Author Mia March says "Thank You, Maine"

Today I’m happy to introduce you to author Mia March and her wonderful debut novel The Meryl Streep Movie Club. Mia and I met on Twitter and thenin one of those real life meets Twitter life storieswe realized we both live in southern Maine. We met for coffee and the rest is history. After I read The Meryl Streep Movie Club (and loved it!), I was delighted when Mia agreed to guest post on my blog about something near and dear to both our hearts: Maine. 
GIVEAWAY! Mia has graciously offered to give away one signed copy of The Meryl Streep Movie Cluball you need to do to be entered is leave a comment before noon on Friday, August 3, when I will select a winner at random.  The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations Christine Grote! 

Thank you, Mia!
Almost ten years ago, my then husband brought home a guidebook on Maine and a copy of a magazine article about how the Greater Portland area was rated the #1 place to raise a child in the U.S. We lived in a city, and I am a city girl through and through. I like crowds of strangers. I like tall buildings. I like billions of twinkling lights. I like the idea of turning a corner and passing Harrison Ford (who smiled at me when I gaped at him). But that summer, my son was turning two, and the idea of a back yard, of preschools that you didn’t have to apply a year in advance to possibly get into, of an easier lifestyle, all won out. The husband said it would be like a writing retreat from which I’d never have to return. I said yes, and we drove up to Maine and rented a house in a small town with one traffic light and a great school system. Just like that, we were Mainers.
The first month, living in Maine, with all those trees, all that fresh air, all those bodies of water, big and small, including a narrow creek running across the winding, hilly, rural road from our house, in which I had my own tiny office with a view of it all, it really did feel like a writing retreat. And Maine, as you know if you’re a regular reader of Julia’s blog, is not just beautiful, but beautiful in a way that soothes and calms the soul. Three months in, though, I was ready to go home. My husband wasn’t. And our son, well, he did love the open field of wildflowers on our property, the tire swing in the yard, hunting for treasures in the creek after breakfast every morning. The horse farm a few houses down from us was a three hour activity as close to life-school as I could dream. My son had nature and the freshest air on earth out his door. So I stayed. But I’ll be honest: I didn’t like it, not one bit. The ocean, the lighthouses, the rocky shoreline, the state parks—none of it moved me. Two, three years in, Maine felt as unfamiliar as it always had. It didn’t feel like home.

Yadda, yadda, yadda, my marriage ended—very far away from friends and family. Two things saved me. The first, I expected. The second, I didn’t.

The first was movies. And particularly Meryl Streep movies. I rented five and plunked myself on the couch with tissues and popcorn and was swept away by the stunning Out of Africaand the funny, poignant Heartburn. My Meryl Streep marathon reminded me of another time a Meryl Streep movie had a huge impact on me, and I got myself off the couch, opened the laptop, and wrote the words: Chapter One, inspired in a way I hadn’t been in a long time. I had an idea to write a novel about a fractured family of women who reunite in an old family inn on the coast of Maine and find themselves reconnecting through “movie night” in the parlor—via the surprising and heartfelt discussions raised while watching Meryl Streep movies together. I had a good sense of that old family inn in my mind, but I wanted to really see it, not just in Googled images, but in person. I wanted to find that inn in order to have my characters, my story, inhabit it.

So I set out on a road trip along coastal Route 1 with my son to find a Victorian inn that would bring my fictitious Three Captains’ Inn to life in my mind and heart. My son, with the promise of stopping at the aquarium in Boothbay Harbor to visit the shark tank, kept his eye out in the small towns we stopped in on our inn hunt. This mini road trip was the second thing that saved me.

I didn’t find the exact inn of my imagination, but all that looking, all that searching, made me notice Maine in a way I hadn’t before. For a few years by then, I’d been so busy wanting to “go home,” that I never stopped to pay attention to Maine’s small treasures, beyond the vast Atlantic and the rocky shoreline and lighthouses. Suddenly, I was enchanted by yellow cottages with low white wood fences poked through with blue hydrangeas. By plaques on the front of centuries-old houses with the original owner’s name and year built. By blueberry stands on the side of the road with baskets to leave money. Farms dotted with belted galloways with their black and white big bodies making my son laugh. Narrow paths, lined with rosa rugosa, down to little beaches strewn with shells and interesting little creatures for my son to collect. And the dogs. I don’t think I’d ever really noticed Maine’s dogs before. From big to small, from mutt to champion breed, but all very happy looking. Up along the coast from our small town just north of Portland to Camden, now one of my favorite places on earth, I fell in love with the adopted home state I came to kicking and screaming, the state I ignored for several years. I saw Maine in a new way, my own way. I came home with the setting of my novel, its spirit, firmly entrenched in my heart, and I wrote about the coastal harbor town setting, about that robin’s egg blue Victorian inn perched high on a hill overlooking the harbor—the inn I never did find—with the same love and affection that I had for my characters.

