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How does a Maine novelist capture the lives of teenage boys?

“I happen to live with two of the species”

PORTLAND, Maine — Writing is a solitary line of work. Writers go about their business when it’s quiet and they’re alone. They don’t spend 40 hours a week in a bustling office where everyone’s engaged in the same enterprise, and they can’t wander over to a nearby cubicle to ask a co-worker for some ideas on how to make plots more clever, characters more compelling, dialogue more sparkling.

Susan Conley, who grew up on the midcoast and now lives in Portland, has just published her fourth novel, “Landslide,” about a wife, husband, and two teenage sons trying to keep things together in a fishing village in Maine. The strains, divides, and challenges that both strengthen families and pull them apart are at the heart of the story.

In the book, Conley refers to the boys, not unkindly, as “the wolves.”

“I happen to live with two of the species,” she told me.

In a novel about family, it seems fitting that in her acknowledgments Conley thanks her own family, starting with her mother, Thorne Conley, “for kindnesses and generosity and for showing me how to live in the Maine woods without shutting the rest of the world out.”

She also thanks her father, brother and sister. Writing is solitary and often lonely, but as every writer knows, there are always people who provide invaluable help along the way.