When Kieran Shields began working as a lawyer, he soon found the creative side of his brain wasn’t satisfied. So he set out to write a historical novel, which was never published, but which he enjoyed working on.
Now, at 42, the Bath resident has just published his second novel in a series about a pair of detectives investigating crimes in 1890s Portland. “A Study in Revenge” (Crown, $25) came out in early January.
Shields, who grew up in Portland, worked as a both a lawyer and in the insurance industry before being able to write full time. His first novel in the series was “The Truth of All Things.”
He lives in Bath with his wife and two children.
Q: How did you get into writing?
A: I worked as a lawyer for about five years, then at UNUM. Being a lawyer is not the greatest sort of creative outlet, so I decided to try writing. I just had in mind to write a novel based on some historical facts I had come across. It was about Maine during the Colonial period and during King Philip’s War, and I thought it would make a great story.
I set out to tell that one story, and wrote it over five or six years while working. Then I started trying to find (literary agents) and realized no one was quite as fascinated with it as I was. But I had gotten the (writing) bug. At first, I thought I really didn’t want to tell other kinds of stories, but I found I just enjoyed writing.
Q: How did you start writing this series?
A: I love mysteries. I realized I need to do something with a broader appeal. I thought about doing something with spooky overtones. I was in the process of researching that first book that was never published, about Colonial New England, and I came across information about the Salem witch trials. I found that Maine and Portland had some close connections to the trials, that some people from Maine ended up being important in the trials. I ended up setting my first novel in 1892, the bicentennial of the trials. There is a killer who is basing his murders on the history of the Salem trials.
Q: Since a “Study in Revenge” is set in 1893 Portland, are there street names or place names people will recognize?
A: I did get down to street level while doing my research. I would try to figure out how many steps it would take to walk from one place to another. Some of the things in the Old Port people will recognize. A key scene in the book plays out on Munjoy Hill.
I like both mystery and history, so for me it makes it a little more interesting, gives it an extra layer. Hopefully, the mystery keeps people guessing.
Q: Did you have any interest in being a writer when you were young?
A: I had it in the back of my mind in high school and college, the idea of wanting to go ahead and write. But I was never overly committed to it. It wasn’t a lifelong passion as much as something simmering in the background. I didn’t take any creative writing classes. The closest I got to writing classes was in law school, taking legal writing, which is the exact opposite of creative writing.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: