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the story behind the book

Anna Noyes writes of small-town Maine

david wilson for the boston globe

Most of the short stories in Anna Noyes’s first book, titled “Goodnight, Beautiful Women,” are set in Maine, the author’s home state. “That’s the landscape that I drew on naturally to write about childhood and coming of age,” Noyes said. “For one thing, I find just the physical landscape very evocative in a way that is sometimes quite dark and moody. These towns that aren’t prettified summer vacation towns, these are places I know really intimately.”

Growing up as a year-rounder in Sorrento, a town whose 250-ish winter population quadruples when the summer people arrive, Noyes came to understand that she had a foot in both worlds. “My grandparents were summer people,” she said, an identity that her parents reversed when moving there full-time when Noyes was just two.


“I think being on the outside of both those worlds really placed me in an observer position,” she said. Coming from a family of writers, editors, and journalists — one in which “there was a lot of dinner-table, table-pounding vivacious storytelling” — also helped lay the foundation for a literary life. “Pretty early on, I knew I wanted to write,” she said. “In eighth grade we had to do a job shadowing, and I wanted to shadow Stephen King, and he said no. I’ll never let him live it down if I ever meet him.”

As her debut collection illustrates, she writes from a place King would appreciate — she says she specializes in “dark tales that are sort of unexpectedly strange and twisty” — but it wasn’t initially easy for her to reach. An early writing teacher pushed her to stop protecting her characters so much. “That was a turning point; to think, what would break my heart?”

Noyes reads at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Brookline Booksmith.

Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at