Earlier this week I mentioned that I had visited a literary landmark in Maine . . . and ate blueberry pancakes! Well here I am at the Empire Grill in Skowhegan, Maine.
When Richard Russo’s novel Empire Falls was turned into a miniseries, they filmed in and around Skowhegan and Waterville. The Grill was built just for the film, and then new owners purchased it and kept it going as a restaurant.
I’ve decided to do an occasional blog series on books and movies that have either influenced me or which I admire, and Empire Falls will be the first one.
When I read the book, I felt like I was visiting the town, and hanging out with the characters. When I had to put it down, I actually missed the place and people as if they were real. I’d have thougths like, “I wonder what Tick is up to today.” The characters were all flawed, but also all redeemable (to varying degrees) which is what made them so compelling to me.
My draw to the town itself was more perplexing. If I could have gone there, I would have, even though it’s a depressed mill town that just about every one was trying to get out of. What Russo did so well was create a sense of community. He captured the benefits and the drawbacks of living in small town New England.
So that’s the admirations part. What about the influences? Well, I can’t say that I had Empire Falls on my mind while writing Secrets. Rather, as I was thinking about Russo’s book this weekend, and why I liked it so much, it occurred to me that I was trying to create that same sense of community with Jezebel Goat Farm and Hollis. If there was an influence, it was subconscious. I think, rather, that my love of the book and the world I created come from the same place: a desire for more community. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of these admirations and influences posts have something to do with small towns in one form or another.