Monday, October 10, 2011

Literary Mystery Novelists—Paul Doiron

One of the most important things to know about Paul Doiron is that he is a Maine native. Maine plays a big role in his life. He is editor-in-chief of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, Down East Books, and He blogs at He is even a Registered Maine Guide. All of these ties to Maine come to fruition in his books, The Poacher's Son and Trespasser, which feature a Maine game warden, Mike Bowditch. The forests and countryside of Maine are as much a character in Doiron’s books as his troubled, but engaging protagonist, and Doiron’s evocative descriptions of the rough terrain bring it to life.

Doiron is noted for his multifaceted characters and his realistic depictions of their lives, relationships, and choices. He is a writer who pays close attention to language without losing the suspense and complicated plotting that are valued in mysteries. His first book, The Poacher's Son, was nominated for most of the awards in the mystery field and won several. Look for Trespasser, his second novel released in June 2011, to make a similar splash. Doiron is definitely a writer to follow.

Here is the link for Doiron’s new book.


Paul Doiron is the author of the Mike Bowditch series of crime novels, including The Poacher's Son, which won the Barry Award for Best First Novel and the Strand Critics Award for Best First Novel and has been nominated for an Edgar Award, an Anthony Award, a Macavity Award, and a Thriller Award for Best First Novel, and the Maine Literary Award for "Best Fiction of 2010." His second book in the Mike Bowditch series, Trespasser, has been called a "masterpiece of high-octane narrative" by Booklist. The Poacher's Son received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal, and Trespasser received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal. Doiron

is the editor in chief of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, Down East Books, and A native of Maine, he attended Yale University, where he graduated with a degree in English, and he holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. Paul is a Registered Maine Guide specializing in fly fishing and outdoor recreation and lives on a trout stream in coastal Maine.

For those new to your series, can you describe the Mike Bowditch mysteries?

I write a series of a literary suspense novels featuring a young Maine game warden named Mike Bowditch. I hope what sets them apart from similar books is my devotion to describing the environment in which Bowditch works and the psychological complexity (and I hope reality) of the characters.

What was your inspiration for this series?

Years ago, I wrote a series of magazine features about some offbeat wildlife encounters for Down East: the Magazine of Maine, and I realized I was quoting game wardens for all of these stories. In Maine, game wardens are full police officers (they perform the duties of cops wherever there isn't a road, which is pretty much everywhere since Maine is the most heavily forested state in the nation). I realized that a game warden encounters every conceivable form of crime in Maine, and that a warden would make an excellent protagonist in a series of suspense novels.

How would you describe Trespasser to someone who has not read your previous novel?

It began when a young woman I knew hit and killed a deer with a car on a remote rural road, and she didn't know what to do. The guys who stopped to "help" her before an actual police officer arrived terrified her more than the accident, and I began to think about a fictional scenario where my game warden shows up at a crash scene belatedly and finds both the woman and the deer missing. Trespasser is truly the sequel to The Poacher's Son in that Mike is trying to get his life together eight months after the events in that book, especially repairing his relationship with his live-in girlfriend, Sarah, but he's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and his guilt drives him to commit a series of reckless, self-sabotaging actions. He inserts himself into a decade-old murder case that resembles the circumstances of the young woman's disappearance and he begins to wonder if the man originally imprisoned for that crime was a scapegoat and a real sexual predator is still on the loose.

You’re the editor-in-chief of a major regional magazine and a registered Maine Guide. How do you fit your own writing into such a busy life?

By sacrificing my personal relationships. I mean that as a joke, but I am lucky to have a patient wife who understands what these books mean to me. I have met few people who are capable at multitasking (and even with them there's a cost), but I have learned to shift my attention quickly from project to project. I always say that I'd prefer to spend my days staring at a trout stream than a computer screen, but for the moment the novels and my work at Down East are preoccupying my attention. That won't be forever.

What's your writing process? What is a typical writing day like for you?

You often hear the advice, "Write everyday," which is smart. My day job certainly requires me to write every day on something or other, but I don't always work on my fiction. I typically devote my weeks to Down East and my weekends focused on the novels. It's not ideal, but I have to say that Mike Bowditch is always lurking in the back of my mind. Hemingway used to recommend letting stories brew in your subconscious between writing sessions, and there's a lot to be said for that approach.

What are your writing habits?

One advantage to being a professional journalist is that you learn you can't sit around and wait for the muse to arrive. You have to sit down and do the work. I try to set quotas for the amount of words I need to write each week, and I am good at meeting self-imposed deadlines. There are so many potential distractions just living your life, and the only person who will make your novel a priority is you.

What projects, literary or otherwise, are occupying you at the moment?

