A native or Norwich, Lamothe will visit Books & Boos of Colchester this Sunday, September 22nd, to present his first book, Connecticut Lore: Strange, Off Kilter, and Full of Surprises (Schiffer Publishing, $16.99), which was published in July. (See event details below.) He studied regional history and folklore while a student at Boston University, attaining a degree in American Studies, and has since earned a Master’s Degree in Special Education. Lamothe has taught high school Special Ed and History, and was a regular contributor to the Wellesley Town News (Wellesley, MA) periodical. He makes his home in the Boston area.
Lamothe has already made a fan of the bestselling and much beloved Wally Lamb, who recently noted, “I want to share my enthusiasm about three … books … that I’ve recently read and loved … Zachary Lamothe’s CONNECTICUT LORE examines the eccentric, strange, and quirky history and landmarks of the Nutmeg State.” High praise, indeed!
From the publisher:
Connecticut, proclaimed often by visitors as solely a rest stop along the highway from New York to Boston, is known primarily for its bedroom towns, cows, and strip malls, but it is so much more than that. From tales of its haunted history, curious encounters, and forgotten places, Connecticut is “full of surprises” and worth investigating whether you’re a local or an out-of-towner. Nooks and crannies are inhabited by ghost towns, large man-beasts, and inbred creatures with oblong heads. Folk artists who created religious sanctuaries out of trash are just some of the oddities you will see. Visit abandoned Norwich State Hospital and Daniel’s Village, hear stories of demonic possessions, and discover the mysteries of Plum Island and the lore of Pirate treasure and witchcraft. Whether you know it as The Nutmeg State or The Constitution State, you will see the State of Connecticut in a whole different light.
Now, Zach Lamothe offers readers a behind-the-screams look at his new book…
1) What inspired you to write CONNECTICUT LORE—and what do you think that locals might find especially surprising about the state’s haunted, hidden history?
The basis of Connecticut Lore was a semester long independent study paper I had written for an American studies class at Boston University. The essay included folklore from all over New England, not solely Connecticut. After graduating college, I quickly started down a career path. During a moment of disillusionment I asked myself, “If I could do anything with my life, what would it be.” Since I am pretty level headed, bungee jumping across America didn’t cross my mind instead I said I would do what I love; write and travel. So I heeded the old phrase ‘write what you know’ and decided to put together a collection of Connecticut stories which would satisfy both of my desires, writing and travel.
I thought I was pretty familiar with the offbeat side of Connecticut until I really started researching. Some of my favorite places that were surprising to me beforehand and that I think locals may enjoy finding out about were the Old State House Museum, especially the Curiosities Museum wing. The Center Church on the Green in New Haven’s crypt is also quite unusual. My private tour of Gungywamp was also a real highlight of the research phase. Ultimately, no matter if you’re from Salisbury or Stonington, Thompson or Greenwich the appearance of something ‘odd’ from your neck of the woods is always intriguing to read about.
2) Tell us about the research you did for this book. Did it make you a believer? (We noticed you don’t live here anymore …)
Some of the research I did was done years ago which I had to edit or streamline to fit the scope of the book. For the majority of it; I took a 6 week period in summer 2011, planned a route for each journey, tried to enlist friends to join my escapades, and explored many nooks and crannies of the state. Other stories were conceived from the help of individuals who witnessed certain events or who gave me access to specific places.
I personally am still a skeptic when it comes to the supernatural. I love the stories, and am intrigued by the mesh of history and legend. Given my personality, I feel that I would have to experience something eerie first hand to completely believe, although I have heard from many trustworthy people who have experienced something.
Haha, true, I do live in Massachusetts, although I consider Connecticut my true home. I’m down there quite often visiting family and friends. I went to school in Boston and stayed in the area. I love Connecticut’s cultural events like the Last Green Valley’s Walktober.
3) You have a background in journalism. Is it difficult to make the transition from short works to full-length book? Also, what do you find to be the key(s) to balancing fact with fun?
I did write for the monthly newspaper “Wellesley Town Pages” (MA), but I started writing for them around the same time that my book was given the green light. Currently I am writing a monthly article for “GhostQuestsUSA.com” and will have an article in the October issue of Norwich Magazine.
This book is put together almost like a collection of articles, so for me it really wasn’t too different. Between writing American studies themed papers in college and writing this book, most of what I wrote was Jean Shepherd-esque short stories which were deeply rooted in humor. When writing this collection, I tried to have my personality come through the writing with personal tidbits and humorous asides. I wanted to make sure my nonfiction writing was still fun and not tediously dry. I am lucky that the legend and folklore genre is conducive to humor more so than let’s say military history.
4) If asked to reflect upon your own professional journey, what are the most important lessons you’ve learned—and what’s the one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring writers?
As corny as it sounds, I would say go out there and do what makes you happy. I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to write while also enjoying my day job teaching high school students. Also the backspace key can be your enemy. When using a computer to type instead of hand write a first draft it is easy to go back over a single sentence so many times until you forget what you were writing in the first place. Just let it flow out and clean up the mistakes afterwards.
5) You are actively touring in support of CONNECTICUT LORE. In your opinion, what is the role of the bookstore within its community—and how do public appearances help to enhance the author/reader/bookseller relationship?
A great bookstore should be able to be a mediator between books, writers and readers. It should provide a shopping experience conducive to browsing that becomes a personal event, but in a public setting. The bookstore should be an integral part of the community, highlighting cultural events and goings on in the store and in the community as a whole.
My next speaking engagement at “Books and Boos” in Colchester will only be my second book talk. I was unsure of how the crowd was going to react to me during my first talk in Torrington. I soon was put at ease and the reading flowed naturally. The question and answer session at the end, I felt, really put me in touch with the audience. Some of them had stories to tell of their own while others asked questions about the chapters which I read. The book talk puts a face and a personality with the name (for better or worse). The bookseller is the facilitator between these two parties.
With thanks to Zack Lamothe for his generosity of time and thought.
The author will appear at Books & Boos this Sunday afternoon, September 22nd, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. This event is free and open to the public, and books will be available for purchase/signing. Books & Boos is located at 514 Westchester Rd. in Colchester. For more information, call the store at 860-861-6214.