In “Minus Me,” her sixth novel, Mameve Medwed sketches a happy marriage between competent Annie and clueless Sam, one threatened only by a dire diagnosis facing Annie. Keeping the news to herself, Annie begins writing a life manual to help guide Sam after she’s gone.
The book wasn’t the product of an outline. “It would be so boring if I knew exactly what I was going to do. I’m always sort of two sentences ahead of myself,” Medwed said. “I just kind of follow my pencil.”
One thing she does decide before she begins writing: the book’s geographical setting. That’s often been Cambridge, where she’s lived for several decades. “Minus Me” takes place mostly in the writer’s native Maine, in a fictional small town — smaller than Medwed’s hometown of Bangor — where Sam and Annie own a sandwich shop. Along with outlining, the author eschews lengthy research, but she did reach out to some experts for this one, including seeking and finding the recipe for a particularly tasty submarine sandwich at The Coffee Pot, an iconic Bangor joint.
“I am so admiring of these people who write these incredible historical novels in which they do years and years of research but I just don’t do that,” Medwed said. “I just kind of do it on a need-to-know basis.”
For Medwed, there’s a wistfulness when the writing and revising are finished. “I miss the characters and I miss the feeling of being pregnant with a book,” she said. “And then you give birth and then you’ve got the baby that you have to deal with, which is much more frightening than the writing of the book itself.”
Still, as a writer whose work nearly always features happy endings, there’s joy, too: “I have the power to do that, in the fictional world at any rate.”
Mameve Medwed will read and be in conversation with Stephen McCauley at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a virtual event hosted by Porter Square Books.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.