Monday, May 20, 2019

Six Things I Learned from an Island in Maine - guest post by Suzanne Woods Fisher


With guest Suzanne Woods Fisher

As I was gathering information to begin the writing of On a Summer Tide, I spent time roaming through remote islands along coastal Maine. Original research enhances a book in innumerable ways—from how the terrain looks, to the effects of weather, to unique and credible details gathered that only come from on-the-ground visits.





The effort and expense to travel across the country to Maine was well worth it. In fact, I would say it changed the story I had in mind and took it down a different path. I learned a few things about year-round island living, how seasons affect locals, how time is marked, and wove them in to make this story believable.

Here’s six things I learned from an island in Maine:

  • Ferry time is the only clock that matters. A ferry is a lifeline to a remote island. These ferries probably aren’t coming from the mainland but from yet another island, and are dependent on good weather conditions. These ferries are small, passenger (and bikes) only. Lugging cars back and forth means a wait for a larger vessel, and it’s costly. Locals develop a sense for the arrival of the ferry, even before they hear its horn blast. One local woman described it as sensing a change in the wind. She can feel the ferry’s arrival before she sees it.
  • Time shouldn’t be a dictator. Island time is a real thing. While traipsing through these islands, my watch came off, my phone got forgotten more than a few times. Unhooking was nice, it was relaxing. It made me realize that there’s more margin than we think in our day…or maybe there should be.
  • We can live without a lot. Come winter, when the ferry stops running, a pantry should be well stocked…or locals do without. They have a clever skill at making do with whatever is on hand and can get pretty creative in the process. Did you know that duct tape, an island necessity, is better than tweezers to pull a splinter out of a finger?
  • It’s a very good thing to discover the difference between needs and wants. You might not find everything you want on an island, but most likely, you’ll find everything you need. Most problems, I noticed on this research excursion, had been solved with duct tape. Broken vacuum hoses, cracks in windshields, leaky pipes, missing shoelaces. ;)
  • On an island where shipments can be a little hit and miss, eating seasonally and locally is healthier, cheaper, and tastes so much better: just-picked blueberries, the day’s catch of lobsters, clams or scallops. (Nothing beats fresh lobster tail caught by local fisherman, soaked in melted butter.)
  • There is strength in community. Americans make independence a cardinal virtue, but when you’re on an island that gets cut off from the mainland for a few months every year, there’s incredible value in developing and relying on community. Bottom line: People need people.

Yes, people need people. And authors need readers. On a Summer Tide is the first in a new series—a
Order your copy here!
new genre!—for me, called ‘Three Sisters Island’. It’s a story about a dad who realizes his young adult daughters are growing increasingly estranged. In a desperate attempt to keep the family together, he buys a bankrupt island off the coast of Maine. His daughters think dear old Dad is ready for the looney bin, but don’t count him out too quickly. This clever dad seems to know that there’s just something about an island…







Jan here: Thank you, Suzanne, for a wonderful post and a glimpse into Island Life. I'm looking forward to reading this series!

And for the Seekervillagers, Suzanne is graciously offering a copy of "On a Summer Tide" to one commenter! Your choice of paperback or e-book! Just let us know in your comment if you want to be entered in the drawing.





Christy award nominee Suzanne Woods Fisher writes stories that take you to places you’ve never visited—one with characters that seem like old friends. But most of all, her books give you something to think about long after you’ve finished reading it. With over one million copies of her books sold worldwide, Suzanne is the best-selling author of more than thirty books, ranging from non-fiction books, to children’s books, to novels and lives with her very big family in northern California. 



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67 comments:

  1. Suzanne, welcome to our island! Did you know that Seekerville began as an island? An island filled with aspiring authors, wanting to reach the "mainland" of publishing... and praying for one another until every one of the original 15 Seekers was published by a royalty-paying publisher... We began as a dream and a prayer... So we love island stories around here!

    First, this sounds fascinating... and congrats on branching off into something different. I am sure it will be wildly successful because it sounds marvelous.

