Award-winning Florida novelist brings the wacky, weird state to life in a charming and poignant love story

Lives intertwine around the search for stolen snakes and a missing man in novel

Daytona Beach, FL–In award-winning Florida author Ginger Pinholster’s new novel ”Snakes of St. Augustine” (Regal House,  Sept. 12, 2023), stolen snakes and a missing person set off a chain of events ranging from thrilling to romantic to deeply poignant.

The theft of Trina Leigh Dean’s beloved snakes – including a rare Eastern indigo named Unicorn, Banana Splits the yellow ball python, and Bandit the banded king snake – coincides with the disappearance of a troubled young man named Gethin Jacobs. While his sister Serena searches for him, she gains an unlikely accomplice: Jazz, a homeless community college student. Meanwhile, Trina’s friend Fletch, a burnt-out cop, scours St. Augustine, Florida, for the stolen snakes. Fletch’s quest puts him on a dangerous collision course with Gethin, raising questions about community, family, and the power of compassion.

A love story served up with a side of Florida weirdness, “Snakes of St. Augustine” centers around unforgettable characters that will remain in your heart long after the final page.

“Snakes of St. Augustine”

Ginger Pinholster | September 12, 2023 | Regal House | Fiction 

Paperback | ISBN: 9781646033829 | $19.95

GINGER PINHOLSTER likes to say that turtles find her. A volunteer member of Florida’s Volusia Turtle Patrol, she earned her M.F.A. degree from Queens University of Charlotte and a B.A. from Eckerd College. Her first novel, “City in a Forest,” won a Gold Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers Association in 2020. A resident of Ponce Inlet, she serves as vice president for communications at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. Previously, she was the long-time chief communications officer for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where she became an elected Fellow. Long ago and far away, she was a journalist. To learn more, visit:

Follow Ginger Pinholster on social media:

Facebook: @GingerPinholster | Twitter: @gingerpin | Instagram: @gingpin

In an interview, Ginger Pinholster can discuss:

  • What being a Floridian means to her, and how/why she writes about the state’s unique wacky charm
  • What the research process was like for this novel
  • How the true story of Jason Harrison–a man struggling with his mental health who was killed by Dallas police in 2014–inspired parts of this novel
  • How she works to break the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and neurodiversity in general, and how readers can make a difference
  • What she hopes readers will take away from this story


“I love the snakes in Ginger Pinholster’s new novel, ‘Snakes of St. Augustine,’ because the people in her book love them. These snakes do not inspire fear, they do not elicit revulsion; they are powerful, beautiful, strong. As are Pinholster’s characters. This big-hearted novel is inhabited not just by dreamers and misfits, but by people struggling with serious mental illness, with addiction, with homelessness, with criminal behavior. Pinholster challenges our assumptions about their lives, without denying their pain or the harm they inflict. Steeped in a singular Florida charm, the novel reads sometimes like a thriller, sometimes like a love story, sometimes like a family drama. Take the leap: fall in love with Jazz, with Serena, with Fletch, with Rocky – maybe even with a ball python or a dusky pygmy rattler.”

 —Laura McBride, author of “We Are Called to Rise” and “In the Midnight Room”

“Here is a richly textured and compelling novel full of unforgettable personalities who will have you turning pages long into the night. Set in a slice of Florida that exists outside the margins of paradise, Pinholster masterfully spins a tale of humor and tragedy, trial and triumph. A book you won’t want to miss.”

 —Gale Massey, author of “The Girl From Blind River”

 “In ‘Snakes of St. Augustine,’ an engaging novel about desperate love and pilfered snakes, Ginger Pinholster writes about neurodiversity with empathy and clarity. Her Florida reflects both the weirdness and beauty of her unforgettable characters.”

 —Mickey Dubrow, author of “American Judas”

“Serena, a young woman searching for her missing brother, finds herself swept up in a bleak and bizarre world of homeless encampments, drug-addled street jesters, and random pet reptiles. The last thing she needs is to fall in love with one of its denizens, until the charming but manic Jazz appoints himself her deputy. Pinholster’s equally wrenching and comic novel takes place against a backdrop of dead-ended despair endemic to northern Florida. Her characters, all of them at loose ends, become bound in a vasculature of feelings that turn them into family. Pinholster is a master of detail, both physical and emotional, and in her masterful hands, even lives tragically touched by mental illness attain poetry and meaning.”