I've been the editor in chief of Down East Magazine for more than six years, and it's been a great ride. Down East is one of the largest and most successful regional magazines in the nation. Two years ago, I was also given editorial charge of our book division (we publish about 30 new titles a year), so I've had to learn the other side of the publishing business. It's given me a unique perspective. By day I am a hard-ass editor complaining about late and difficult authors, aware of the business pressures of selling books in the year 2011. By night I am that selfsame neurotic writer complaining about my own book editor and worrying about what my agent isn't telling me about my career.

Who were your literary influences growing up? Are there any authors (living or dead) that you would name as influences?

Hemingway, first and foremost. (So many male authors say that, I feel sheepish to admit it.) But my very first inspiration was actually J.R.R. Tolkien. I remember finishing The Lord of the Rings and immediately sitting down and beginning to write. Prior to that, I'd always been a reader, but Tolkien inspired me to begin creating something of my own. Later I found other writers who fired my imagination. It's a diverse list to say the least: Poe, Conan Doyle, Stevenson, Flannery O'Connor, Faulkner, Chandler, Hammett, Tony Hillerman, Mailer, P.D. James, Austen, James Lee Burke, Denis Johnson, Raymond Carver, Henning Mankell, Tim O'Brien.

What inspired you to write your first novel, The Poacher’s Son? Had you always wanted to be a writer?

For the longest time I thought I was going to be a cartoonist and then I read the Lord of the Rings, as I said, and my sights changed. When I told people that I wanted to write for a living, they would always nod and say, "Yes, but what are you going to do for a job?" That's an excellent question! Every young writer should be asked it. I wrote a lot of stories when I was in my twenties, but honestly I had nothing to say: I was too callow. It was only after my life began to settle down and I rediscovered my deep interest in the Maine outdoors—which is so rarely rendered with accuracy—that I realized I need to write a story about the North Woods and perhaps my own experience of being an impetuous, callow young guy could fuel the story if I made him a Maine game warden.

The Poacher’s Son won immense critical praise. Did that make writing the second novel harder or easier?

My agent encouraged me to begin writing my second novel before the first had even sold. That made the composition of Trespasser so much easier, since I mostly wrote it before The Poacher's Son had even been published, let alone before the first reviews started coming in. The greater danger to me beyond the awards I've won—for which I am undeserving but extremely grateful—is actually the expectation of readers now. When you write a series, your fans get invested in your characters, and they want you to shift in very specific directions. There's a fine line between acknowledging the validity of their responses and beginning to pander.

Do you belong to a critique group of other authors. Do you find it helpful? In what ways?

I have a few author friends whom I share my drafts with. I've been part of writers groups in the past, and they can be great if you have the right chemistry and similar habits and expectations. There are many occasions when I've wanted to bring a troublesome chapter to a group. Instead I have had to puzzle it out on my own since I don't like to use my editor as a constant sounding board.

What is your advice to aspiring writers? How important is it for a young writer to be a reader? What would you recommend they read?

Persevere. There are almost no overnight successes. You have to read, you have to write. Open yourself to criticism because you're going to hear it eventually. Better to hear it from your writing group than from an agent who won't explain why they won't take you on or a book editor who is too busy to give you feedback. Worse, you might even get your book published and then watch it be eviscerated by reviewers. That's why it's so important to work hard on making the manuscript as solid as you can up front.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned in your writing career? What has been the hardest part about being a writer?

The most surprising thing? No one knows anything. That's William Goldman's famous line about the screen trade but it applies to the publishing industry now, too. The digital revolution has publishers scrambling. And there are increasingly few certainties about what will sell. What this means for writers is that the pressure to create great books is being multiplied by new demands: create a Web site; tweet several times a day; do as many public appearances as you can; blog, blog, blog. Being an author today isn't the same as it used to be—you're now a brand that you yourself must market—and you need to be comfortable with change. But it's an exciting time, too. Revolutionary periods always are.

After a few blessed weeks of truce, Blogger has gone to war with fonts again, so please forgive those variations.

I'm in the throes of copy edits and will be out of town for speaking engagements, so the order of my two series has been flipped and there will be only one post next week. After that, back to normal. Friday will be Writers of Color this week. Have a terrific and productive week.


  1. This is a character driven mystery which makes the story that much more interesting. Why are Mike and Jack estranged? What caused Jack to make the choices he made? Why did Mike choose a life in direct contrast to his father? Most questions are answered, some aren't. I can hardly wait for the next book to find out more.

  2. You're right, Italis. Some of those questions are answered, but Jack's influence remains on Mike--even when it causes Mike to do the opposite of what his father would have done. Paul Doiron is gifted writer. The sequel is out now--Trespasser. I recommend you get it and read it.