Thursday, April 16, 2009
Musing on Maine
By Deborah Sharp
I'm vacationing in Maine, which I know to some of you would mean drumming up business at every book store in the state and pounding out a chapter each morning before dawn .... but I'm a slacker. Scribbling postcards is the most taxing writing I've done:
''Honey, which sounds better? I'm freezing my Florida ass off, but the lobster is luscious?
Or, I had to gain weight for insulation, so I've slurped enough clam chowder to float a schooner? ''
If I were inclined to work while on vacation, though, Maine offers incredible inspiration. Think of all the mystery talent that's sprung from this rocky land: from the fictional Jessica Fletcher to the Master of the Macabre, Stephen King. Maine is chock-a-block with authors, and with mysteries that use the state as a setting. Midnight Ink's Karen MacInerney set her B&B series here; the decidedly darker thrillers of the Irish novelist John Connolly also have a Maine backdrop.
Maybe I'll take a shot at moving my funny, Southern series to the Pine Tree State: Mama Utters Ayuh.
If I lived here, I think my work would be a lot darker. The lonely, windswept shores. The brutal winters. The widow walks and haunted harbors. It's kind of creepy. With apologies to writers of cozies set in Maine, it just doesn't feel like a lighthearted spot to me. My Fort Lauderdale hometown is all about pleasure-seeking. Taking it easy. Another day in paradise. (Is that why I'm a slacker?) Life up here seems unendurably hard. And we're visiting during their alleged spring, despite a temperature hovering in the low 30s each morning. Yikes!
We're staying in York Beach, a short walk from the famous Nubble Lighthouse. It stands atop Savage Rock, which claimed the lives of untold mariners, like so many other spots along this forbidding coast. We're too early in the season for the amusement parks, the fudge shoppes, the souvenir stands. And maybe that's skewed my view of Maine. But I see the murderous rocks, the ghostly graveyards, the isolation that could drive a person insane over a long winter. If I were to move the series here, I'd be writing Mama's Gone Mad.
Before I wrap myself in my zillion layers of warm clothes this morning to go out and enjoy ''spring,'' I'll pose a question: Do you think the place you're from determines what you write? Could you write a sunny series in a cold, dark climate ... or vice-versa?