Aug 20 2012 3:00pm

Swimming in Fictional Ocean Coves with Higgins, Force, and More!

Beach image by Lee Coursey via FlickrSummer’s nearly gone, but we can still dream of beaches: Saltwater, sand, the scent of coconut oil and slightly rotted seaweed.

When writers add in the bit about the rotted seaweed or the tolling of a buoy bell, it’s as if they’re writing something they’ve actually experienced. Since I’m on the East Coast of the USA (Sorry, Oregon and Australia), I asked a few authors if I can visit the locations they describe. But nope, I can’t plan a weekend trip to see the real thing because it turns out, there’s nowhere real to go. But I can visit places very similar to where their fictional characters tie up their fishing boats or walk along the rocky shores almost exactly like the one they visit.

It makes sense writers aren’t going to be specific. It keeps the characters out of trouble. When the hero mentions eating a crummy pizza in a bug-infested diner, when he’s not in a big city like New York or Boston, someone who lives in the real location is going to know exactly which joint the character’s talking about—even if the name has been changed and the author actually didn’t mean that joint. Just try to convince the beach town resident they don’t know exactly where the hero bought the grease-bomb.

Catch of the Day by Kristan HigginsSo how about an approximation of the beach locales?

1. Kristan Higgins has two books, set in fictional Gideon’s Cove, which is an amalgamation of three towns: Machais, Jonesport and Lubec, Maine. She says “I love when a reader recognizes their town and writes to me. It’s like an inside wink and a nod.”

2. Marie Force has a whole series set on an imaginary Gansett Island. Her inspiration is Block Island, RI. But like the other writers, she makes sure her island is different enough so locals won’t be annoyed by the discrepancies in her version.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick3. Huntley Fitzpatrick draws maps of her beach world in her book My Life Next Door, so it’s really her own invention, though she did grow in a town somewhat similar to Stony Bay, right at the mouth of the Connecticut river and she lives in a Massachusetts town on the ocean now. The town was drawn from both, she said.

Other authors who have semi-fictional beaches:

—Celia Jerome (also known in some circles as Barbara Metzger) has a whole series of paranormal books set in Paumanok Harbor. She says Paumanok Harbor physically resembles a New England village, with a central green square. Attitudinally, it’s more Montauk than anywhere else.

— Mackenzie McKade, Nikki Duncan, Cathryn Fox have written stories for two anthologies featuring a group of meddling matchmaking town granddads in a fictional locale called Whispering Cove. The stories are set in Maine but the physical details are based on Luneberg, Nova Scotia. Fox lives near Luneberg and sends details and photos to her collaborators.

Beach image courtesy of Lee Coursey via Flickr


Kate Rothwell writes romance using her own name and the pseudonym Summer Devon. She lives in Connecticut with four men (three of whom are her sons). You can out more about her at and

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1. KateRothwell
May I point out, before anyone else does, that I got Huntley's name wrong? Sorry, Huntley! (It's not very clear why I'd make that mistake--one of my closest writing pals is Flo FitzPATRICK. And I never forget that!)
Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters
@KateRothwell -- Fixed! Not sure how I didn't catch that when I worked on the post; I even linked to her website! *headdesk*

I really enjoy when romance authors set their stories in real towns/cities or places based on real ones, maybe just because it lends authenticity? But also because I, too, like to visit such places, or at least say I'm going to one day. Great post, Kate!
3. KateRothwell
Thanks, Heather!
I just read a book set in Scotland. There was a beach-- the water was warm and there was sand, not rocks. I wonder if the person who wrote it has ever been there? And if so, where is this beach? I'll put it on my list of places to visit even if it isn't in New England.
4. KateRothwell
Maili, an actual Scottish Person, just gave me a link to pictures of some gorgeous sandy Scottish beaches.
twice today I have to say....oops! (And how could I have forgotten the movie Local Hero?)
Rhonda Lane
5. Rhonda Lane
A long time ago, before THE DA VINCI CODE became a sensation, a Washington Post writer mentioned a novel that didn't get DC right. The novel? Dan Brown's DECEPTION POINT.
Rhonda Lane
6. Marie Force
Thanks for the mention, Kate!
Janis Clark
7. maliamartin
Kate - thanks for the Scottish beaches link. I had no idea that Scotland had such beautiful beaches. As if Scotland didn't have enough going for it already :-)
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