Were it not for the idea for a novel and a life-changing road trip up the coast, I might have never known that a pot of blue hydrangeas has the power to change my mood, that you can take a class called: How to make whoopie pies, that you can see things in a whole new way if you go looking for something that only exists inside yourself, inside your imagination. So thank you to Maine. And thank you to Julia for inviting me to share my story with you.
———-
Mia March lives on the coast of Maine, the setting of The Meryl Streep Movie Club, published this past June by Simon & Schuster. The novel is slated to be published in over 18 countries. Kirkus Reviews kindly describes The Meryl Streep Movie Club as “a heartwarming, spirit-lifting read just in time for beach season.” Mia’s next novel, Finding Colin Firth, will be published by Simon & Schuster in the summer of 2013. For more info, please visit Mia’s website at www.MiaMarch.com. You can also friend her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MiaMarch.author and follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/March_Mia

Comments

  1. I love when those Twitter connections become ‘real life’ connections. Thanks, Julia, for hosting Mia!

    And, Mia – what a wonderful story. I never cease to be amazed at the power of story … not only on paper — but in your specific situation, that in the power and the pull and tug OF a story (one that needed to be written), you found a jewel even greater.

    I love, love, love Meryl Streep (who doesn’t, right?), so the book sounds fascinating and fabulous. Curious – have you met HER (I mean, we all love Harrison, too, but meeting Meryl??)? Has she reached out to you in any way relative to the book?

    • Mia March says:

      Thank you, Melissa! And no, I haven’t met her (I think I would faint at her feet, seriously). The publisher of my imprint did send her “camp” a copy of the novel with a letter I wrote about why I was inspired to write the book and what her films have meant to me, but I have no clue if it ever reached her. I do know that the publisher and Meryl share a fancy hairstylist and that the book/letter may have been given to her that way, too. Not that she’d want the book shoved in her face while getting her hair cut!

  2. What a love letter to your adopted state of Maine. I can understand how it takes time for a new place to feel like home, when it starts to feel like a comfortable pair of slippers that you never want to take off. I love how your book was inspired by real life events. It’s amazing how much we learn from the stories we tell in our novels. And, like Melissa said, it’s often the most unexpected

    Julia – thank you for introducing me to Mia and her book. I can’t wait to pick up a copy. It sounds like the perfect book club read.
    PS: Now I have to come to Maine! It sounds like heaven on earth for dogs. I bet Reggie would love it.

    • Mia March says:

      “It’s amazing how much we learn from the stories we tell in our novels.” Jacquelin, I love that. It’s so true. I think it’s my favorite thing about being a writer. And Maine is definitely heaven for dogs!

  3. Erika Marks says:

    Hi Mia! Hi Julia! As someone who grew up in Maine, and goes back every summer (as Julia will attest!;)) I loved this post, Mia–and loved the way you shared the evolution of your “romance” with your new home. Maine is so inspiring, and you captured its beauty perfectly.

    I already have my copy of the THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB waiting for me on my nightstand and I cannot wait to dive in! Congratulations to you and your loved ones on the success of your debut and I LOVE the title of Book 2!!

    • Mia March says:

      Thank you, Erika! It’s hard to imagine now how I kicked and screamed and refused to love fresh air, nature, the ocean, mountains, even fleece . . . :) I’m so happy to hear you have the book–I’m a fan of yours and loved Little Gale Gumbo and can’t wait for your new one this fall.

  4. Between Julia’s blog and this post, Maine sounds like a slice of heaven. I LOVE old buildings and try to imagine life among them when they were newly built. The book sounds great and look forward to reading it!

    Also, love that Twitter brought you guys together in real life. The power of Twitter keeps on amazing me. Thanks for shaing your story, Mia! And your book! 😉

    • Mia March says:

      Thanks, Hallie! I do that with old buildings too. It’s so interesting to wonder who lived there over the decades and centuries. I’ve been thinking lately about writing multi POVs with characters from the past and present because of just that.

      I love Twitter and Facebook and how they bring people together. I was so lucky to connect with Julia. I think I joined FB and Twitter in 2009ish–if they’d been around in those earlier years when I first moved to Maine, that feeling of connection would have made a big difference.

  5. What a great Twitter story and a great life story, too. I love how an adopted home town can grow to mean as much or more to us as the place we come from. It’s always amazing how art can grow out of adversity. The Meryl Streep Movie Club is on my list. (Love Meryl Streep, so I know I’ll love the book.)