—Jennie Erin Smith, author of “Stolen World”

“‘Snakes of St. Augustine,’ Ginger Pinholster’s compelling second novel, deals with young men and women emerging from difficult childhoods and struggling with mental illness. The story is told from multiple points of view and the writing is stunning and deeply engaging. The characters are complex and authentic. They will work their way into your heart and as a reader you will feel an intense stake in the outcome. A mesmerizing story that defines ‘page turner’—you won’t want to let go with the last page. Pinholster is a talented novelist to watch and we’ll look forward to her next book.”

—Carla Rachel Sameth, author of “What Is Left” and “One Day on the Gold Line”

Pinholster describes wacky Florida with compassion and grace. With an ingenious plot and deeply rendered characters, the novel shows us the power of forgiveness, and the things that really matter in a nutty world: strength, love, humor, and hope.”

—Sara B. Fraser, author of “Just River” and “Long Division”

Pinholster compassionately and deftly creates a cast of characters who live on the margin of our social fabric—people who are suffering from mental illness, who are homeless, who are struggling to get by having grown up without family support; yet these characters, some of whom have become largely invisible to society, find a family among one another. And then there is a story of stolen snakes, a missing person, and drug dealers amid the authentic ambience of a beach community.”

—Eva Silverfine Ott, author of “How to Bury Your Dog”

An Interview with

Ginger Pinholster

1. What inspired you to write “Snakes of St. Augustine”?

“Snakes of St. Augustine” was inspired by a real-life tragedy involving the late Jason Harrison. A 38-year-old man living with psychosis, Harrison was killed by police officers in Dallas in 2014 after his mother asked for help getting him to a hospital. When I saw the police bodycam video of the killing, I found it deeply sad and disturbing. It made me think about the people in my own life, including my late brother, who have struggled with being different. In writing my book, I learned that people living with psychosis are rarely a threat to others, and in fact, they are far more likely to be mugged or raped, compared with the rest of us. Yet, discrimination and stigma too often turn those with mental illness into “the others.” And, although we now have a 9-8-8 hotline that people can call when they have a mental health crisis, too many police units still lack the training or personnel to safely deal with people who have neurodiversity – people like the late Jason Harrison.

2. How much of this story was drawn from real life?

This novel is fictional, and so it’s largely a product of my imagination. With that said, as a former teacher once told me, “It all comes from somewhere” – that is, deeply buried memories and life events tend to wind up in the stories that we write. In my case, losing my younger brother to mental illness, and subsequently finding a partner who has neurodiversity, clearly influenced me as I was writing “Snakes of St. Augustine.” When I met my current partner, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was probably subconsciously thinking, “Okay, here’s someone I can help, even if I wasn’t able to help my brother.” All of those feelings certainly wound up in the novel.

3. The Florida setting feels so essential to this story. How did you go about capturing the state’s unique wacky charm?

Many works of Southern fiction have historically treated the physical setting as another character in the story… maybe because of the transition from farmland to industrial land uses, in so many places. As a writer, I feel a need to preserve rapidly vanishing places, at least in the mind’s eye. I love to read immersive descriptions of physical settings, and to do that, I try to engage all five senses.

For her workshops, the wonderful ecology writer Janisse Ray has developed a free-writing exercise called, “I’ve seen it with my own eyes.” The purpose of the exercise is to write a scene – moment to moment, through the senses, by showing rather than telling. This is how I try to write about story settings. Florida is a wild and beautiful place, and there’s no end to the state’s weirdness, such as monkeys colonizing a state park, or giant pythons invading the Everglades, or alligators inexplicably strolling through the ocean surf. Plenty of fodder for a fiction writer.

4. What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

“Snakes of St. Augustine” is fundamentally about the power of community to help people who are living on the margins of our society. One of the characters in the book, Jazz, describes feeling as if he is “a homeless, potentially dangerous ghost, out of focus and wavy around the edges.” In other words, he feels invisible because of his homelessness and his obvious neurological differences. I hope that readers might look again at people like Jazz – people who are different, or on the margins – and consider the ways in which we are all similar, and all worthy of inclusion and compassion.  

5. What’s next for you?

I’m currently revising a third novel set in New Mexico. It’s a dual-timeline historical novel. It tells the story of a wounded warrior, Jemi, who is fighting to regain her confidence, in parallel with a nursing home resident, Rose, who is struggling to have her Native American heritage verified. The historical story delves into a shameful period of American history when, sadly, many Native American children were removed from their families. I’ve also begun to outline a fourth novel – I can’t share details yet, but suffice it to say, there are sea turtles.

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