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Fresh words from local authors

If local farmers can deliver intense flavor, what about local authors?

You’ve already started to ‘‘eat local’’ and ‘‘shop local.’’ Why not read local?

Just as you may develop an unexpected affinity for turnips after discovering them at the nearby farmers market, following the careers of local authors may introduce you to a newliterary favorite as well.

The Boston suburbs brim with creative types, and some of the writers living right down the street—Gregory Maguire, Barbara Delinsky, TomPerrotta—could be considered household names already. But the woman you see walking her dog at sunset, or the neighbor who brings cookies over every Christmas might have gained a measure of publishing success too.

With that in mind, we talked with a handful of local authors with works released last year about their latest accomplishments, and what’s up next for them.


Erin Dionne, Framingham (preteen novelist)

Middle grade novelist Erin DionneAran T. Gilmore

Notes from an Accidental Band Geek

A little bit about it: In Dionne’s third novel for the age group, teenager Elsie Wyatt, an orchestral musician, discovers that in order to qualify for the prestigious summer music camp she longs to attend, she must join her school’s marching band, known for its peculiar rituals, inscrutable traditions, and overall geeky reputation.

Local roots: ‘‘Two of my three books are set in the Boston area. This one takes place in a fictional [village] of Newton. My main character is trying out for a summer music program based on Tanglewood. And her father plays in the BSO.’’

Her day job: Assistant professor at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly

What led up to this book: ‘‘I participated in marching band in high school and at Boston College. Being part of a school marching band is a bizarre experience that a lot of people don’t know about. After my first two books sold, my former editor said she would love it if someone wrote a novel set amidst a school marching band. While this book includes a lot of the experiences I had as part of a band, including marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which we did while I was at BC, it’s not a story about me. I played piccolo and flute; my main character plays brass. She’s standoffish and prickly and snobbish; I am not.’’


What she reads: ‘‘I’min the middle of a short story collection called ‘The Chronicles of Harris Burdick’ by Chris Van Allsburg. I just finished ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern.’’

What’s in store for 2012: Dionne’s first project is to deliver her second child, due this month. After that, she’ll be completing her next age-group novel, scheduled for publication in 2013.

Sara Hoagland Hunter, Weston (children’s author)

fSara Hoagland HunterHandout

The Lighthouse Santa

A little bit about it: Her ninth children’s book is based on the Christmas flights of Edward Rowe Snow, a New England maritime historian who wrote more than 40 books about the sea and its lore. From 1936 to 1981, he dropped presents from a small plane to children living in lighthouses from Maine to New York’s Long Island.

Local roots: ‘‘I’ve wanted to be an author of children’s books ever since I first visited Orchard House in Concord when I was 8 years old. I still return there a couple of times a year to look at the desk of Louisa May Alcott, and imagine her sitting there by the window facing Walden Pond. I started making contacts in the publishing world while I was on the PTO Creative Arts Committee for my children’s elementary school in Weston. The authors and illustrators we hosted on school visits inspired me to believe that this was something I could do.’’


Her day job: Head of Sara Hunter Productions, which produces children’s books, scripts, videos, and albums. She has written for Warner Bros., Nickelodeon, and JimHenson Productions.

What led up to this book: ‘‘Growing up in Dover, I knew about Edward Rowe Snow because a lot of people from my parents’ generation were familiar with his books on maritime history. I went to high school with his daughter, who had actually been on some of these Christmas flights with her father. My other book about unsung heroes, ‘The Unbreakable Code,’ tells the story of the Navajo code talkers who served in the US Marine Corps during World War II. I did most of my research on the reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Once I was done with that book, I decided I wanted to explore a story that took place closer to home.’’

What she reads: ‘‘I keep up with what’s new in children’s books. In addition, right now on my bedside table are the essays and letters of E.B. White. Later this month, when I’mfaced with a blank computer page and the stark reality of no book tour underway, I’ll be looking for inspiration again . . . E.B. White inspires me.’’


What’s in store for 2012: After a very busy holiday season promoting her latest book, Hunter hopes to ‘‘take a long winter’s nap’’ before continuing with her next project. But she’s not sharing many details: ‘‘I’m still mulling, and I’ma little superstitious about putting my ideas out there.’’

Terri Giuliano Long, Neton (self-published contemporary fiction writer)

Self-published contemporary fiction writer Terri Giuliano LongHandout

In Leah’s Wake

A little bit about it: In Long’s first published novel, the Tylers, a typical high-achieving American family, begin to unravel as a unit when 16-year-old Leah begins to rebel , with disastrous consequences for herself and the rest of her family.

Local roots: ‘‘The small town in which the novel is set is based on Harvard. My husband and I used to drive around taking pictures to inspire me. Small towns often give you the sense that they are safe places where good kids don’t get into trouble, but that just isn’t always true. Set within a gorgeous town like Harvard, with its views of the mountains and its streets bordered by stone walls, the contrast of a beautiful setting with the angst within a family and a town felt very real and interesting to me.’’