    Coffee is on! And I brought chocolate-stuffed croissants, too. Just because.

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    1. That's cool, Ruthie, didn't know that about how you started!

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    2. Chocolate-stuffed croissants! Yum!

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    3. Thank you, Ruth, for hosting me! Loved discovering the history of Seekerville, too. What a community! Warmly, Suzanne

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  2. This series sounds so yummy, right up my alley! Congrats I also have a new series set in Maine in 2020, apron shop mysteries, but it's on the mainland, lol. Traveling to Maine for book research is such a hardship, isn't it? :) I live closer now, in NH.

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    1. Congratulations on your new series, Liz! Maine must be the go-to place this year!

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    2. Liz! How fun! I'd like to hear more about your series. Congrats on it! Warmly, Suzanne

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  3. What fortuitous timing for this post! My husband and I just came home yesterday from a trip to Maine. We were there for the weekend to attend a friend's wedding.

    We had a chance to visit Cousins Island & Littlejohn Island off the coast near Yarmouth, ME. One thing we noticed was a large sign on Cousins Island announcing a Community Spring Fling - a potluck dinner for the island residents. How cool is that????

    These stories sound delightful, Suzanne, and I would love to be entered into the drawing.

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    1. That must've been such a fund trip, Beth!!

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    2. It was, Missy! I had been to Maine back in college, but to a different part entirely. Jon had never been, nor had he been to the Atlantic Ocean, so that was fun! I just wish we had more time to explore.

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    3. I love the idea of a "Community Spring Fling" on Cousins Island! That sounds just like Suzanne's description of island life!

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    4. Beth--My dad and uncles went to Bowdoin. Where did you go to college? And I love the Community Spring Fling idea! ~Suzanne

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    5. Doesn't it, Jan? It was so cute!

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    6. Suzanne, I went to school at the University of Rochester in NY. I didn't go to school in Maine, just went there on a trip when I was in college. It's been almost 20 years since that trip! :) It was nice to visit a new part of Maine & be there with my husband. We love traveling together. Next time we'll have to bring the kids. They'd love to see the ocean!

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  4. Great post Suzanne. I live in New Hampshire, so Maine is just over the border. A beautiful state, so much to do, so much to look at. And the islands really are a different culture. And I love the premise of your book. Who BUYS AN ISLAND?
    As someone about to swim off the island, I love the way Seekerville has worked that metaphor.
    Please enter me in the drawing.
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. You're in the drawing, Kathy!

      And I'm with you - who buys an island? Well, I probably would, given the opportunity and the resources. :-)

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    2. Kaybee--We used to vacation on Lake Winnipesaukee. Happy, happy memories! Do you go there very much? Warmly, Suzanne

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  5. Love this post. I'm a life-long resident of Texas and have always wanted to travel to the East Coast. Sounds so interesting. I love your list, especially these points: We can live without a lot, and there's strength in community. So much truth. Thank you, Suzanne!

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    1. I love Suzanne's list, too. It sounds like a great way to live, doesn't it?

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    2. Laura--I hope you do get to the East Coast sometime! You could start in Boston and go north, or start in NYC and go to Philadelphia and Wash DC. Any direction...so much to see! Thanks for commenting. Warmly, Suzanne

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  6. I think this would be a wonderful setting for a book! I look forward to reading it! Thanks for sharing with us today, Suzanne.

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    1. I agree, Missy. Wouldn't you love to do the research?

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    2. Thanks, Missy! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even more than I had expected! Warmly, Suzanne

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  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts this Monday morning. For many years my Daddy rode the ferry across the Ohio River to get milk from a Cincinnati dairy. He then came back and delivered it house to house in our Kentucky town.
    I would love to win this book.
    Blessings!
    Connie

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    1. How interesting, Connie. My father-in-law worked in San Francisco and they lived in Marin County. He took the ferry to work in the city each day.

