As we pull up to the town dock at Isle au Haut, Linda Greenlaw steps out onto the float to greet us in true islander fashion. For someone who has led a life of big adventure, including a swordfishing career made famous in Sebastian Junger’s book The Perfect Storm and the subsequent blockbuster film of the same name, she is surprisingly small in stature. But what she lacks in physical size she more than makes up for in congeniality.

She helps to load my contingent and me into her truck and proceeds to take us for a quick tour of the village, then off to her house. Since leaving an ultra-successful career as a sword boat captain in 1998, Greenlaw has made a name for herself as the author of three memoirs and a cookbook (co-authored with her mother, Martha.) Each of the memoirs has spent time on the New York Times best-seller list. She is hoping to replicate that success with the publication of her first work of fiction, Slip Knot, due out this month. Slip Knot is a murder mystery set in the fictional coastal Maine community of Green Haven (see review, page 28). Having Jane Bunker, Greenlaw’s fictional marine insurance investigator, begin her career in Miami gave her the expertise necessary to carry her through the book. “I had to have this woman know a lot about boats, but I wanted her to be a little bit of a fish out of water in coastal Maine,” said Greenlaw. “As she is learning, it’s easier for the reader to learn along with her.”

This book has been in the works since the publication of The Hungry Ocean, Greenlaw’s first book, in 1999. “It was my idea to write fiction for my second book,” she explained, “but my editor had the idea that I should write about life on Isle au Haut.” One thing led to another, and Greenlaw ended up producing The Lobster Chronicles, All Fishermen Are Liars, and Recipes From a Very Small Island before she could get to her novel.

For a first work of fiction, “my editor and agent suggested that a murder mystery was a good place to start,” said Greenlaw. In fact, Greenlaw has never taken a fiction-writing course nor has she ever written fiction before Slip Knot.

“The one thing you can’t tell me is that I can’t do something,” she said. “My biggest fear is failure.

Overcoming the fear of failure is where the hard work comes in. The other books were hard because they required discipline, but they came with natural outlines. To start with a totally blank page full of possibilities is difficult.”

Greenlaw’s initial work begins the old fashioned way, with a pen and paper. Only when she has the final draft does she transfer her manuscripts onto the computer. She spent seven to eight months actually writing Slip Knot, but the whole process took about 18 months, which included “fretting and working out the plot in my head,” she said. After reading the first 100 pages of Greenlaw’s story, her editor suggested she outline the plot. She found this difficult, as it was not something she had to do for her previous books. “It was hard to make those [plot] decisions,” she said, “but it would have been impossible [to write the story] without those decisions.”

Research for Slip Knot was relatively minimal. Greenlaw worked aboard a boat in Miami for two months, which gave her enough firsthand knowledge of the place to write her character’s experience there. As for Jane Bunker’s professional life, “I am very fortunate to have friends in these businesses who are very generous with their time,” said Greenlaw. She already had a general understanding of what these people do, and was able to call upon friends for answers to specific questions. The Internet was also a very helpful tool when questions needed answering. In addition to being an author, Greenlaw works as a lobsterman, though she is the first to admit it is not her strongest suit. “I like the fact that I am self-employed,” she explained. As the captain of a swordfishing boat Greenlaw felt a huge responsibility for someone else’s gear and boat, in addition to a responsibility for the livelihoods of her crew. In lobstering, she said, “if I screw up somehow the only one who suffers is me.” This reality allows Greenlaw to relax a bit in her work, but in her own words, “as a result of being more relaxed, I am a really lousy lobsterman. I lobster very much part-time. I never get going before 10 or 11 in the morning because I am writing in the morning.”

Then why does she do it?

“Lobstering keeps my writing fresh,” she said. “When I’m writing it’s important for me to get away and haul a few traps.” According to Greenlaw, hauling helps to clear her head after several hours of writing.

Slip Knot is the first in what will be a three book series. “I was a bit surprised to get this contract for two more books,” Greenlaw admitted. The publication of Slip Knot meant Greenlaw was free of contractual obligation for the first time in several years. “I took about a week to decide whether to sign it or not. Last summer was the first time in six years I didn’t have to do a book tour.”

Summer book tours mean Greenlaw misses out on most of the summer lobstering season, as well as what many consider the best time of year for Maine island life. But, “to avoid having to find a job for the first time at the age of 46 I signed a contract for three years,” she said. “I am hoping the next two will come a little easier.”

Greenlaw’s book tour begins June 16th. Look for her along the Maine coast.