    • Mia March says:

      “It’s always amazing how art can grow out of adversity.” Yes!! I love that. I’ve found that in the new book I’m working on, I’m asking questions of my characters that I need answered for myself. Not sure if they will be entirely, but it’s interesting to see what the characters come up with.

      Thanks for putting the book on your list!

  6. What a wonderful celebration of Maine and the healing power of writing. Thank you!

  7. My husband grew up on the coast of Maine in a lobstering family. Family homes overlook Prospect Harbor on the opposite side of a narrow, winding road. We leave the forest of northeastern Maine to visit now and then. I’m going to add The Meryl Streep Movie Club to my book order today. It sounds like the perfect book to take to the lake next week.

    • Mia March says:

      Thanks so much, Robin! I have so much more exploring to do around Maine. I hope to do several road trips with my son this summer and head up north. If you have any must-see spots. let me know!

  8. I loved this post! I agree who doesn’t LOVE Meryl Streep movies! I personally can’t imagine not loving Maine the way you describe it! We had an opportunity to live in Newport/Middletown RI for a year and I tell people we were on vacation the entire time! I loved driving and seeing the Ocean just come into view, the sailboats, the rocks, the lush greens, the old historic homes and buildings…oh I miss it miss the ocean air. What a paradise! I loved driving into small towns. Maine does sound even more rural and I did miss having a mall at Christmas time to go shopping (we had to drive out of town for any real shopping).

    Enough about me! lol. The more I read about your book the more and more I know I can’t wait to read it! Great interview and thanks for sharing!

    • Mia March says:

      Laura, you describe Newport/Middletown, RI so beautifully that now I want to go! Thanks for the kind comments about my book too.

  9. Barb Riley says:

    Well now. You had me at, “I’m a city girl through and through.” As someone who grew up a block from Chicago, I am super curious to read about this transition from a heart that once belonged to the city—to a heart that is now content on the coast of Maine!

    How exciting to imagine Meryl reading your letter and book (here’s hoping!).

    Awesome that you and Julia connected on Twitter and then met in person. I’m jealous. I’ve been wanting that cup of coffee with her for a long time. 😉 Thanks for sharing your story, Mia, and thanks, Julia, for hosting.

    • You know that’s mutual, Barb — here’s to a shared cup of coffee in OUR future — ok, we can each have our own 😉

    • Mia March says:

      Barb, I love even just thinking that she might have read the letter (okay, and the book too, of course.)

      I guess my heart is split now–half city, half Mainey. I’ll always love both.

  10. What a great book idea, Mia! We can all identify with movies pulling family together, and most of us have seen the movies you use in your novel. I am looking forward to reading it and to reading your next one about Colin Firth. He’s always been a favorite!

  11. Jody says:

    This is a GREAT story, and I’m eager to read it.

    Wanted to let you know that the links to follow you didn’t work for me! Boo-hoo!

  12. What a great interview and a wonderful story. Mia March- I hope the 2nd book is as intriguing as the first (and I totally expect it will!)

    • Mia March says:

      Thank you! The second book is a spin-off of The Meryl Streep Movie Club. Same setting and inn, with the Meryl characters as minor secondary characters, and a whole new set of main characters. I love being back in my inn. :)

  13. Great post. The book sounds wonderful. Seems we are on the same wavelength–Meryl Streep, Colin Firth. :) Best of luck with your work.

  14. Tamara says:

    What a great interview and book idea! Can’t wait for book #2, as well!

  15. This looks like a great book. I’m adding it to my reading list right now and can’t wait to have it in my hands!

  16. What a gorgeous and inspiring story and what a beautiful sounding book. Loads of luck with it, Mia.

  17. GoGreen says:

    The book sounds like something I would enjoy reading.

    Bonnie

  18. Melissa says:

    Count me in!
    mbamster0720 at gmail dot com

  19. CMSmith says:

    I was only in Camden briefly, but loved it very much at the time. It was a surreal time for me because my sister was under the care of hospice and we knew she was down to her last days. In fact, that’s why the trip was very short. We got called home the morning after our first night there.

    For some reason, the emotional turbulence I was going through at the time, cemented Camden Maine to my heart. I hope to return some day.

    Best of luck with your book.

    • Mia March says:

      There’s a place very close to my heart for a very similar reason, and whenever I think about it, it’s bittersweet, but a comfort when I manage to get there (a certain spot in NYC).

      I love Camden so much I decided it’s where I’ll spend my retiree days (not sure if writers ever do retire, though).

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments.

