Today we introduce you to writer Sharon Dean, whose new mystery is set in Maine.
Sharon Dean: Writer Matt Cost lives in Maine and sets his Mainely Mystery series in The Pine Tree State. We both publish through Encircle Publications located in Maine. My newest novel, Calderwood Cove, is set in Maine. Why? I’ve never lived in the state that I always thought was huge when I lived in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It’s dwarfed, though, by Oregon, the state I now live in.
When I thought of Mainely Writing for a blog title, I began to think about titles and my sense of place. Calderwood Covewas easy. I’ve often visited with friends in a similarly named cove in Maine. My title Cemetery Wine was generated from my memory of a cemetery overlooking a lake in southern New Hampshire and The Barn came from my memory of a barn in Massachusetts that had a wooden cow’s head peeking from its rafters. Leaving Freedom and my forthcoming sequel Finding Freedom allude to an imaginary town in Massachusetts that is much like the town where I grew up. The title also suggests the idea of Freedom that my character seeks.
Titles matter. Mine don’t always capture the place where I set my novels, but my settings put me into the New England that I carry in my bones. The Isles of Shoals, a New England university, a cemetery, a barn, a small town library and, yes, a cove in Maine. I don’t always begin a novel knowing what its title will be. In fact, I found the title Leaving Freedom only after that novel was completed.
Some writers begin with a title, some with a plot, some with a character, some with a stray word or a newspaper headline. I’ve been in a book discussion group for years and I still keep my connection to these LitWits via the miracle of the internet. We’ve read almost two hundred and fifty books, some good, some mediocre, some dreadful. I recently looked over the titles. I don’t remember most of the plots, I might remember a vivid character, but mostly the titles evoke in me a sense of place. The House of Mirth puts me into the middle of late nineteenth-century aristocratic New York City and The Devil in the White City sets me in the middle of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Fried Green Tomatoesopens a southern world I never saw and the horrifying Beloved makes vivid the world of slavery. When I see titles like The Things They Carried and The Kite Runner, I’m in the midst of war or impending war. I’m in a convent with Mariette in Ecstasy and a reform school with The Nickel Boys. I’m fly fishing in Montana with A River Runs Through It, overlooking Niagara Falls in The Falls, on a ship in the icy Greenland waters in Smilla’s Sense of Snow. Some of these titles you may recognize, some you may not. But whatever we read, books plunge us into worlds we come to know.
I love books that give me a sense of place. Matt Cost writes mainely about Maine and I write mainly with a sense of place in the New England I still call home.
In this nomadic world we live in, how much do you choose a book by a title that evokes a place you once loved or are curious to learn about?
Sharon L. Dean grew up in Massachusetts where she was immersed in the literature of New England. She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of New Hampshire, a state she lived and taught in before moving to Oregon. Although she has given up writing scholarly books that require footnotes, she incorporates much of her academic research as background in her mysteries. She is the author of three Susan Warner mysteries and of a literary novel titled Leaving Freedom. Her Deborah Strong mysteries include The Barn, The Wicked Bible, and Calderwood Cove. Dean continues to write about New England while she is discovering the beauty of the West.
Mainely Write On!
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Glad to read this, Sharon, and look forward to Calderwood Cove. It seems that most authors who write stories set in Maine do imbue their writing with a sense of place. Interesting how your settings have informed the titles of your books.