susan carlton
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Lobsterland

Lobsterland

Q & A


How did you come up with the idea for Lobsterland?
I started with the idea that we all feel, at some point, trapped in the wrong place and the wrong family. A small island in Maine seemed the perfect backdrop for fermenting that sense of desperation and for hatching an elaborate escape plan. Our family had just moved from Maine to Atlanta and I wanted to capture the push/pull of loving the quiet yet longing for a bigger experience.

Your main character, Charlotte, is a vocabulary whiz. Et vous?
I worship clever lyrics and dumb puns and, as a magazine editor, I loved trying to come up with witty headlines and blurbs. I had a great high school teacher who taught us 'parsimonious' and 'punctilious'. Anytime I stumble across one of his words I get a little thrill. That said, I still suck at Scrabble.

Is Bleak based on a real island?
Bleak is fictional, though it bears a passing resemblance to Peaks Island, a short ferry ride from Portland, Maine. Peaks is wonderfully vibrant place, even in the dead of winter—it's bigger and bustlier than Bleak and many more people dream of living there than escaping it.

Charlotte's family is obsessed with Charlotte's Web. What books are you obsessed with?
My favorite adult book is Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Favorite young adult novel: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. All-time favorite kid's book: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I wanted to be Harriet M. Welsch because she wrote incessantly and also very truthfully. Not coincidentally, I can recite entire pages of Charlotte's Web, as can my daughters.

Charlotte worries that her father is a fugitive. Uh, anything you care to share?
I grew up in a politically-active family and I've always had a fascination with radicals of the 1970s—many of those Greenpeace protesters and draft-objectors are parents now and I wondered what it would be like to be their child. Also, I'd read this fascinating series of articles about a former radical who became a stay-at-home mom—her kids had no clue about her past and I was intrigued by the idea that those we love can be a mystery to us. No one in my family is on the FBI list. As far as I know.

Do you eat lobster?
As long as I'm not the one doing the boiling! Lobstermen say the crustaceans don't suffer but how do they know?