Dennis did a spot for WGBH a little while ago in which he talks a little about his latest book, his connection to Boston, even though he’s now living on the west coast. It’s a short but sweet interview but obviously the part that resonated with me was this:
I think you write better when you are homesick. [… T]he next book is set in Boston. I’m writing it from California. I’m thinking about Boston all the time.
There’s a long history of the exiled writer, whether self- or Hollywood-imposed, and I wholeheartedly agree, I think (and others may not agree) that my best writing comes when I’m writing about home. For example, Butterfly (which may be retitled William Murphy’s Trop to the Quiet Room, for sake of trying to hook an agent’s interest) is set in Worcester, Massachusetts, the town in which I was born; a little bit in that venerable tourist attraction, Old Sturbridge Village, just down the street from where I grew up; and Cape Cod, a favorite vacation spot from my youth (and still). For each of the interminable drafts I sat in my grandparent’s floor in a three decker on Hillside Street, wandered the muddy spring paths of Old Sturbridge Village, probably with a stick of rock candy in my hand, or sat with my back against the dunes down on Nauset Light Beach. Which is to say I use that feeling of homesickness to try and make the scenes that little bit more vivid, much like Dennis Lehane does and Joyce did with Ulysses (with far greater commercial and just plain old regular success).