Lea Wait, here.
One of the occupational hazards of being a writer is that readers assume you are your character(s.) In my case, it’s easy to see why they think Maggie Summer, the protagonist of my Shadows Antique Print mystery series, is me. After all, Maggie lives in New Jersey (I used to,) she has a doctorate (check), she’s an antique print dealer (yup,) she loves Maine (well, yes) and she’s trying to adopt as a single parent. (Been there; done that.) Of course — Maggie is also younger and braver than I am. She’s a college professor, which I have never been. She drinks diet soda; I drink tea. But, yes; there are similarities between us. (I’ve had readers write to Maggie to ask about the value of their prints …)
The first Shadows book (Shadows at the Fair) was the first book I wrote (not the first published) and I followed the “write what you know” rule. You’d have to look pretty far to find traces of me in my historical novels or my new Mainely Needlepoint series, although they do all share my love of Maine, and my strong sense of place. But Maggie and I? We share a lot.
But admitting that isn’t enough for some readers. Perhaps starting with the “confessional” poets in the 1950s (e.g. Anne Sexton; Sylvia Plath), and continuing today, readers expected — sometimes demanded — to know more about their favorite authors. Those authors who chose to keep their private lives private (J.D. Salinger; Harper Lee) became the subject of all sorts of speculation. What were they hiding?
Today authors are expected to be on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads … the list goes on. And, as I’m doing today, they blog, often not about their writing, but about their lives, their backgrounds, and their personal beliefs. Perhaps not every reader wants to see a picture of their favorite author’s cat on Facebook, or know what he or she had for dinner — but, yes, some do.
I’ve been blogging regularly – on this site, on Mainecrimewriters.com, and as a guest on other blogs – for about five years. That’s a lot of blogs.
Recently, a number of my readers have suggested that I publish a book based on those blogs. My basic story, they tell me, is one they want to hear. I raised four daughters (adopted as older children from Asia) as a single parent; after 30 years laboring in corporate management I moved to an historic Maine house in the fall of 1998, where I started writing full time, and cared for my mother. After her death I married a man I’d loved since 1968. Our goals hadn’t been aligned then. They are now. So I’m living my dream: married to the man I love, living in the state I love, and writing fiction, which I’d always dreamed of doing. My 15th book will be published late this summer.
I thought about it, and decided maybe those readers were right. So I read through all those blogs, and selected those that reflected the topics most people were interested in: my decades long love story, what it is like to live (all year round) in Maine, and what the life of an author is really like. Earlier this month those collected (and edited) blogs, or essays, were published. If I haven’t revealed any X-rated secrets, I have shared a lot of my backstory and journey.
I’m pleased with the result. I hope my readers will be, too. Living and Writing on the Coast of Maine is available as either a paperback or e-book.
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