Mystery Becomes ME

I promise this is the *only* time you will see me taking advantage of the fact that my home state’s mailing code spells a word. There are a lot of Maine businesses and programs that exploit this coincidence or the many uses of the word “Maine” (sounds like a different word) or “Maine-ly” (not a word, but sounds like one).

Now that I have that out of my system, let me point out the real reason I asked you here today. I wanted to share this editorial from my local paper about what makes Maine fertile ground for mystery writers. My favorite passage? Tess Gerritsen remarking, “It’s the weather. It lends itself to the process. When it gets dark, around October not only does it make staying in and writing easier, but it lends itself to darker themes.” This quote reminds me that Maine is also home to someone who has made a career out of very dark themes, Stephen King. Once you have experienced a long foggy day here and listened to the loons and barred owls calling, you can see why.

Like Gerritsen (and this is the only resemblance), I find the early dark and heavy snow keep me focused. In the same article, Gerry Boyle opines that Maine’s “beautiful and ominous landscape” inspires the muse. Besides that, he also reads the same local papers I do. Of his file of clippings, the editorial writer says, “The Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal have given him so much fodder, he said, “I’m not going to live long enough to write those books.””

One other Maine inspiration has nothing to do with straight mystery, although there are are mysterious elements in the book involved. Local legend has it Richard Russo wrote a good deal of his prize-winning novel Empire Falls at Jorgenson’s, the local coffee joint in Waterville. On any given day, you can find students, professors, readers, and hack writers like me holed up in the seating area with piles of papers and the writing device of their choice, trying to soak up the good vibes. For me, it’s a Dell netbook when I’m “on the road.” I never stay long because I get too distracted while writing in public. Just a little nip of spirit is enough to energize and to get me past the inevitable cabin fever.

I’ve heard it said that great art is born of suffering. This winter (and Boyle noticed it too in the article) was especially brutal and doesn’t seem through with us yet. Maybe, on the bright side, it will be a banner year for literature.

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