Going to the Source of Inspiration

In Cover Story, the second book in the Joe Gale series, my newspaper reporter protagonist finds himself on deadline without a computer. Does Joe panic? Nope. He goes to the local library.

He’s covering a high-profile murder trial in Machias during the brutal winter of 2015. His laptop is stolen when he’s on deadline in an apparent attempt to stop him from writing about unexpected testimony and contradictory evidence. Nothing if not resourceful, Joe responds by walking across Court Street to Porter Memorial Library where a helpful librarian and public access computers save the day.

Beautiful, historic Porter Memorial Library in Machias

Beautiful, historic Porter Memorial Library in Machias

When a writer features an actual library in one of her books, it goes without saying she must do a reading there. That’s why I was tweeting and facebooking from Porter Memorial Library a couple of weeks ago, the little gem of a library that played a small but critical role in Cover Story.sign out front

Here’s one of the passages about Joe Gale’s use of the library:

Earlier in the week I’d noticed the Porter Memorial Library—a handsome granite structure that looked almost like a small church—across from the front door of the courthouse. As luck would have it, the librarian was not the sort to close the library’s doors at the sight of a few flakes of snow. Five feet tall with gray hair hanging loose to her waist, she peered at me through granny glasses when I asked about internet access. She said the library had Wi-Fi so I could work from any seat in the house. I found a quiet corner, reviewed my notes and began to write.

Ninety minutes later I scrolled through my story, frustrated by the undeniable fact that it didn’t sing. In fact, it didn’t even hum. I hadn’t eaten lunch yet, and my mind kept shooting back to the events of the previous night. The result was an awkward lead and a disjointed narrative. I went to the john, washed my face, returned to my seat and tried again.


My Machias reading originally was scheduled for mid-December but an unexpected snowstorm caused the event to be rescheduled for May 4, when spring was beginning to make itself known Downeast.

Library Director Lee Downing

Library Director Lee Downing

I was delighted beyond words to read at Porter Memorial, where director Lee Downing[1] and an enthusiastic bunch of readers welcomed me. I’d visited incognito when I was writing Cover Story to make sure I had the feel of the space. At the time, I wasn’t imagining a future reading there. But once the book was published, arranging a visit to Porter Memorial Library was high on my must-do list.

I explained to the folks who attended my reading that Cover Story actually is the first book I actually wrote−though not the first to be published−and for that reason it will forever hold a special place in my heart, as will Machias, its courthouse and its library.

Cover Story is a book about a trial, minus the boring stuff that happens in real life trials and featuring several harrowing scenes that were easy to imagine happening in the tundral landscape of Downeast Maine in January.

They gave me the best seat in the house

They gave me the best seat in the house

When writing the book I worried about getting Washington County wrong.[2]  I’d lived in neighboring Hancock County but never all the way Downeast, which is very much its own place. I know the geography well enough (and I have a trusty DeLorme) but writing about a distinctive community requires an understanding of the people who live there and respect for regional culture.

I made a couple of trips to Machias during the writing process−an especially memorable one on a cold weekend in February−to remind myself about the cadence of life in Washington County and the intensity of the wind howling across the blueberry barrens. I hope I did that wild and beautiful county justice.

MCW emerita Sarah Graves−who lives and writes in Eastport−reassured me with a generous blurb about Cover Story [3] and nobody showed up at the May 4 reading to argue otherwise.

The fireplace still warms the reading room on winter days

The evening was a total pleasure. It took place in the handsome reading room where a comfortable wing chair had been arranged for me next to a gorgeous stone working (!) fireplace.

Old friends and new were there, enthusiastic and full of good questions.

Some of those who came to Porter Memorial to hear me read from COVER STORY

Some of the folks who came to Porter Memorial to hear me read from COVER STORY

I read a couple of passages, making a point to end with this line from the book: “You know what they say about Downeast Maine. The only thing more rugged than the coastline is the women.”

Laughter told me the audience appreciated the compliment.


[1] Who neither wears granny glasses nor has hair that hangs to her waist.

[2] I was worried about pretty much everything, to be honest. It was my first book.

[3] Sarah, bless her, said this: COVER STORY gets Downeast Maine right, from its hard-headed, warm-hearted inhabitants to its remote, tragic beauty, and in it Brenda Buchanan spins a devious, deeply-felt tale as dark as a Maine winter. Add a smart, seasoned journalist-hero Joe Gale and Buchanan’s own intensely readable prose and you’ve got another you’re-gonna-love-it winning entry in an excellent series.

Brenda Buchanan’s Joe Gale Mystery Series features an old-school reporter with modern media savvy who covers the Maine crime beat. Cover Story may have been the first written, but it’s the second in the series. The first is Quick Pivot and the most recent is Truth Beat. All are available in digital format wherever fine ebooks are sold

Brenda can be found on the web at www.brendabuchananwrites.com on Twitter at @buchananbrenda and on Facebook at Facebook.com/BrendaBuchananAuthor.


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8 Responses to Going to the Source of Inspiration

  1. Barb Ross says:

    How wonderful to return to the scene of the …not the crime…the resource? The saving grace? I love Machias and can’t wait to read Cover Story.

  2. MCWriTers says:

    Looks like a gorgeous library! And what fun to go there and read the passages in the book. I wonder, though, whether it is the lawyer in you, rather than the writer, who footnotes the blog post to clarify the details.


  3. Amy M. Reade says:

    Brenda, I loved your post. That library is just beautiful and I get this mental picture of you in sunglasses and a head scarf poking around the library so you wouldn’t be recognized. 🙂 What fun to be able to do a reading there and it sounds like it was a resounding success. Congratulations!

  4. C.T. Collier says:

    Heartwarming tribute to the library! I can hear your respect and gratitude, and I sense it’s mutual! –kate

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