Susan Vaughan, here. I’m thrilled to be a semi-regular guest blogger for Maine Crime Writers. As an author of romantic suspense novels, I hope to offer a slightly different perspective. I’ve set three of my published novels in Maine and the state is also the setting of my work in progress, a murder mystery. “Why Maine?” I asked myself.
I investigated the idea of the lure of Maine on Amazon.com, looking for books set in Maine or with Maine in the title. My search yielded 36,221 results, both fiction and nonfiction. Next, a Google search of Maine authors yielded 2,308 results. That lengthy list included authors who lived in the state as well as those who’d set a book in Maine.
This blog is popular because of the wonderful writers here, but another draw is, I suspect, the state of Maine itself, Or maybe the mystique and image of Maine as a setting for all kinds of fiction lures both writers and readers, but I’m thinking mostly of mystery fiction.
Maine has more than a bit of twisted history. For instance, the state’s rugged coastline provided harbors for rum smugglers during Prohibition. Even today, rural peninsulas and small fishing villages are sites for secrets. More than one kind of mischief and mayhem occurs in our-of-the-way coves and harbors. The quiet and isolation of the coast are fuel for the writer’s imagination. Mine included. My upcoming trilogy involves stopping drug and weapons smuggling along the Maine coast.
Maine offers more isolation on land, in huge swaths of forested land that’s largely unpopulated. All kinds of mischief and secrets can take place undetected. Headlines in the local news reinforce this notion every day. A man disappears while snowmobiling. His sled is found, wrecked, but there’s no sign of him. A young women disappears never to be found, or her bones are spotted ten years later, when a lumber company is cutting trees.
People in remote spots live a simpler way of life, independent, and in many ways disconnected, from the modern world. Imagine an isolated lake cabin, where people are trapped together because the only way in or out is by boat, and someone has stolen the boat. Someone is stalking … Well, I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
Then there are the wonderful old houses. And I don’t mean purposefully spooky like Stephen Kings’ turreted house with bats on the gate. Old houses mean deep family roots with secrets and scandals — including hidden spaces or diaries secreted beneath floorboards or behind fireplaces. Small towns where people have long memories and hold grudges. Old colonial and Victorian houses make romantic and evocative settings.
If others have idea of why people like to read and write about Maine, I’d love to see them.
Great post. Another “Why Maine” lure – the coast. Maine’s remarkably long (with all the ins and outs) 5000 mile plus coastline is stunning – but also dangerous and certainly mysterious. All those rocks, the cold, the sometimes cruel history (ship wreaks and all that).
Ooh, good call on the cold water and dangerous shoreline. Lots of shipwreck possibilities.Thanks, Charlene.
Welcome back. I’m a big fan of spooky old houses with hidden rooms myself. And just now, in mud season with the snow melting off, who knows what will turn up half buried in the frozen ground!
I write a mystery series set on the coast of Maine, and I joke that a blindfold and a dart were involved in picking the setting. The truth is that my publisher requested New England – I guess they’ve done research and discovered that people like to read about that part of the country – and Maine sounded more exciting than Massachusetts or New Hampshire. Plus, there were the Maine Coon cats – cozy mystery seried must have cats – and the old story that they were descended from Marie Antoinette’s cats, brought over by Samuel Clough and the Sally in 1794, after the failed Plot of the Carnation. I haven’t regretted my choice of setting yet. 🙂
I love that your publisher suggested New England. And that legend about Maine Coon cats is too intriguing not to use.
I lived in Maine for awhile, in Camden, and one of the things I was drawn by was the mystique of all the peninsulas jutting down into the Gulf of Maine. Each was only a few miles from the next where they met the mainland but miles and miles away from tip to tip. My second novel, Each Angel Burns is set on one of those peninsulas and a lot of readers tell me the setting is as intriguing as the story is.
It’s wonderful how a setting can be like a character in a story. Another layer that enriches the texture of the story. I live on a peninsula myself and am setting the mystery I’m writing on a peninsula. Lots of secrets in those semi-isolated communities.
I love your books, Susan! I have a new paranormal set in Bangor, myself. Who doesn’t love Maine!
Lina, can’t wait to read it. Bangor? Too cool.
Susan, what an interesting blog, and thanks for sharing those breathtaking pictures. I once wanted to submit a mystery but was rejected because my story didn’t take place in Maine. True, Colorado and New Mexico, last time I checked, aren’t even close. Which is why I love to read books set in Maine — I’m so landlocked, it’s an education everytime I read one. Do you think Stephen King, and Angela Landsbury started this, or has Main always been a dynamic setting?
Donnell, how odd your book was rejected because it wasn’t set in Maine. I’m not sure when the fascination with Maine began, but I’m thinking it had to be before Stephen King. And although Murder She Wrote was supposedly set in Maine, it was filmed on the West coast.
Susan, what an interesting blog post. I’ve loved your books set in Maine.
Living in Florida, I imagine Maine as deep, isolated, very dark woods, which is certainly spooky. You’ve made my imagination swirl with dark, creepy plot possibilities and sent a shiver down my spine. I’m not sure whether I should thank you for that or not 🙂
Looking forward to your triology and your mystery.
