Down East editor-in-chief up for an Edgar Award

Posted Jan. 24, 2011, at 10:56 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:26 p.m.

The last time Paul Doiron had to worry about dressing up in a tuxedo, he was getting married.

In April, Doiron will again don a penguin suit at a black-tie gala that will be held in New York City.

The occasion: the Edgar Awards, which are handed out each spring by the Mystery Writers of America. Doiron, who lives in midcoast Maine and is the editor-in-chief of Down East magazine, is among five nominees in the “Best First Novel” category for “The Poacher’s Son.”

One nagging question that Doiron is facing: Rent … or buy?

“I wish they would tell me what my future would hold,” Doiron said with a chuckle during a Friday interview. He said he would buy a tuxedo if he knew this current string of successes was going to continue.

Doiron has been on a whirlwind ride over the last seven months, since “The Poacher’s Son” was published by Minotaur Books.

But the journey from aspiring novelist to potential award-winner has taken years.

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” the 45-year-old Doiron said. “I wrote my first novel, it was a little 30,000-word thing, back when I was, I think, 16.”

Then, as often happens, real life got in the way of novel-writing. First college. Then more college.

“I went to graduate school and was always working on some writing project or another, but I really didn’t have anything to say,” he said.

After meeting his wife 13 years ago, he returned to his native Maine — he grew up in Scarborough — and rediscovered his love of the outdoors.

Eventually, he took a job with Down East. And among the stories that he shared in the magazine, he found a common theme: Game wardens were doing some pretty interesting things in the Maine woods.

“I just discovered that I was really interested in game wardens. I was really interested in writing about the outdoors, and before I knew it, I was starting something that became [‘The Poacher’s Son’],” Doiron said.

Doiron said that while he wrote, he decided to avoid a roadblock that had plagued him in the past: Instead of writing with an eye on publishing a book, he decided to just write, for himself.

“That was another strategy I had,” he said. “I had to stop worrying about publishing anything and just write the book that I always wanted to read. Which is what I did.”

After showing the book to a few others and refining it a bit, he decided it was time to seek the help of a literary agent.

He didn’t have to look for long.

“I really lucked out because the first one that I tried, essentially, was somebody who happened to be a Down East subscriber,” Doiron said. “That was my good luck because she was already familiar with my writing from the magazine and was really eager to read it, and it just happened that we really clicked.”

That agent, Ann Rittenberg, has a summer home in Sedgwick. She also represents best-selling author Dennis Lehane.

Doiron said he knew Rittenberg would be sending his novel and some additional information out to seven or eight publishers, but wasn’t aware that she’d even done so until he received a fateful call.

“[She] said, ‘We’ve got an offer from Minotaur Books and I’m just about to get onto a plane to the West Coast so you’ve got 15 minutes to tell me whether you want to take it or not,’” Doiron said.

The author-to-be consulted with his wife, called Rittenberg back, and gave her his answer: Take the three-book deal.

“She said, ‘Oh, you’re so smart,’” Doiron said.

It certainly seems so now: Doiron signed on with a publisher that specializes in mysteries and is a division of MacMillan Publishers.

Minotaur, he said, regularly focuses on the Edgar Awards, which Doiron’s wife, Kristen Lindquist, aptly describes as “the Oscars of the crime fiction world.”

“I’m fortunate, in that this is my first book, because there are fewer entries into the ‘first novel’ category,” Doiron said. “There’s still, I don’t know, a hundred or something, as opposed to the several hundred in the ‘best novel’ category.”

And while Doiron is looking forward to the April banquet, he hasn’t exactly been basking in the afterglow of his novel’s success.

“The Poacher’s Son” has sold well, and its paperback release is set for April, he said.

And June 21, his second book, “Trespasser,” will hit the shelves in hardcover.

“I’m really happy with it and [the publishers] are happy with it, which is even better,” he said.

And who knows? By the time “Trespasser” hits the shelves, press releases might refer to him as “Edgar Award-winning author Paul Doiron.”

And Doiron might have to buy a tux of his own.

“The last time I had one was my wedding and I don’t think that one would fit,” he said. “It was only six years ago, but it’s been a hard six years.”

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