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    2. Connie...I've been reading a lot about the Ohio River lately...but way, way back, when it was a dangerous frontier. Interesting to learn about your dad! And Debby...my father-in-law grew up in San Francisco before there were bridges! He took the ferry to go to UC Berkeley. (He was older when he married.) Fun history! Warmly Suzanne

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  8. This book sounds good.

    The last four months have been a trying time. At first I decided I would have my main character have a fall like mine but the recovery time would affect the rest of the story in a negative way. Still thinking of how I can adapt but still make it work.

    However as I lay there in the nursing home I came up with a mystery suspense series. I'm getting excited about writing this series.

    The research was painful. I hope the research in Maine was much more fun.

    I may not have been able to write but I did research not only for the wip, a new mystery series as well as learning the Cherokee word for hello which will be great for another wip.

    Must force myself to walk to the kitchen and fix breakfast before the therapist arrives. So happy to be home. Now to learn to walk without pain and the use of a walker.

    The Lord has been so good even through the rough days.

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    1. So happy that you're finally home, Wilani! You've had quite a time of it.

      But it sounds like you've put your down-time to good use!

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  9. Thanks so much for being here, Suzanne. Your new series sounds great. As an AF brat, I've lived all over a good portion of this country, but I have never been to the Northeast. It's on our bucket list to have fresh lobster someday and enjoy the beauty of that part of the country. Maybe I just need to speed that up on the list by setting a story there and saying I need to do research. Hmmm.... :)

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    1. That's a great idea, Glynis. I'm sure your family would enjoy the road-trip!

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    2. Glynis...I hope you do get to the Northeast! In the summer or early fall, that is. ;) Warmly, Suzanne

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  10. Ooh, how interesting. Thanks for sharing some of your insights. The trip must have been beautiful.

    I enjoy books set on islands, they have a more old-fashioned feel. Sounds like the lifestyle would be right up my alley--so long as my storage space came in extra large. :0)

    Please enter me in the giveaway!

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    1. I think my love-affair with stories set on islands began with Anne of Green Gables. They always seem to be very cozy places (except during storms!)

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  11. I loved your insights. I wish I could afford more travel. Until then, I will vicariously travel through books like this one.😉 Please enter me in the giveaway! (my email is liladiller78 (at)
    gmail (dot) com.

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    1. I love to travel through books, too. There's nothing like losing myself in a story set in another place.

      You're entered in the drawing, Lila. Be sure to check the weekend edition this Saturday to see who the winner is!

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  12. Suzanne, this was such a fascinating read! I can really see how visiting the island would give you a different perspective for both your main and secondary characters. I'd love to travel to visit a location for a story. :) I'm glad you gleaned so much and that you shared your lessons learned here.

    Your book sounds fascinating. Please add me to the drawing. :)

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    1. Jeanne, I think you need to chose your dream destination and set a story there. Tell your family that your next vacation will be for research!

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  13. Lobster fresh and blueberries. Aww the life of island living. Sounds heavenly in some aspects. I just received my copy of On A Summer Tide. Can’t wait to read.

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    1. I hope you enjoy the book, Lucy. I can't wait to read it, either!

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  14. When my husband and I traveled to Hawaii, the minute we stepped off the plane, we were on Island Time. Everything seemed to have slowed down and people weren't in a hurry. Of course, we were on vacation and that was part of it too.
    Thanks for entering me in your giveaway.
    Janet E.
    von1janet(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Years ago when I first visited Hawaii, the TV programs did not change exactly on the hour or half-hour. Each station seemed to run on their own "island" time.

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    2. That's funny, Debby! I guess you would just have to anticipate your favorite show's air time!

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    3. Janet, I think I remember a little of that from my trip years ago. And Debby, that's so funny!

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  15. Suzanne, thanks for being with us today. Your new release sounds delightful! I lived in Massachusetts as a child and visited Maine often. I'm hoping to return to see it all through adult eyes in the not too distant future. I do remember the lobster, which has always been a favorite. Looking forward to reading On a Summer Tide.

