Our guest today is our dear friend and Vermont College classmate, Erin Moulton.
KISSING THE EARTH: Hi Erin! We’re so happy to have you back with us at Kissing The Earth to talk about your wonderful new novel, Tracing Stars!
ERIN E. MOULTON: Thank you guys for having me on again. I am so happy to be back on your beautiful blog.
KTE: The landscape in Tracing Stars is very different from the landscape in your first novel, Flutter; you’ve taken us from mountains to seashore. Tell us a little about the landscape that inspired the setting for Tracing Stars.
EEM: Yes, as you know from our last sit down, Flutter very much echoed the town and landscape that I grew up in. So, this one took me a little bit out of my comfort zone. Still, I grew up in Vermont and currently live in NH, so I have been to Maine a few times J. The town in Tracing Stars, Plumtown, heavily draws from some small towns in Maine. Pieces of Ogunquit and York Beach have, likely, slipped into the pages.
KTE: Could you describe this landscape for our readers?
EEM: Sure. Plumtown is a touristy fishing village. Meaning, it has a lot of wonderful little shops that draw the attention of tourists-- the primary means of income is tourism-- however, it is also home to Indie Lee Chickory, Bebe Chickory and The Lobster Monty Cola. Indie’s Pa is a fisherman and he owns Chickory and Chips Famous Fishery. Along the main strip, you also see Sandies Saltwater Candies, Squiggle’s fish stand, Crawdad Coffee Shop and Oceanside Players. If you go out of town a teensy bit, you will see the Manors which is where the wealthier people live. And if you go way out beyond that, you will eventually hit Goff’s Pier and the Barley Lighthouse. Plumtown is full of buzz in the summer, and quiet and peaceful in the winter.
The people there are relaxed, like they understand there is a bigger picture. Additionally, even though it is a tourist town, like any tourist town, the locals know the quiet places to go, the ones that are tucked out of sight. Just like Owen and Indie’s Tree Boat.
No matter what time of year, there are not enough lights to impair the view of the sky, which is always heavy with stars. Other constants are the sound of those ocean waves and seagulls. Not to mention sunrises and sunsets that no medium can adequately capture.
KTE: And tell us about the role this landscape plays in Tracing Stars.
EEM: Well, the landscape is very engrained in Indie, especially. Indie has grown up by the sea and her father is a fisherman, so she loves the ocean and the inhabitants of it. She loves the ocean so much that she is an expert at making fish faces. She also has a pet golden lobster named The Lobster Monty Cola.
Additionally, Indie feels the ocean. She often stares out at the sea and breathes with the waves in order to calm down. However, right off the bat, the ocean takes her best pal, Monty, away, so it is a point of both love and fear for her.
Tied to the ocean is the heavily-starred sky. Indie and her sister Bebe were such big stargazers when they were kids, that their Pa told them that “their constellation” was Pisces (which means fish) and that whenever they had a wish, they didn’t have to wait around for a shooting star, but could simply wish on Pisces. They did this religiously and Indie still does it when she is feeling down.
The ocean, lobsters, and stars put the entire story on its track and plays a role of comfort and angst throughout.
KTE: You’ve so beautifully captured what’s it’s like to live in a New England fishing town, as if you’ve spent a good deal of time here or someplace very similar. Can you describe your personal experience with this landscape and any significant importance it holds for you?
EEM: As if you haven’t guessed, I have a soft spot for New England and New England towns. I love the seasons, the landscapes. I don’t think I will ever move away. As I mentioned, for this particular story, I pulled a lot from the beach towns of Maine. Specifically York, where you can see the saltwater taffy working in the window of the Goldenrod’s Kisses. (P.S. blueberry is my favorite flavor at the Goldenrod’s. It tastes like a blueberry muffin. Trust me, you will love it!)
I’ve been up to Maine many times. I have even been deep sea fishing in Maine. I spent most of the journey staring at the damp floor of the small fishing boat trying not to lose my breakfast. Not my kind of deal. But it was a good experience all the same.
And when I was still working in theater, I frequented Portland to work on shows for the Mad Horse Theater. Obviously, most of my experience with Maine has been as a tourist or a worker from out of state. Because I have visited so often, the beautiful touristy towns and fishing villages are very clear in my mind, but I had to be able to write from Indie’s perspective; from a perspective of someone who lived there. Who was growing up there.
Luckily, I know just what it is like to live and work in a tourist-y town. In fact, where I grew up in the Mad River Valley of Vermont, the economy is very tourist driven. Granted, tourist season in MRV is primarily ski season and leaf peeping season, but it evokes the same dichotomy: there are people who work hard to be able to make a living there and there are people who come to enjoy their time as tourists. Indie’s family is a hardworking one. And in the place where I grew up, we have a lot of those hardworking types, too. So I simply mixed up the beauty I had observed on the coast of Maine and put in the local feel that I know well, and I had a native Plumtowner. My hope is that her perspective feels authentic.
KTE: Erin, thank you so much for being with us today!
Erin E. Moulton graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2007. She is the author of Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey(Philomel/Penguin 2011), and Tracing Stars(Philomel/Penguin 2012). Erin is co-founder of the Kinship Writers Association and is currently the YA librarian at the Derry Public Library. Erin lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband and puppy where she writes, reads, drinks tea and dreams. You can visit her online at www.erinemoulton.com or on Facebook as Erin E. Moulton (Author), or find her on twitter @erinemoulton.