The Rockport Public Library in Maine ( a couple towns up the road from Tutu's little library and town) had a party on Friday to honor local resident and now famous author Paul Doiron. After reading from his fabulous book The Poacher's Son, he signed copies, accepted our ginger ale/hard cider toasts, joined us in cake (I wish I'd gotten a picture) and answered questions about being a writer, birthing the book, and what's up next.
I asked Paul for permission to write up some of the Q&A, and he graciously agreed. (NOTE: these are not exact quotes...I was furiously taking notes, but I think I have captured the gist.)
How long did it take to write?
That answer is hard to pin down as I wrote it over a longer period of time. Now since I have a contract with Minotaur for two more books- one a year--it's much easier to say how long.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I knew from the time I was 15 or 16 that's what I wanted to do, and tried to write all the time. I got an MFA from Emerson College, and have been honing my skills ever since. The DownEast job of course provides me great writing opportunities.
Do you write every day?
Not really. Since I write for my day-job as Editor in Chief of DownEast Magazine, I don't have much writing energy left to write at night after work, and I've never been an early morning writer. So I do most of my writing on weekends.
Did you choose the title?
Yes, I did, although I will share that it was not the first title. I won't tell you the original one I had in mind because I think it becomes a spoiler, and I changed to The Poacher's Son (which was suggested by a friend who read an early draft) because I realized that while the book is a mystery, it is also very much a novel about the relationship of a father and a son, and I wanted to emphasize that.
Do you take reviews and online discussions into consideration as you're writing these next two books (for example the Barnes and Noble First Look Club where we discussed the book)?
I try not to. When I set out to write this story, I had a firm picture in my mind of who Mike Bowditch (the protagonist) was, and what his character was. I was tired of detectives who were typically 35 years old and who were going into mid-life crisis. They all had wives who had died, or they were divorced. I wanted a character who was just starting to find himself, and who would question things, but who was fairly black and white about what he believed in. I've noticed that some readers in their comments don't seem to remember being 24 years old, or never had a son or brother who went through this stage in life.
You're obviously familiar with Maine and its wilderness. Did you do much research, or was this subject matter one you were already comfortable with?
I'm a registered Maine guide, so I'm writing about a subject that is near and dear, but I can never know everything. There were pieces that required more research than others, and you always want to check that what you're saying is still current - for instance, as I completed the first draft, I learned that the Maine Warden Service had completely changed its uniform, so I had to go back and re-work that. For the next book, I did a 'ride-along' for a day with a warden, including a fly-over. You get a very different perspective from the air than from the ground. At this point they were focusing on the drug war, and I learned it's much easier to identify marijuana from the air in early fall, because it's the last plant on the forest floor to change color. That green sticks right out!
The setting seems to play a huge role in this book. How much of that was intentional?
Oh, it was definitely intentional. The book is as much about the Maine wilderness as about Mike Bowditch...the Maine Woods can really be a character of its own. In fact, I've been asked to be a panelist at the New England Crime Bake in the fall where the topic is something like "Setting as Character." The wilderness - its depth, its inaccessibility, its wildlife and vegetation, has definite implications for the plot.
The character of Mike Bowditch is portrayed as a kind of loner. Do you think this is true of all wardens?
The warden's job requires hours and days of being alone in the woods. The warden has to be comfortable being alone with his thoughts, and must be able to put family and personal concerns aside. It's no accident that Mike is portrayed from the very beginning as someone who didn't mind being alone.
"...I had chosen to be alone. An empty house was what I'd wanted all along, even if it had taken Sarah years to realize it...and it was only after I had gotten posted in coastal Knox County that she realized that being a game warden was a twenty-four-a-day, seven-days-a-week way of life, and for reasons neither of us fully understood, I'd chosen it over her. So she left." (pg. 10)In books 2 and 3 I'm trying to show how Mike grows, how he grapples with the real question of whether he's cut out to be a warden, and how (and whether) he resolves his relationship with Sarah.
It was a great afternoon. Thanks to Molly Larson, director of Rockport Library for arranging the festive occasion, and many thanks to Paul's gracious wife Karen Lindquist for taking the photo of Tutu and Paul. Again I thank Barnes and Noble for the opportunity to have read this one pre-pub. See my review here if you missed it earlier.
And definitely check out Paul's website. We wish him continued success and absolutely can't wait for the next installment.