Darcy Scott: It was during a very hot summer a good number of years back that I started drafting my first novel. I remember sweating profusely as I hunkered over our sailboat’s galley counter fighting to keep the tomatoes from rolling into my endless pile of plot notes as we lurched from one secluded Maine anchorage to another. When late fall rolled around, forcing us to suck it up and move ashore before the snow began to fly, I transferred everything to the crowded kitchen table of our winter habitation where literary pursuits shared space with laundry, bread dough on the rise, and a few of the kids’ favorite toys. This annual back and forth has been our pattern ever since.
Mark Twain, (nee Samuel Clemens), long a favorite of mine, was apparently of the same mind about this kind of spacial repurposing and was known to use his billiards room, among other locations, for research and organization purposes, pressing his honkin’ pool table into use. Those balls make terrific paperweights, don’t you know. But it was in his outdoor octagon study in Elmira, NY that he penned his most famous works including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
By all appearances, Twain’s studio was far neater than mine, tending as I do toward the messy end of the spectrum—my cluttered writing space more along the lines of William F. Buckley or Will Self—a post-apocalyptic author (The Book of Dave, Umbrella, How the Dead Live) whose studio walls, like mine, are crammed with notes, post-its and assorted literary paraphernalia.
The immortal Maya Angelou took another approach, keeping a hotel room in which to do her writing in every town in which she lived. She’d leave her home each morning at 6:00 and be working by 6:30—keeping at it until early afternoon when she’d head back for some rest, sustenance, and a review of the day’s work, before beginning again next morning.
My own first real studio, if you don’t count sailboats and kitchen tables, was the smallest of rooms at the back of an apartment my husband and I shared—a space the size of a walk-in closet with a commanding view of the dumpster. Barely room enough for a scarred wooden door-cum-table for my outlines and notes, a narrow bookcase housing research materials, and a small computer table for my laptop and the Lobster Lamp (we’ll get to that in a minute). The finishing touch was an eight- by five-foot stretch of fiberboard that my husband tacked to the wall as a storyboard—plenty of room for the character sketches and sprawling plot lines I tend to develop.
I finished three novels in this first studio (the psychological thriller Hunter Huntress and the first two of my Maine Island Mysteries), before we moved up the street to a larger house with, oddly enough, an even smaller writing studio.
Back to that lamp. I’m a firm believer that things come into our lives when they’re meant to. I’m not talking big spiritual concepts here—that’s a subject for another post, perhaps, maybe several—but stuff. A funky lamp found during a visit to an old cottage, in this case—its body a ten-inch lobster claw. I kid you not. I initially thought it might be plastic or maybe fiberglass, until a lobsterman friend of mine assured me it is (or more accurately was) a claw belonging to a very large, very real, and very old crustacean. Close to a hundred years, he guessed, when it was, um, repurposed—kind of freaky when you consider that the characters in my novels tend to be lobstermen. This was back in 2012 and considering the fact that the lamp had, according to the owner of the cottage, been sitting atop his fireplace for some 30 years before I ever saw it, means that when this lovely man gifted it to me, the claw was somewhere between 125 and 130 years old, which puts the birth of the lobster somewhere around 1885—some 20 years post-Civil War. Think about that. The fact that the lamp actually works is an added bonus. Not to mention it makes a honkin’ prop at book signings.
Darcy Scott (Winner, 2019 National Indie Excellence Award; Best Mystery, 2013 Indie Book Awards; Silver Award, 2013 Readers Favorite Book Awards; Bronze Prize, 2013 IPPY Awards) is a live-aboard sailor and experienced ocean cruiser with more than 20,000 blue water miles under her belt. For all her wandering, her summer home and favorite cruising grounds remain along the coast of Maine—the history and rugged beauty of its sparsely populated out-islands serving as inspiration for much of her fiction, including her popular Maine-based Island Mystery Series. Her debut novel, Hunter Huntress, was published in Britain in 2010.