Michigan Outings Worth Writing (Novels) About

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Just as he carefully sketches his human characters, best-selling author Wade Rouse gets intimately acquainted with Michigan, the setting for all of his novels, making him both a travel and literary expert.

Rouse’s immersion in place has him writing novels by hand on Saugatuck’s Oval Beach, taking notes amid orchard rows, hunting for Petoskey stones. “We are blessed to live in one of the world’s most beautiful places,” he said, “and I want readers when they read my work to feel as if they are here, on vacation at the lake or strolling through one of our unique resort towns.”

Read about Michigan’s lake country — and experience the author’s favorite spots — at these getaway favorites from five of his works or works in progress under his pen name Viola Shipman.

“The Lake Effect,” Traverse City and Harbor Springs

His first winter novel, set in Traverse City and north, scheduled for tentative publication in fall 2021, has lake-effect snow as a character. There’s the discovery of winter fun, too, through the eyes of a displaced meteorologist who moves from Palm Springs to Traverse and by necessity throws herself into festivals, sledding, snowshoeing and skiing. The Downtown Harbor Springs Ice Fest captivated Rouse during research with the beauty of its carved creations.

“The Heirloom Garden,” Grand Haven

In Rouse’s newest novel about hope amid isolation, the Grand Haven Musical Fountain becomes a way for one family to escape life’s trouble and bond. Rouse heads in real life to what was the world’s largest musical fountain when it was built. “A perfect touristy summer evening is eating a couple of corndogs (Pronto Pups, of course) on the beach and then heading over to watch the colorful waters dance in sync with the music.”

“The Recipe Box,” Suttons Bay

You’ll recognize the beaches, orchards and wineries of Leelanau Peninsula in this book which Rouse said celebrates the “best summer fruit in the nation.” Much of the novel’s research took place at Crane’s Pie Pantry, Restaurant and Winery in Fennville, where he spent weeks talking with owner Becky Crane (and tasting). Said Rouse: “There is no place more Michigan, more adorable, more throwback, more beautiful or more delicious.”

“The Summer Camp,” Glen Arbor

His next novel (out summer 2021) explores the friendship between four girls who grew up going to summer camp outside Glen Arbor. Amid a story of why childhood friendship is so important, he explored (and features) Sleeping Bear Dunes, Cherry Republic and the Cottage Book Store, a favorite gathering place of the characters he said is housed in a “too cute to be believed” log cabin and “screams ‘I’m Michigan.’”

“The Summer Cottage,” Saugatuck

This was Michigan’s best-selling novel in 2019, and you might owe that to Rouse’s familiarity with place — his own backyard. He regularly carries a sack lunch and beach chair, boards the circa-1838 Saugatuck Chain Ferry, and asks to run the crank across the river to Oval Beach just as character Adie Lou, an innkeeper, does in the book. ≈

Kim Schneider is an award-winning travel writer who shares her travel-savvy in every issue of BLUE.


* Photography by Kim Schneider

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