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Trobador lofted lines Sea Room Cover

 

Background on Sea Room

Message from the Author

Have you ever asked yourself, "Now where did that thought come from?" Creative ideas are the result of a collision among two or more previously unrelated experiences, events or ideas. With fiction, I think many ingredients get thrown into the mixing bowl, some of which lurk secretly in the deepest recesses of the author's mind, and it is often difficult to trace the origin and evolution of a story.

Not so with Sea Room. A theme that has always intrigued me – how some people take action, even in the face of overwhelming events, while others remain passive victims – forms a basis of this book. And with that as a grounding, I can trace almost precisely the many thoughts and impressions which contributed to Sea Room's story line.

Thirty-five years ago I wrote a short story involving a grandfather, a grandson and a boat. However, I then became consumed by the corporate world and nothing ever came of it. Not a sentence of that story appears in Sea Room. Nevertheless the germ of the idea – grandfather, grandson, boat – simmered in my brain and every so often I said, "You know, you ought to do something with that story."

Other stories began floating around in my mind as well. So, eventually I walked away from a lucrative career as a management consultant, made the difficult adjustment to a much simpler life, and, quite simply, wrote.

Then one day, while in the Berkshires, I visited the Norman Rockwell museum where I saw a painting called Outward Bound. You may have seen it – an old man and a young boy stand gazing out at a sailing ship. The old man is bent at his waist. The boy has a wistful posture. Seagulls spiral overhead. The day is sunny but not for long; ominous clouds are massing.

The night before seeing that painting I was reading Stephen Ambrose's book about the D-Day landings. So as I stood gazing at the painting I wondered what if, out beyond the horizon in the picture, troops were landing on Omaha Beach.

Questions naturally followed: who was the old man? The boy? Was someone they knew – the son of one; the father of the other – landing on the beach? And with that simple convergence of ideas, the characters of Pip, Jordi and Gil were born and a story started to take shape.

This stirred my interest in what we've come to call the "Greatest Generation." So I listened to music from WWII (music often inspires me) and the temper of the book began to emerge.

For example, the character of Lydie, the young wife bravely enduring the painful absence of her husband, came almost fully rounded from Jo Stafford's song "I'll Be Seeing You."

The song "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?" remarkably delivered up a sketch of the character Nana, the feisty and deeply religious mother who declares war on her son's enemy through Victory Gardens and scrap drives and who intercedes with God to spare the life of her only remaining child.

I immersed myself in books about the period. I read stories. I talked with my French-Canadian relatives. I listened intently to my mother-in-law who met her future husband on D-Day in a hospital in England where they worked, waiting for casualties from the beaches.

I have a life-long love of the sea. I grew up on the New England coast, and have been sailing since I was a boy, both racing and cruising the waters of Maine and Massachusetts.

While preparing to write Sea Room, my wife and I toured the coast of Maine looking for a setting and fell in love with the Blue Hill peninsula. We spent a great deal of time doing local research. I read all the essays of E.B. White who lived there. I even took a course in half-model carving and studied wooden boat building. (See the loft lines for Trobador above.)

So I stirred all these ingredients – my love of take-charge people, my long-ago short story, the Rockwell painting, the Ambrose book, WWII music, family stories, the coast of Maine, sailing, boat building – into the pot of my writer's imagination and out came Sea Room.

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