Friends, today it our pleasure to introduce you to a new Maine writer who has recently debuted her first crime novel. We hope you enjoy meeting her and going on a journey to a less-visited part of our state.
Claire Ackroyd: I am new here, so Hello to all blog readers.
I am also new to book publishing of any kind, but to my enormous satisfaction have written a book that is already finding readers – and I am unashamedly looking for more.
So I have written a mystery set in the remote woods that extend up the border with Canada from Jackman. I have worked up there as an organic certification inspector, and the place fascinates me. So few people who think they know Maine know that those woods produce more maple syrup, as a block, than anywhere else in the country. Furthermore, the producers are mostly francophone Quebecois and don’t even live in Maine. It seemed like a great place for a murder. Between the lack of access, the language barrier, the demographics, economics, ecology and politics of the place, there had to be a story.
Too many people think that Maine begins and ends with lobsters and a rocky shoreline. Those who know the more remote woods, rivers and lakes mostly don’t know that a multi-million dollar industry is hidden along the border. I got tired of explaining this to people who see fishing and hunting as the only activities that the woods support, and I tired also of justifying the organic certification of syrup to people who scoffed at the idea that it has any meaning in maple syrup production.
I came to Maine over 40 years ago and still find the existence of deep, un-inhabited woods a marvel. I grew up in southern England, and only knew wilderness from books. To find myself working where roads are barely passable in winter, communication beyond the camps a challenge, and law enforcement a strangely patched together mix of game wardens and state troopers, delighted me years ago and still does.
So I offer my story, hoping to find readers, fellow writers and lovers of the Maine woods. I had no wish to write a real mystery, with convoluted plot twists and hidden clues, but hoped to present an authentic portrayal of an interesting way of life that few people ever encounter.
I live in Orono – have done since 1976 (i think – memory dims!) – having come here for graduate school on a circuitous route from my home in England. My background and education are all Horticulture – and I had a business in Orono called The Growing Concern, a garden center and landscape company combined. When business owning wasn’t really fun anymore I did all kinds of odd jobs until a really weird confluence of circumstances landed me a job in Guyana as a mangrove restoration consultant – and later as a teacher in the remote interior of the country, which was just about my dream job.
Anyway – eventually I had to find reliable work in Maine, so I became an inspector for Organic Certification for MOFGA and have been doing that steadily for somewhere around 30 years – making me the – or one of the – veteran independent inspectors in Maine. It is a great job – gets me all over the state and into the homes and farms of all kinds of fascinating people- including the almost unknown maple syrup producers up along the border north of Jackman. Most of these people are francophone Canadians, and with a reasonable ability to speak French I have been able to conduct inspections with producers who speak no English. This brings me to my book. I fantasized about writing a murder mystery set in those remote woods, in which I could introduce readers to the place, people and processes involved in maple syrup production and its organic certification. So I have done that. I have a book out (with Maine Author’s Publishing) which is doing quite well. Picky readers are loving it and I am its proud creator