Island Time

by Barb, suffering the indignities of a WIP that isn’t jelling.

Hi All. I’m still in Key West. The weather has been uncommonly good this year and we’ve been enjoying our time. But the work in progress on my desk takes place on a different island, in a different climate, at a different time of year.

Stowed Away, the sixth Maine Clambake Mystery, brings the Snowden Family saga full cycle. It’s spring again, and Julia and her relatives are preparing Morrow Island for the tourist season. When I started Clammed Up, I knew about the Cabbage Island Clambake, but I had never been there. Over a long, snowy winter, while I waited for the real clambake to open, I consciously created my own island. I wanted my island to be different, in part to meet some story needs, and in part to distinguish it from any comparison to the real island because of the entirely fictional events that would take place there.

I carefully considered how many acres it would be, how high it would be (since the abandoned mansion Windsholme sat at it’s highest spot), and how far out to sea it was. There are 4400 islands along the Maine coast, so I had plenty of bases for comparison. I studied websites and Google images, judging the terrain.

clapboard-islandThen, years after that work was done and committed to Morrow Island lore, a friend sent me a link about an island for sale, Clapboard Island West, 22 acres with a 9087 square foot home, lots of out buildings, including a tea house and a guest house, and a little beach. For a cool $4.5 million it can be yours. (Be sure to negotiate, it’s been on a the market for awhile.)

Or, you can do what I do, and ogle the photos, descriptions, and the two videos available about the historic house and island.

Of course, there are differences between Clapboard and Morrow Island. The biggest is geographic. Clapboard Island is off Falmouth, Maine in Casco Bay. My fictional island is about an hour and a half farther north. Clapboard Island is slightly larger than Morrow Island and not as high. Morrow Island gets its fresh water and electricity from mid-May to Columbus Day in great conduits that come from the town. Clapboard Island has an interesting aquifer and a solar plant for power. But really, if I’d moved Clapboard Island to where I needed it, and built a pavilion for dining, a kitchen, and a gift shop, it would have done fine.

Sometimes I really wonder why I spend so much time making this stuff up.

Readers: Have you ever imagined a place and then found an incarnation that was real or nearly so? For those who’ve read the Maine Clambake Mysteries–what do you think? Does Clapboard Island match your mental image or is it markedly different?

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27 thoughts on “Island Time

  1. What a beautiful place–both home and island. Do you think a few best sellers would enable a writer to afford it? One could only dream.

  2. Maybe we should convince Sisters in Crime that we need to create a non-profit writing center/retreat house.

    I borrow real places for my books–it’s so much easier to remember layouts and views (or have pictures of them) than to create something new. You’re bound to misplace a room or something. I have been known to drop a house into a new setting, but both are usually real. Of course, since it is fiction, as writers we can add a building as needed, or just as easily remove it (for example, the barn in the Orchard Mysteries did once exist, but it’s been gone for a long time–I have only one old picture of it).

    • I have a basic layout of Windsholme in my head, but I’m sure if I met with an architect and tried to draw it, I’d find some weird “you can’t get into that room, there’s no hallway,” situation.

  3. I usually am writing about real places, with changed names to I can change whatever i need to. Somewhat similar, though, is that I have repeatedly written something and after, there was a news item very, very similar to my plot. It’s just a little spooky.

  4. Aww! I definitely would move there. My wip is situated around a town but I had to draw it out (roughly) first so I could figure how to move from point a to b. I think I will watch these videos again….
    I also pictured some differences between Clambake and Morrow Island but there are many similar aspects.

  5. I once had a dream about a town and thought (and still do) that my dream place would be a great place for a cozy series set here in VA and then found out that there’s a town named the exact same thing in CA at pretty much the same latitude as my fake town would end up being. Does that count? 🙂

  6. Well, that seems like a steal! $4.5 million for that enormous house and the privacy of your own island! I’m in but I guess I need to go check the sofa cushions for about $4.5 million in loose change….

    This is not exactly the same but when I moved into my house I decorated my second floor landing with a white wicker bookcase and a fern- it just seemed right- I was not partial to wicker or ferns. My next door neighbor came over and told me that the owners before the folks I purchased my home from had the exact same set-up. Weird but I guess it felt right for a reason!

  7. I think I”m ready to break open the piggy bank and go island shopping. I may be a little short, but I can always get a paper route. Oh, I don’t think there are many of them anymore. Well, it was beautiful to look at. Thanks.

  8. Pingback: Author Profile: Barbara Ross -

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