Blog Tour [Guest Post]: How Laguna Beach Inspired a Story – Taylor Brooke

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Today, I’m hosting my first guest post!!

Taylor Brooke, author of the the Isolation Trilogy, has a new series, the Camellia Clock Cycle, which just came out, and I have had the pleasure to read an ARC of the first novel, Fortitude Smashed, and participating in the blog tour of it. Taylor will be introducing the inspiration behind Fortitude Smashed in this post, so I hope you enjoy it!

Fortitude Smashed was written during my first winter in Central Oregon. I sat in my office and watched snow fall out the bay window. I missed Southern California until it turned into a physical, living thing. I’d packed my belongings, said goodbye to Laguna Beach, and moved two months earlier, but somehow, Laguna refused to be left.

It gave me such a hard time that it demanded I remember every detail, even the smallest and dullest. Even the times when storms wracked the shoreline and prevented me from going down to the sand, even when there was absolutely no parking on days when I needed a coffee from the Klatch bad enough I’d beg for it, and even when Chantilly By The Sea had a line out the door.

That’s how Fortitude Smashed started. My want for Laguna Beach prodded me to write, and a couple young men in my mind who kept making eyes at each other needed a story.

I took some pictures on my last visits to Laguna (October & July 2017) and wanted to share the exact places that inspired some of the scenes in Fortitude Smashed. First off, the ice cream shop and the gallery from the opening pages.


Chantilly By The Sea is a staple in Laguna Beach. They serve ice cream, chocolate covered bananas, sorbet and other tasty treats. I’ve found myself standing in the sweltering heat during a long August afternoon in line for a waffle cone many times. I always associated Chantilly with Main Beach, since it’s right across the street, and Main Beach with Kush Fine Art Gallery which sits directly across from Chantilly. I imagined what a cocky master thief would do in the minutes before a gig, and Aiden made sure to tell me that he would be out in the open, staring at his loot from somewhere close by. So, an ice cream shop inspired by Chantilly came to be in Fortitude Smashed by way of Aiden’s boot being propped against it as he smoked a cigarette.

Laguna isn’t just known for the array of boutiques and galleries in the Artist Colony that span Forest Avenue. There’s tons of other places mentioned in the book that I couldn’t necessarily take pictures of – Aiden’s apartment and Shannon’s loft for example. But the apartments off Bluebird are really there, a little slouchy and damp from sitting sea-side for so long, with chipped paint, a peace garden at the top of the stairs that lead to the beach, and tiny, plant-covered balconies.

Next up. Watering holes: The Whitehouse and The Saloon.

There’s some distinct gathering places mentioned in Fortitude Smashed – the diner, The Whitehouse, The Saloon, The Koffee Klatch and The Hollow are a few. When it comes to places and how they came to be, I wanted to be as authentic as I could. I’d chosen the setting of my book and I wanted to do it right. Laguna Beach is a timely, important place to me, and I couldn’t imagine writing this book without giving it the space to be exactly that.

The Whitehouse is a meeting place that is revisited a few times in the first book, known for its cocktails and yummy small plates, and The Saloon is one of my favorite Laguna Beach gems.


Despite The Saloon being a standing only bar (yep, not even barstools) and one of the oldest bars in Laguna, it’s charm and history made it the perfect place to initiate a very important scene. I happened to walk down the Halloween-date hallway just outside The Saloon while I was visiting, and had to stop to take a picture. Not saying two stubborn guys make out against the wall in this hallway in the book or anything, but I’m not saying they don’t either.


I spent so much of my life in Laguna Beach and letting those memories bleed into my writing, as warped and different as they were, felt like coming home.

I also snapped a few photos of pieces Aiden would most certainly steal if given the chance.


Aiden’s a fan of the dark and macabre, and would definitely take a trip to LACMA to get a glimpse at Guillermo Del Toro’s exhibit. I like to think he’d leave with his pockets empty, but I have a feeling something would catch his eye and he’d start scheming. The Dr. Seuss exhibit that overlooks Main Beach (mentioned in Book 2) is another place Aiden might find something he’d fancy enough to steal. A colorful new gallery in the heart of downtown was filled with odd, lovely paintings that Aiden wouldn’t be able to stay away from.

So much of this story was born out of how much a missed a certain place. It’s heartwarming to see that recognized in early reviews. RoAnna Sylver (Chameleon Moon) mentioned that “Laguna Beach is so lovingly described as it changes through the year that it almost becomes a character in itself, with moods and development day to day.” When it came down to writing a character driven, introspective book in a setting as vital and memorable as Laguna, I got scared. Not of the concept itself, but of the execution. I constantly found myself so deep in the narrative that it was hard to separate my memories from the layers I’d meant to insert into a re-imagined Laguna Beach. But here we are and Fortitude Smashed is alive.

If you’re ever in Laguna Beach make sure to get some ice cream at Chantilly’s, some appetizers at The Whitehouse (my personal favorite is the cheese dip) and maybe have a cocktail at The Saloon. If you’re a bourbon lover like Aiden, a Manhattan is the way to go, if you’re whiskey-anything like Shannon, try an Old Fashioned. Southern California is packed with incredible scenery and unique, quirky cities, but Laguna Beach isn’t just incredible or unique or quirky. It’s magical in a way I can’t place. It has a heartbeat.


I spent twenty-four years gravitating to Laguna Beach. I’m still gravitating there. I don’t think there will ever be a time in my life when I won’t.

It was the place where my heart felt at home, and incidentally, it’s where the characters of Fortitude Smashed found themselves and each other.

Fortitude Smashed

After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate.

Fate is now a calculation.

But loving someone isn’t.

When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.

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Taylor Brooke

Author Bio: 

After fleshing out a multitude of fantastical creatures as a special effects makeup artist, Taylor turned her imagination back to her true love – books. When she’s not nestled in a blanket typing away on her laptop, she’s traveling, hiking or reading. She writes Queer books for teens and adults. Fortitude Smashed is set to release September 21, 2017 from Interlude Press. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @taysalion

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