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    1. Debby, you'll have to take me with you! :)

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    2. Me, too, Debby! We'll enjoy the lobster together!

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  16. This story sounds amazing! I love Suzanne's beautiful way with words and themes in her books. My mom's new husband has some property on Whidbey Island in Washington and it was so fun to visit and get a feel for island life. There are pros and cons to the isolation...

    Please put my name in the hat for your book!

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    1. I love Suzanne's books, too, no matter where or when they take place. :-)

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    2. Heidi, you mom new husband's property sounds amazing! I hope you'll get to visit often.

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  17. Hi Suzanne:

    Don't keep us in suspense! What genre is your new book? I can't tell by the cover. Romance? Women's Fiction? Christian Fiction? Mainstream? New Adult?

    I really enjoy island and lighthouse centered stories. Islands create an 'outsider looking in' environment which is often very illuminating to the outsider. This outsider POV can bring rare insights to the outsider. It's like a fish, who was never aware of water, being pulled away and up into the air!

    I think Amish and Indian Reservation stories are often 'island' stories. I bought "Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle" by Mary J. MacLeod within a minute of seeing the cover. It's a great theme for stories.

    I also think that 'being there' is the best way to experience a new story location. I've done this in the past but I missed so much until I began to record my 5-sense experiences in a way that I read Louis L'Amour did. L'Amour would camp out in the story location and record how the wind sounded, what smells he could detect, what he saw and how the changing light of day changed the colors around him. He learned what sounds populate the night and what happens when they suddenly go silent. Can you smell the salt in the air near the sea? Some cities yes and some no.

    It is said that when L'Amour described a camp site near a camp fire, that was the way it really was. He even knew what a rabbit 100 feet away walking through the grass sounded like from where he was.

    Yes, it's great to be there but it's best when you do your constant five-sensing at different times of the day and you record it for play back when you write your story.

    Please put me in the drawing for your book.

    BTW: when I see the words "Three Sisters" I can't help but think of the "Three Sisters Mountains" in Oregon, (Faith, Hope and Charity). Might those be the names of your sisters?

    Oh, I'm also a big fan of sister books like Julie Lessman's Boston series. (Three sisters can make their own 'island' story between them!)

    Vince

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    1. I love learning that about Louis L'Amour, Vince. Thanks for sharing!

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  18. All these things you learned make me want to read your book, and to re-read some of my favorite books with a Maine setting, the Eastport, ME books by Sarah Graves.

    Thanks for stopping by Seekerville today!

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    1. Erica, every time you recommend a book, my TBR list gets longer!

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  19. Hi Suzanne, I am a big fan of your books. I have read most of them and am anxious to read this one. Thanks for your giveaway.

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  20. Hi Suzanne, thanks for this post on island living. Many of the observations you made is parallel to camping I think. We just got home from a long weekend of camping (Victoria weekend in Canada) where time is set by the rising and setting of the sun, where you have only the essentials with you, and where people have time for each other. �� Please enter my name in the draw. Lee-Ann

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    1. Lee-Ann, that's a great point about camping! So true.

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  21. Fun post, Suzanne. I have been to Maine a couple times but haven't been able to really spend a lot of time. I would love to do that.

    Please put me in the drawing.

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    1. Wouldn't it be great to spend a summer week or two on an island? *sigh*

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  22. I rather like the idea of ferry time.

    Count me in thanks.

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  23. This sounds fascinating. I have always wanted to visit Maine. And being away from things sounds nice, too, although I do tend to do better when sticking pretty close to a schedule.

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    1. I think we need a writer's retreat on a Maine island, don't you? Just a few days away.

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  24. What an eye-opening post, Suzanne! I have mixed feelings about living on an island. It would be great to be more disconnected from the world at times, but I have a feeling it would also drive me crazy at other times. Thanks for the post. I'd love to be in the drawing for your book!

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    1. Living on a island would be a great test of whether I'm really an introvert or not!

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