Local author Craig Bush’s new novel explores the ways we say goodbye.

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Local author and retired educator Craig Bush experienced a very personal loss recently, and it moved him to explore the idea in his writing.


“My mother died in October at 90 years of age,” Bush said. “Her death was the beginning of a reflection on the ways that people leave one another. Children grow up and leave, and couples divorce. Eventually, with finality, we leave people or we're left by others through death.”


The result is “As I Watched You Go,” which is available at Amazon.com and directly from the author. Visit Facebook.com/CraigBushAuthor for information.


“My thoughts were to develop a character to follow through life as he leaves people and is left by others,” Bush said. “I wanted Albert to experience both the predictability and at times the unpredictability of those junctures in life when people leaving occurs, from both sides of the fence.”


Bush grew up in Jay, Florida, and now resides in Panama City Beach. He retired after a decades-long career in education and administration with Bay District Schools, and then he began to write. He has published 11 novels and has two more in the works — but he says none of them are like his newest.


“All in between the episodes of leaving are where life dwells. Where the opportunities for joy reside,” he said.


The new novel is set in Grayton Beach, off County 30A in Walton County. In the 1980s, Bush and his wife, Theresa, sometimes sold arts and crafts on the beachside highway where Seaside is now, as he relates in a prologue to the novel. The transformation of the sleepy little isolated houses and small communities into today's resort towns priced most locals out of the way and changed the nature of the “Old Florida” stretch of road.


“The one thing that has changed the least is Grayton Beach, which is still there in much of its former informal glory,” he wrote. “I chose it as the setting of this book because it represents the end of the old Florida beach communities. It, too, will vanish.”


Bush started writing at age 16, after being encouraged by his high school English teacher, Ruth Gomillion, who also “turned me on to the world of fiction,” he said. Among his favorite authors are Hemingway, Kerouac, Garth Stein, Jody Picoult and Rudy Wilson. He still gets inspiration from his past.


“I grew around good country folks. Many are unforgettable characters,” he said. “I have known some of the most golden and wonderful people one can imagine. I have known a few scoundrels and no-counts. They all give me a rich pool to pull from for development of characters.”


Much like an actor taking on a role, Bush finds himself “dwelling” in a character for weeks at a time as he writes.


“I have yet to use any of the same characters ... nor have I written a sequel to any of (my novels),” he said. “I do find that intriguing, in that I think it would allow for a linear refinement and greater depth to character development.”