June 27, 2010

Books Q&A: In quite a state

If it's oddball or eerie, you just might read about it in Michelle Souliere's newly published 'Strange Maine.'

By Tom Atwell tatwell@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

Michelle Souliere pursues her hobbies with passion. And when some readings got her interested in unusual places and happenings in Maine, she started a blog about them and then the printed "Strange Maine Gazette."

MEET THE AUTHOR

BROWN BAG LECTURE. Portland Public Library, noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday. Call 871-1700 or visit www.portland library.com.

BOOKS IN BOOTHBAY. Souliere will be one of 40 authors appearing at various locations from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. July 10. Visit booksinboothbay.blogspot.com.

With that experience, she was approached by History Press in Charleston, S.C., to write a book. The result is "Strange Maine: True Tales from the Pine Tree State," a paperback of 126 pages crammed with everything from Maine monsters and true crime to a piece on a hubcap haven and a recycle zoo.

She owns and operates The Green Hand, a used bookstore and more at 661 Congress St. that has the advantage of being located in front of the Maine Cryptology Museum, run by Loren Coleman.

Souliere was born in Maryland and moved to Maine when she was 3 or 4. She has lived here since, mostly in Portland. 

Q: So, with the publishing industry in the state it is in, how did you get this book published by a national company?

A: Shortly after I set up shop last fall I was approached by History Press, so I never had to shop my book around myself. They had seen my blog and "The Gazette," so they wanted me to do it. 

Q: How much time did you have to write it?

A: They came up with the proposal last fall, and they wanted it for this summer's tourist season, so it came up pretty quick. The deadline was in March.

Some of it I had done research on, for the blog or Gazette, but I had to flesh it out and fact-check. I probably had about a third of it done.

I originally thought that, since we were coming up to winter, I could get work done during the slow times at the shop. But I didn't know that even during the slow times there was so much to do. It ended up being a lot of nights and weekends. 

Q: What turned you to the idea of writing about strange things?

A: I had been reading Loren Coleman's "Mysterious America" and William Robinson's "Abandoned New England: Its Ruins and Where to Find Them," and it got my curiosity going. There is just so much cool stuff around Maine and no one doing much with it, so I started the website. 

Q: You had a full-time job at this time?

A: Oh, yes. It was a hobby, but I follow my hobbies pretty enthusiastically. I had quite a bit of experience doing zines, and it made sense to do a print offshoot. 

Q: And this is all continuing. Do you think you'll do a sequel to the book?

A: I would love to do a sequel. One thing that is sure is that I will never run out of material, what with the historical material and urban legends and rumors, there is an unending source of stuff. 

Q: Now that you have a reputation for doing this kind of writing, do people bring you stuff or do you still have to go out and do a lot of research?

A: Some people will come in and tell me stories they have heard or things that have happened to them, their own experiences, but then I start the research. 

Q: The book has a lot of different kinds of strange items. Which of them do you like the best?

A: I think that it would be the chapters that deal with the creatures of Maine, the Mystery Beast of Turner and the Specter Moose. Those are the stories where people have spotted different kinds of things and seem to stretch to the Victorian era, almost like the old-time campfire stories, so these appeal to me. The crime stories are also interesting, but there is a human side to them. Someone was the victim. But I think from the pure entertainment value I have to go with the weirdness in the woods. 

Q: How long has the book been out and how is it doing?

A: It just came out in May, so it is quite fresh. It seems to be doing fairly well for a small press. I'm selling it here at my store, and it is at Longfellow Books, and up the state at Mr. Paperback. 

Q: It says in the About the Author section that you also are an artist. Did you do any of the drawings in the book?

A: Yep, all of them. And the photography, too. 

Q: So what do you do, and do you sell your art in the bookstore or anyplace else?

A: I do pen and ink, and watercolors. I used to have a studio before all of this happened, and I sold my work there before all of this happened, but I haven't had any time lately, although I do some illustrations for my husband's T-shirt company. 

Q: So what are you working on now?

A: Well, I have a new issue of "Strange Maine Gazette" to do. There is some good stuff there, but I'll keep it back for now. And I am working on a book on Bigfoot in Maine with Loren Coleman. 

Q: But you have a chapter on that in this book.

A: Yes, but this is going to be a much more complete investigation, or rather a survey. 

Staff Writer Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

tatwell@pressherald.com

 

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