Where I Come From …

19th Century Maine -  Quill Pen Weathervane

19th Century Maine – Quill Pen Weathervane

Lea Wait here. I’ve been reading a lot of books recently in which “place” is a major character. And place has always been fascinating for me. My YA books, in fact, are written around a place: the seaport of Wiscasset, Maine. Each of these books (four published so far, the next, UNCERTAIN GLORY, will be out in the spring) stands alone, but each represents a different time in the town; different issues; different (real and fictional) people; and, above all, the changing relationship of those people to the place.

Some authors seem able to write about places and times as far away as the Ice Age. Or Michelangelo’s Rome. Or Tudor England. Others, like Faulkner, focus on a small area of the world and plumb its depths.

Which made me think about where I come from … and where my stories take place.

I was born in Boston; my mother’s family came from Scotland and the north of Ireland in the late 19th century and made New England their home. My father’s family came from England and were farmers in New York State beginning in the late 17th century.

I grew up living with my parents and one set of grandparents in Boston, New Jersey, and on the coast of Maine.  I went to college in Pittsburgh, and then worked and went to graduate school in New York City. My children were all born in different Asian countries. I’ve traveled throughout the United States on business, but never lived further south than New Jersey or west of Pennsylvania.

Since my father’s parents had been killed when he was a child, the family stories I heard were set in Scotland or New England. Very early on I gave my heart to Maine, although I loved New York City, too. For a few years I owned a home in the Catskill Mountains, but I never lived there full-time. I missed the sea.

So where do I set my books? Of my published books,  the books for young people are set in Maine, although one, SEAWARD BORN, begins in Charleston, South Carolina.  (A lot of research required for that one!) Several

Santa arriving by boat, Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Santa arriving by boat, Boothbay Harbor, Maine

parts of the north-east are represented in my Shadows Antique Print mystery series … one of the books in the series is set in New York State, two in New Jersey, one in Massachusetts, and three (counting SHADOWS ON A

Pemaquid, Maine, Light )

Pemaquid, Maine, Light )

MAINE CHRISTMAS, to be published in 2014) in Maine. Next year I’ll also be starting a new series. It will be set in Haven Harbor, Maine.

I’ve written about other places. An 1865 mystery set in central New York State. A book set in Edinburgh in 1848.  A contemporary mystery for children set in New Jersey. Those books are finished, but haven’t (yet) sold. Chance, or coincidence? I’ve also done extensive research for a handful of other books. Most, but not all, of them are set in New England.

I’ve not only lived in New England, I’ve studied its past and present. All my life I’ve known people who belong there … and people who don’t. But the word “home” has always meant Maine to me. It’s my comfort zone. It’s where I feel my words best reflect truths.

So, where do I come from?

A heritage of Anglo-Saxon traditions, book learning, personal experiences, and love and appreciation for the rocks and sea and pines and mud and salt breezes of the coast of Maine. And when I write, I hope I take my readers there with me.

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5 Responses

  1. A lovely blog, Lea. I share with you that Scots-Irish blood. So fascinating, too, to take time to ponder where one comes from–so many worlds to explore. By the way, I met an old, admiring lawyer friend of yours at a book fair in Glens Falls this autumn. Blake? He had lost track of you, so don’t stay lost!

  2. Hi, Nancy! Must have been Dexter Blake you ran into …he used to be my lawyer, many moons ago. He must have changed addresses since my last note to him came back. I’ll check the Glens Falls directories! Thanks for the message!

  3. Enjoyed your blog, Lea. You remind me of places I’ve spent much of my life. Born in Worcester, I moved to NYC after high school, went to college, like you, in Pittsburgh and ended up in New Jersey. Holidays were in Vt., not Maine, but I’ve visited some towns in Maine and love the people. I lived and traveled in Europe, not Asia, although I’ve been to Japan and Hong Kong. Paris remains my favorite city, NYC a close second. My books are set in NJ and NYC, but I’m a CA girl now, so who knows?

  4. It is interesting when “place” becomes a major character… even more major than the characters themselves. I have a literary blog so I love reading other people’s opinions about the craft and art of writing. Great post.

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