Read This: Exploring Michigan’s Coasts with Julie Royce

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / May 07, 2022 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Julie Albrecht Royce, the Michigan Editor for Wandering Educators, recently published a three-book travel series exploring Michigan’s coastlines. Nearly two decades ago she published two traditional travel books, but found they were quickly outdated. This most recent project focuses on providing travelers with interesting background for the places they plan to visit.

Royce has published two novels: Ardent Spirit, historical fiction inspired by the true story of Odawa-French Fur Trader, Magdelaine La Framboise, and PILZ, a legal thriller which drew on her experiences as a First Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan. She has written magazine and newspaper articles, and had several short stories included in anthologies. 

Can I tell you HOW MUCH I love these books? Individual reviews are forthcoming, but I'm so excited to share the series and the backstory of writing them.

Highly, highly recommended.

Read This: Exploring Michigan’s Coasts with Julie Royce

Please tell us about your new book series: Exploring Michigan's Sunset Coasts, Sunrise Coasts, and Upper Peninsula Coasts...
Thank you for asking and for providing me with the opportunity to discuss my new travel series. When researching and writing the guides, I initially expected to write one travel book that covered all of Michigan’s coasts. I ended up with more than 900 pages that had to be sorted or divided in some logical manner. I decided that following the sun was as good of a way to present the information as any other. I started with the Sunrise Coasts, which included a piece of Lake Erie, the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River, and then Lake Huron. In book two, I crossed the Mighty Mac into the Upper Peninsula and covered the northern coast of Lake Huron, the St. Marys River, the Southern shore of Lake Superior, and the Northern shore of Lake Michigan. Book three took me down the Sunset Coasts of Lake Michigan. I am glad you started with the Sunset Coasts because it reminds me to tell readers that the books are stand alone. If you are interested in the Upper Peninsula, that’s where you should start.  
 
The books are not your traditional travel books. The reader will find no information about motels, hotels, or restaurants, and very few tchotchke shops. I love traveling, whether it’s a tiny out-of-the way museum in a small Michigan village or someplace more exotic like Kichijoji, Japan, Beijing, China, or even St. Petersburg, Russia, when that was possible. 

But for every place I plan to travel, I like to find out a little about the area beforehand. It makes the visit more meaningful. I like the history, the weird or unusual things I discover about the destination, and learning what I should expect to see and do while I’m there. If a movie was filmed in a location I plan to visit, I like to watch it. If I’m going to Mackinac Island, I can’t resist watching Somewhere in Time—even for the third or fourth time. I can’t sit on the porch of the Grand Hotel without imagining Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour. And did you know that Elmore Leonard set The Big Bounce in Michigan’s Thumb? After reading his book, I decided that if I ever owned another cottage on the lakeshore, I’d make very sure it had excellent security.

Until I researched these books, I didn’t know that Michigan’s Great Lakes had their own notorious pirate. I certainly didn’t know that a Michigan governor unadopted the daughter he and his wife had adopted many years earlier, and then he married that prior daughter when he was 89?

I decided to compile a Traveler’s Companion with information that included lighthouses, ghost stories, weird stories I discovered, and famous and infamous people from the area. I talked to shop owners, went to libraries, and always asked, “Who do you believe is worth knowing and who had connections to your city or village?”

Read This: Exploring Michigan’s Coasts with Julie Royce

What inspired you to write these books?
It wasn’t so much a what as a who. My former boss, Jennifer Granholm, is responsible for me wanting to pitch travelers on the idea of enjoying the small pleasures and unexpected treasures that Michigan has to offer. After I retired, and Ms. Granholm became the 47th Governor of Michigan, she visited Lexington and gave a speech in our small village. She encouraged her audience to look around them and appreciate all that Michigan had to offer. “Get out there and spread the word,” she said.  That very night, I had a dinner party in our condo on Lexington’s harbor. I told the group sitting around my table that I was going to write a travel book about Michigan’s Thumb. One dear friend looked me directly in the eyes and said, “What will you put on page two? Always one to enjoy a challenge, I authored a 269-page travel book about Michigan’s Thumb. It is seriously outdated and now useless, but I enjoyed the experience.

At Lexington Harbor, Michigan. From Read This: Exploring Michigan’s Coasts with Julie Royce
Lexington Harbor. On the far-left side of the photo is the condominium building in which we lived. The cupola and the two floors beneath it were our unit. The building on the far-right side of the photo was the restaurant at which Governor Granholm gave her pro-Michigan speech.

GHOST stories! I love them so. How did you research so deeply? 
At each destination, as I researched these books, I asked the locals if they knew any ghost stories. Stories grew. I visited libraries, bought books about ghost stories, did internet searches, and talked to owners or staff at lighthouses and questioned museum curators. Everyone loves a ghost story. Sitting around a campfire on a Michigan beach is the perfect place to share tales that make your skin crawl. I grew up hearing about the Ghost of Minnie Quay. Everyone embellished it, added a bit here and there. The great thing about ghost stories is that there is no “real” version. It isn’t like reporting history. No one knows, or even cares, if you get a detail wrong. It’s all about the story.

What were the joys and challenges of researching these books? 
That’s an easy question. The joy was discovering new things about my home state. My husband Bob and I traveled. and no one loves a road trip more than we do. We tried new restaurants, talked to locals, watched the sun rise or set, depending upon which side of the state we were exploring. They were great times. 

The challenges were equally clear. In the earlier two travel books, obsolescence was a big issue. Many establishments had closed by the time the books were published. In the current series that is a much lesser problem, although I suppose there are still parks that may close and a few other details that may go out of date. My goal was filling this Traveler’s Companion with information that was, for the most part, timeless. A major problem arose just after we finished doing our research. We had returned from the Upper Peninsula, and shortly thereafter Covid hit. For two years, travel was discouraged and risky. Even now, we look over our shoulder and expect the nightly news to bring details of another variant. One of the plusses of traveling Michigan’s Coastlines is that these are not mass attendance events. Actually, chasing solitude is often the goal.

What might readers be surprised to learn about Michigan's coasts? 
I was surprised to find that a fort along Lake Michigan was occupied at various times by four different countries (Spain, England, France, and the U.S). I was also surprised to learn Michigan had its own self-proclaimed king, and he was no joke. Several of the stories took surprising twists. But the coasts themselves seem eternal and unchanging.

Read This: Exploring Michigan’s Coasts with Julie Royce

What's up next for you?
I’ve enjoyed writing in several genres. I started with travel books and have come full circle back to them. After my first dabble in travel books, I wrote articles for Wandering Educators, wrote a magazine article about Lexington, and then wrote a book of crime fiction, PILZ, a fictional story that allowed me to draw from my experiences as an assistant attorney general. After that, I turned to historical fiction and authored Ardent Spirit, which is a fictionalized account of the life of Magdelaine La Framboise, a French-Odawa fur trader born in 1790. While I was researching the Lake Michigan Coastline and asking my question about the famous or infamous from the area, I kept hearing the name of Magdelaine La Framboise. I began researching and wrote the book. Next? I’m thinking of a sequel to PILZ.

 

Pin for later: 

Read This: Exploring Michigan's Coasts