Deep, dark woods is right. Who knows what lurks behind that tree? [evil laugh] But don’t be too scared. I write happy endings.
Welcome back! It’s so wonderful to have you here.
My new series is set in Maine and features both a harbor town and a private island with an abandoned mansion. My protagonist and her family own a business catering to tourists and I wanted to show all the hard work that goes into making sure you have a wonderful time on your vacation. I’m using lots of stuff from my mother-in-law’s time running a bed & breakfast in Boothbay Harbor, as well as my own college experiences waitressing in resort towns.
BTW–the coastline wasn’t the only relevant factor during Prohibition. The Canadian border also mattered, even when the alcohol came over land. My husband’s uncle used to pick up the booze his mother served at her boarding house in Brownsville Junction. He ended up marrying a local farmer’s daughter.
Oh, Barb, that’s too funny about the Prohibition romance.
Hi Susan … having never visited Maine, it is one of those spots that intrigues me because of so many of the reasons you have listed here. The mystery and the beauty of the state make the perfect combination for the setting of a novel. I can’t wait to read your upcoming novels. 🙂
Sheila, thanks for your comment. Yes, I can’t forget the beauty of the state too.
I think the contrast between evil (human) and natural beauty makes Maine a good setting. I don’t mean Mainers are evil, of course – rather, when one wants to write about the dark side of people, it seems darker when contrasted with the forests, coast, sun, and rocks. Plus, it’s a borderland, and its history is fascinating.
The idea of a borderland is definitely a factor. Maine is the only U.S. state that borders only one other state. Yes, that’s from Trivial Pursuit. LOL
Fun post, Susan. We’re delighted to have you “aboard.” I’m always expecting bodies from the snowbanks. Also under any blue tarp. Or floating up the cove after a storm.
Thanks, Kate. Yes, bodies appear after the snow melts and after storms. You’re getting me started plotting.
What a great post, Susan, and I loved the pictures. My first book coming out this summer, Vermont Escape, is set obviously in Vermont. However, I’d really love to write one set in Maine. We started our New England vacations when I was a elementary school principal, and have continued them since I retired. After several stops in various states, we hit Maine. Pretty much go every year. Sometimes fall, sometimes summer. Last August, we were in the Mooshead Lake region and the islands with their houses and camp sites, captured my immagination. Will have to research quite a bit, but it’s gonna have to happen. I think Maine requires that people be of hardy stock to survive the hard living. Whether you’re making your living from the sea catching those fabulous lobsters the rest of us love so much, running a B & B and dealing with nutso tourists, 🙂 or the logging business. Hardy stock gives us fascinating characters. I’ll be checking out your books, Susan, and this wonderful blog.
Lived in Tenants Harbor for 50 years and in that small fishing village, where I have set 3 of my mysteries, there is so much intrigue and tales of doings–boggle the imagination. What is amazing is how little it has changed. Perhaps because we are off the Route I track and the road out our pennisula only goes to the Port Clyde ferry to Monhegan–and oh those artists can be off the track too. Ann
I’m thinking I need to set a book in Maine! You make it sound so appealing from a suspense perspective. Well, in general, actually. : )
Marsha, I love the Moosehead region. So much beautiful and peaceful scenery there. And solitude. Thanks for your comment.
Great post! Maine certainly is a different kind of place, desolate in some areas and the perfect place for mayhem.
Thanks for sharing!
To those of us who couldn’t write a mystery even at gunpoint, or, well, just to me…Maine became the place of mystery when I started watching “Murder, She Wrote” in the way back, and it’s seemed perfect ever since. Also, I grew up on Elisabeth Ogilvie, who made the state into a place of beautiful suspense. I still want to to there and visit!
Er… make that GO there…
Liz, I too enjoyed Elisabeth Ogilvie’s stories. When I taught seventh grade language arts, I made sure she was included for our unit on Maine writers. Thanks for commenting.
Fascinating post, Susan. I’ve been to Maine and lagree on the landscape. I love to read books set there…your books in particular. 🙂 I’m looking forward to the new trilogy!
I love writing stories that include Maine. I’m turning one in Friday where the hero’s family has a house there and of course the hero and heroine take it trip. It’s set in a remote location, hard to get to.
I love using Maine because of all the contrasts. One of my other books was set near the coast where there was a lighthouse. Maine is picturesque and intriguing. Parts of it reminds me of how the world must have looked before man built anything on it.
Hopefully, one day, I’ll get to see parts of it.
I think its such a great state to write about because there’s just so much variety to Maine’s terrain. My husband’s family was raised near Skowhegan and just a person’s propery alone can have such variety. There are creeks and beaver dams behind beautiful acres of fields and trees.
In the winters we go snowmobiling up in Millinocket and Greenville. The trails and views are breathtaking. You can travel to cities and see gorgeous historic buildings. Just the history alone is worth reading. There is potential for any imagination there and definitely worth visiting.
Being more familiar with coastal Maine, I say it’s those rocky, craggy inlets and coves that make ideal settings for a murder or smuggling.