Earlier this week I arrived back in Missouri after a blissful week in Maine. From ME to MO. What a difference a letter makes.
I wrote a lot, read a lot, climbed a few mountains, and ate an awful lot of delicious fresh seafood. My cottage was on a secluded cove near Acadia National Park. It was a one-room wooden building, with no telephone, no internet, and about thirteen paces from the pebbled beach where I spent a lot of time watching birds swoop down low over the still water, hunting for fish, and then glide upwards in graceful parabolas over the skyline of dark green pines that stretched into the distance.
It was utterly perfect.
And what was even better was that I was able to call it all work. Because my new novel, praise be, is set in Maine. So this was all, you understand, in the name of selfless research. So, um, please ignore all those other posts I’ve written about research being an irrelevance; if it involves trips like this one then I am here to tell you that research is absolutely crucial. (And yes, tax-deductible, too.)
For reasons I am not yet ready to divulge, my new book had to be set in either Maine or Rhode Island. I vacillated between the two for some time, but finally chose Maine after we spent a few days there last summer. It wasn’t an easy decision – when people think of Maine, many have a certain image already in their heads. That’s not so much the case when it comes to Rhode Island, unless you’re a Blossom Dearie fan. By choosing Maine, then, I have created a slightly larger obstacle for myself, as I will have to overcome readers’ preconceived notions of the place.
But now I’m in no doubt that I made the right decision. I have fallen hopelessly in love. I want to move there, right now. I loved everything about the place, from its ridiculous beauty to the friendliness of the natives, to the juiciness of the blueberries. I felt completely at home – and as a displaced ex-pat Brit with homesickness issues, that tells you something. It will be a tremendous (and probably impossible) challenge to capture and convey all that I found so enchanting, but that’s all part of the fun. And I know that my honeyed view as a summer visitor would look very different in mid-February. Maine winters are long and hard. I need to find that out for myself, too. But if you are going to try and really get to know a place – well enough to write about it in a novel – it helps if you adore it to begin with.
So, I hope this is a love affair that is only just beginning. One thing is clear. Many, many more trips back will be needed if I am to do Maine justice. It’s a tough job, I know, but someone has to do it. The photo below is the view from the back porch of my cabin. I know, right?