  20. THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB by Mia March is the story of family who think it is all they can do to tolerate each other during Thanksgiving and Christmas, the only times they get together. When Aunt Lolly decides to call everyone home for an important announcement, sisters Isabel and June, their cousin Kat, and Aunt Lolly discover that their misconceptions about each other are just that. You will be amazed at the artful way the author brings the characters to life, as they discover themselves and come together as a loving family discussing each Meryl Streep movie’s message on movie night. I much prefer to read than to watch a movie, so I wasn’t sure this book was for me. I’ve only seen one Meryl Streep movie (“Out of Africa”) and couldn’t imagine how those movies could form the basis for the book. I was astounded! I had it all wrong. They didn’t form the basis for the story, they enhanced it. This was truly an enjoyable read. Check it out!

    • Mia March says:

      Wow, thank you so much, Michelle! One of my favorite reviews yet. And to be honest, when I first had the idea, I wasn’t sure how in the world I would incorporate the films either!

  21. rhonda says:

    Loved your interview I also love mettle stereo movies and Maine.wonderful the surprising places and things that heal.

  22. Thanks for sharing the background to your story. I love debut novels– there is so much heart and soul poured into them! (I’m working on my own first book now, so you are an inspiration that it can happen!) Your book sounds intriguing, and the cover is so striking. Congrats and best wishes.

  23. I can’t wait to visit Maine one day! Between the stunning pictures that Julia shares and the amazing descriptions in your post, Mia, I’m more inspired than ever to go! In the meantime I guess I’ll have to visit by book? 😉

    • Thank you so much for your kind compliments on my photos, Natalia! That’s so sweet and I’m glad you enjoy them. I am so happy you’re inspired to visit — looking forward to a coffee chat with you, too! :)

    • Mia March says:

      Natalia, I love traveling via book. Right now I’m in England and China (reading a novel and a memoir). Hope you do get to Maine one day. It really is beautiful.

  24. Lisa Ahn says:

    We had a three week vacation in Boothbay this summer and I didn’t want to leave — ever. I love Maine, and you capture all the things I love (including the wealth of dogs) in this post. Beautiful.

  25. Mia March says:

    Thanks so much, Lisa. Boothbay Harbor is magical to me. It’s the setting for my novel and the next one too. Such a special, picture-postcard place. I’m going this weekend to soak up the setting some more–can’t wait. I don’t even mind the crawl on Rt. 1 to get there. :)

  26. Awesome story! Love it! 😀

  27. What a great interview, Mia & Julia! Mia, I love the story you share. My first year in Arizona is just as you describe. My heart was unmoved and I was desperately lonely to go home. After another year and a half, I cried when it was time to leave.

    Do not enter me in this contest as I already won a copy (THANK YOU AGAIN), but know that I can’t wait to dive in. I’ve already snuck peaks at chapter 1. Am waiting for a perfectly quiet evening when I can make popcorn to match the cover. Ahhhh…. =)

    • Mia March says:

      It’s so comforting to know others have felt this way too. I have a good 9 years to go, until my son graduates from high school :). It’ll be interesting to see where I end up. I have a feeling an hour or two up the coast in my favorite town.

      And thanks for your nice comments!

  28. What a fun story…and you lived it, Mia. (Sorry about your first marriage though.) Can’t wait to read the book…and Colin Firth? We have to wait till next summer? Poo.

  29. Kate Gerencer says:

    I love your story, Mia! And, what a transformation. From committed city-lover through conscientious stages of doing what you felt was best for your son, through the huge earthquake of a marriage breakup which birthed your book and quest, to a happy new way of seeing life and your surroundings. Inspiring and refreshing!

  30. I have enjoyed following Julia’s stories and photographs about the coast of Maine, and am glad you’ve teamed up to present your new book, Mia! It sounds wonderful. I, too, love coastal Maine — my favorite time there was when I drove the windy coast to photograph every lighthouse we could see. I came away with a bundle of great photos and a mind full of beautiful scenes. I look forward to reading your new novel, Mia! Congrats!

    • Mia March says:

      I’ve loved Julia’s stories and pics too! I love when I recognize what she posts.

      Love the idea of photographing all the lighthouses–must have made a gorgeous album.

      Thanks so much for your nice comments!

  31. What a great review, Julia!

    Mia, I used to live in NH and know how difficult it can be getting used to calling a new place ‘home’. Glad you finally got past that. The trip with you son sounds magical and wonderful, as does your novel. I hope you someday hear from Meryl in person. Till then, best of good fortune to you and you book!

  32. Meant to say ‘guest post’ not review! :-)

  33. Leah Singer says:

    This book looks so good! I’ll definitely have to read it. Sorry I missed the giveaway, but that just means I’ll have to read it anyway.

  34. Sounds 1000% like my kind of book! Yes, meant 1000, not just 100.