SACO – One of the joys of joining the writing community in Maine is getting to know other writers, publishers, and editors. Each person seems to have their own take on what makes them successful and what might have helped them in their writing careers, but above all else, they seem to share a sometimes fanatical drive to tell interesting stories. Bruce Coffin, a retired Portland homicide detective, is certainly part of that group.
Coffin’s debut novel, Among the Shadows, was published this past September by Witness Impulse, an imprint of Harper Collins and has received critical and commercial acclaim.
Coffin, a tall, quiet, gray-haired resident of Buxton has long wanted to become a writer, but he really didn’t have the time or opportunity until he retired from the police department.
“I wrote a couple of novels before this,” he said. “But I really used them as a way to learn the craft of writing.”
Once he retired, he convinced his wife that he would like to spend the next year or so and see if he had what it took to become a novelist and short story writer.
“I also had so much help and encouragement along the way,” he said. “Other Maine writers, Kate Flora, Paul Doiron, and Chris Holm, all encouraged me and help me better understand the process.”
Coffin explained that the turning point for him may have been when he attended the New England Crime Bake in 2015.
“I thought I had my novel written when I went there, but by the time I left, I knew I had to rewrite it,” he said. Holding up his iPhone he said, “The whole way home I dictated the story.”
In the end, he said he kept about two or three chapters from his original work, but the rewritten text was a much better version of the story.
Coffin continues to write short stories and has had some success getting them published as well. Most recently, his short story “Fool Proof” was published in Level Best Books, Best New England Crime Stories 2016. His story, “Red Dawn,” was selected as on of the Best American Mystery Stories 2016, and published in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s anthology of the same name.
Speaking about writing has almost become a full-time occupation for this debut novelist, and as much as he has become used to speaking, it still has not replaced the joy he finds in writing.
“It is going to wind down in a few weeks,” he said. “I really want to spend the winter months rewriting and polishing my second novel. There are many writers who had success with their first book, and they failed to deliver with their second work. That scares me, I don’t want to be one of them.”