In "Northeaster," Cathie Pelletier recounts a deadly blizzard that tested the resourcefulness of Mainers in 1952.
Maine author Cathie Pelletier has published a new book, "Northeaster: A Story of Courage and Survival in the Blizzard of 1952." Credit: Courtesy of Tom Viorikic

ALLAGASH, Maine — At 70, award-winning Maine author Cathie Pelletier is as much a force to be reckoned with as the topic of her latest book, “Northeaster: A Story of Courage and Survival in the Blizzard of 1952.”

The book marks Pelletier’s 13th publication, and will not be her last, she said.

Written from the comfort of the Allagash homestead where Pelletier was born, “Northeaster” recounts a deadly blizzard that stormed through Maine and New England in 1952, testing the resourcefulness of survivors and those who would perish despite mighty efforts to endure.

“Writers aren’t ballerinas or baseball players. We don’t need young and physical bodies to write, to keep up our profession,” Pelletier said.

The book is Pelletier’s first expedition into narrative nonfiction, which tells a true story in a fictional style.

Pelletier published her first book, “The Funeral Makers,” in 1986, creating the fictional northern Maine town of Mattagash. Her work also has appeared in the longtime Aroostook publication Echoes magazine.

Two of her books were published under the pseudonym K.C. McKinnon and both became television films. “Dancing at the Harvest Moon” from 2002 featured Jacqueline Bisset and Valerie Harper. 2006’s “Candles on Bay Street” starred Alicia Silverstone.

Fresh off a nonfiction endeavor on how astronomers proved Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, Pelletier said the itch to pursue the genre sparked “Northeaster.”

She dug out a packet of old newspaper clippings she had saved from that 1952 blizzard. Pelletier’s resourcefulness and imagination helped her cobble the storm’s events together without the benefit of firsthand accounts from 70 years ago.

“Northeaster” illustrates nature’s indifference to people’s daily lives and future plans as they are caught in the blizzard.

The story’s outcome would have been much different had it happened today, because with cellphones city officials and workers communicate easily and plow machinery is better.

“And then, let’s face it, there would be a ton more complaining and whining since we are far more spoiled and less hardy than our immediate ancestors,” Pelletier said.

People enjoy reading about people who face life-or-death situations and have to try to survive, Pelletier said, adding that reading provides a safety net, where people can experience the fright and thrills from a distance.

She considers writing a job and is not ready to retire. She plans to write screenplays and possibly get cracking on a true-crime novel. Regardless if she feels motivated, she writes.

“I hate to break the news to many aspiring authors, but there is no muse that descends. Don’t wait for her,” Pelletier said. “The electric company will cut off your electricity. They don’t care about the muse either.”

Dedicating at least two years to a book that might not work is scary, but Pelletier hopes “Northeaster” works for readers.  

At a certain age, deciding what to give the next two years of your life to becomes more important, she said, adding she hopes to live to her father’s age of 95.

“Know what is really funny? In ‘The Funeral Makers,’ the old matriarch Marge McKinnon is in a coma and likely at death’s door. Guess how old Marge was in the book? Fifty-nine,” Pelletier said. “She is now eleven years younger than I am. But that’s what you get for writing a novel when you’re still in your 20s.”