Her day job: Adjunct professor at Boston College and freelance writer

What led up to this book: ‘‘I wrote this book for my MFA thesis at Emerson College. In 2006, I found a small press that wanted to publish it, but the contract fell through . . . When I gained traction on a new novel, I decided to self-publish ‘In Leah’s Wake.’ By self-publishing, I hoped to build a platform; I thought that if I could sell three to five thousand copies, I might be able to attract an agent and publisher for my new novel. Initially, I sold a few copies a day. Then I became increasingly involved in social media channels and the opportunities it offered for promotion and marketing. Now, including e-books, I’ve sold over 67,000.’’


What she reads: ‘‘I read a lot of indie books to support other writers. I’ve also been reading wonderful literary fiction by Jessica Treadway (‘‘Please Come Back To Me’’), Susan Straight (‘‘Take One Candle Light A Room’’), and Margot Livesey (‘‘The House on Fortune Street’’).

What’s in store for 2012: A United Kingdom-based publisher’s plans for ‘‘In Leah’s Wake’’ will have Long working on publicity efforts, and then she hopes to return to her workin- progress, ‘‘Nowhere to Run,’’ a psychological thriller set in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Christopher Boucher, Newton (novelist)

Experimental novelist Christopher BoucherHandout

How to Keep Your Volkswagon Alive

A little bit about it: His first published book, which Boucher describes as an ‘‘experimental novel,’’ tells the story of a young man living in Western Massachusetts and facing the challenges of raising a son who just happens to be a 1971 VWBeetle. ‘‘The Volkswagen drinks chai tea and runs on stories, and the book features other surreal elements as well,’’ Boucher said. ‘‘There are characters who are memories and a character made of stained glass, and time is literally money. It’s a difficult book to describe!’’

Local roots: ‘‘I frequently drove my Volkswagen Rabbit from my home in Western Massachusetts to Brandeis, where I was attending college. That drive is a scene in the book.’’

His day job: Teaching writing and literature at Boston College, and managing editor of Post Road magazine

What led up to this book: ‘‘I studied writing with George Saunders in the MFA program at Syracuse University. This novel was my thesis project, but it took me another ten years to complete the book.’’

What he reads: ‘‘I try to read the newest literature being published. I’mhoping [also] to read novels by Georges Perec and Donald Barthelme, and I’m really looking forward to Ben Marcus’s new novel, ‘‘The Flame Alphabet,’’ which will be published in mid-January.’’

What’s in store for 2012: ‘‘2011 was the best year of my writing life. I’mcruising on the momentum of that as I get to work on my next novel.’’

R.B. Scott, Dover (political biographer)

R.B. ScottHandout

Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics

A little bit about it: Scott’s first published book, which draws upon his decades of experience as a journalist covering politics in general and the former Massachusetts governor in particular, is an unauthorized biographical profile of the man who may be the Republican candidate for president this fall.

Local roots: A native of Salt Lake City, Scott first came to Boston in 1965 to serve as a Mormon missionary for two years. After college and a stint in Connecticut, he moved to suburban Boston for good in 1985. “I had no choice over my birthplace,” he remarked, “but New England is my home of choice, as it was for most of my ancestors.’’

His day job: Freelance writer of articles, books

What led up to this book: ‘‘I’ve followed Mitt Romney since his run for the US Senate in 1994, but I’ve been aware of him and the Romney family for much longer than that. As a cub reporter, I covered his father’s presidential race in 1968 . . . In 2007, I submitted a proposal to a publisher for a biography of Mitt Romney to be completed between the primaries and the convention, but that project got tabled when Romney dropped out of the race, much to my disappointment. When it became apparent he was going to run for office again, I resurrected the proposal.’’

What he reads: ‘‘Like most people, I am way behind in my reading. My fiction backlog includes relatively new books from Jonathan Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides, John Irving, and Philip Roth. Perhaps I’ll reread John Cheever or tackle a . . . nonfiction ditty, ‘The Pun Also Rises,’ from former Clinton speechwriter John Pollack.’’

What’s in store for 2012: The first in his series of four novels set against the evolving Mormon Church, ‘‘Closing Circles: Trapped in the Everlasting Mormon Moment,’’ is set for publication this month, with part two lined up for release by year’s end. Both have loose ties to presidential politics.

Gary Messinger, Waltham (history scholar)

History scholar Gary MessingerHandout

The Battle for the Mind: War and Peace in the Era of Mass Communication

A little bit about it: His third nonfiction work looks back over the last 150 years at the everevolving presence of mass media —from newspapers, and radio and television broadcasts to social media and the reach of telecommunication satellites— in the making of war and peace. ‘‘The influence of various forms of media plays a large role in whether to go to war, whether to continue a war, and how peacemakers go about their work,’’ Messinger says.

Local roots: Messinger grew up in California, but found his home in Greater Boston during his academic career. ‘‘Here I can be very comfortable holding an administrative job while also having a life of the mind,’’ he said. ‘‘And Waltham is very cordial to authors.”

His day job: University of Massachusetts Boston administrator

What led up to this book: ‘‘This is my third scholarly work about history. I grew up with an interest in the ways that media portrays events. I’mfrom California, where political campaigns rely much more heavily on uses of media than other states do because it’s so large. My first book was about perceptions of urban life in England during the Industrial Revolution at the beginning of the factory movement. My second book was a study of British propaganda during the First World War.’’

What he reads: Gogol and Chekhov; short stories by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Alice Munro; diplomatic history.

What’s in store for 2012: He’s working on a book about the role of newspapers in the development of the American West.