Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Betsy: The Isles of Shoals (Where TIDES Lives)

This is where my imaginary friends live.
No—real people live here, actually, in the real house on White Island, at the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire.  But this house, and this lighthouse, are where the main characters in my first novel, Tides (click the link!), live, too.
I grew up in coastal New Hampshire, and I regularly went fishing and duck hunting at the Shoals with my dad, his best friend, Mike, and Mike’s son Corey (to whom Tides is dedicated).  Then, a few summers ago, I got a job on a tour boat that goes through Portsmouth Harbor to the Isles of Shoals twice a day.
Three-hour tours.  The uniform was a red polo shirt and khakis.  I was basically Gilligan.
My job was actually giving the tour: I would yammer into a microphone about the lighthouses and forts and whatnot in Portsmouth, the history of the area, and I’d tell stories about the many eccentric residents the Shoals have seen over the years.  (Notably: the poet Celia Thaxter and the pirate Blackbeard.  No kidding.)
This is the Oceanic Hotel on Star Island.  Lots of shenanigans in the book take place here, notably a dance put on by the hotel staff for all the islands’ residents.   (Tragically, I don’t think this is a real thing.)  Until recently, you had to be participating in a conference or retreat to stay at the Oceanic, but now I believe they take individual reservations.  Who wants to take me there?
The tower toward the left of this photo belongs to the Shoals Marine Lab on Appledore Island, just across Gosport Harbor from Star.  I always tell people that if I weren’t a writer, I would be a marine biologist or an oceanographer, and I have long wished I had the kind of credentials to get an internship here.  (I don’t think they take creative writers.)  A fictionalized version of the lab is very important in Tides, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Of course, Tides is really about selkies, and there are real ones at the Shoals.
Well, real harbor seals.  I suppose whether they’re really selkies is up for debate.  But I like to think so.
Can you see them in this picture?  We couldn’t get any closer to the island because of the underwater rocks (or shoals, hey now!  You may have just learned a new word!), so they are small here.
And just for good measure, another picture of Noah’s grandmother’s house and the White Island light.  Every time I’m away from the Shoals for a while, I start getting afraid that I’ve misremembered everything, that it’s not quite as beautiful as the way I see it in my head.  But it is.  I really do love the Shoals, and one of the things I most wish for Tides is that it will help other people love them, too.  But I’ll have to wait and see what you think about that.


  1. The Shoals are gorgeous, aren't they? What a perfect inspiration for your book. I can't wait to read it and be transported.

  2. You are very fortunate to have worked in such a beautiful location! I lived four years in Savannah, Georgia and spent many hours on the beach. There's nothing like the sound of the water! Congratulations on your book!