I draw from the people here; I draw from my own experiences.”
With two books published, Jockell is hard at work on the third installment, hoping to get his words in front of even more readers. He said it’s the occasional email from a stranger who has found and enjoyed his work that keeps him pecking at the keyboard.
One such email, from a man who admitted to not doing much reading, detailed that through Jockell’s stories, he’d fallen in love with books.
“To hear my books helped launch him into a life of a reading, that’s powerful,” Jockell said. “It’s one of the most gratifying compliments I’ve ever received.”
The first two books in the Tales from Stool 17 series are available for purchase at Port St. Joe’s No Name Café Books and More, on Amazon.com, or through Jockell’s website at www.kirkjockell.com.
Until he retires to Gulf County full time, Jockell said he will remain the weekend warrior, driving his Bronco through Port St. Joe to enjoy good food, good friends and to spend some time with his muse.
“When I come to Gulf County, there’s so much to enjoy here,” Jockell said. “I want to paint a picture of what the area is through my eyes. I want to create something people can enjoy.”