PORTLAND, Maine — If things had gone slightly differently, John Connolly might have fallen in love with Delaware rather than Maine. Born and raised in Ireland, he first visited the U.S. in 1991 while in his early twenties, and what happened soon after his arrival changed the direction of his life.
"You have this wonderful student visa program that allows people to come over and work — or work as little as possible while sitting on beaches," he recalled with a smile. "I had this vision of arriving in the United States and seeing golden, sandy beaches and the kind of girls who figured in Beach Boys videos."
Reality, as it has a way of doing, intruded.
"I ended up in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, which was a lovely place," he said. "But it didn't really have many girls in it. And I couldn't quite figure out why until someone said, 'You know, this is the nation's gay summer capital.' And I thought, 'Lovely people — not my market, but lovely people.'"
A friend had an uncle who owned the Black Point Inn in Scarborough and said the prospects were excellent that Connolly could get a job there. Looking to move from Rehoboth Beach, he decided to check it out.
"I came up and kind of fell in love with the place a little bit," he said.
As time went by, his affection for the state grew.
"I liked the scenery. I liked the people. It wasn't too alien to me. I go to places like Nevada or Arizona, and I have no point of connection with them there —completely different landscapes. But Maine, I could kind of understand."
In the three decades since then, Connolly has written or edited more than thirty books, including a popular series of novels featuring a private investigator named Charlie Parker, who not at all coincidentally resides in Maine — as does Connolly, who bought a home in Portland several years ago and spends at least a few month here every year.
He is quick to acknowledge he's a city boy for whom the state's remote lakes, mountains, and forests hold little appeal.
"Maine is the great outdoors for so many people. Give me the great indoors," he said, laughing. "I think the great outdoors is very overrated."