For graduate school I ended up going to the University of Iowa, which is, of course, the best graduate writing program in the country. I was extremely miserable there — Iowa is extremely competitive — but I learned a lot about writing. I am a summer person. Iowa City is OK as Midwestern cities go, but there’s no food, no culture, no ocean. I WANTED TO CONNECT WITH NANTUCKET while not being there, so I started writing about it, to feel closer to my adopted home. At that point, there wasn’t a Nantucket novelist. I thought I could be a chronicler of Nantucket in the summertime.
The newest book is somewhat based on actual events. There was A STRING OF SUICIDES on Nantucket a few years ago. That got me thinking about the events that drive this novel — how a tragedy can make a tightknit community come together. I didn’t want to write about suicide, since I felt that had been done before; it was also too close to home.
THE CULTURE OF SUMMERTIME is celebrated on this island, and I like that. I think anybody — especially people who have been to Nantucket, but really anybody who has a special place that they go, or went to growing up, in the summer — really loves my books because they capture the idea that summertime is a season that’s special. It has SPECIAL RITUALS AND SPECIAL THINGS WE DO, and they’re things that still make us happy.
Nantucket is, I think, one of THE LAST REMAINING AUTHENTIC PLACES IN AMERICA. It’s quaint and gorgeous and New England-y like nowhere else. It’s the ultimate. And the people here are hearty and seafaring and independent and creative and crazy. And I enjoy that.— As told to Rachel Deahl. Interview has been edited and condensed.