Novels and Short Stories Set in and around the Petoskey Area.

Have you ever dreamed of traveling to a locale featured within the pages of a good book—where the scenery, architecture, activities, or people were so inspiring that you just wanted to walk in the shoes of the story’s characters? There are a handful of novels and short stories set in and around the Petoskey area that are worth a read, followed by a first-time or return visit.

A Wish For Winter is one of a dozen-plus charmingly romantic titles by award-winning author Viola Shipman (the pen name for Wade Rouse) and the first to be set in Petoskey. Released in November 2022, the story follows forty-year-old Susan Norcross—who helps her grandparents run a beloved bookstore called Sleigh by the Bay in the tight-knit lakeside community (a nod to longtime friend Jessilyn Norcross, owner of McLean & Eakin Booksellers). Readers will instantly be transported to this quaint town all a flutter during the holiday season, with references to The Little Traverse Wheelway, the iconic Victorian homes of Bay View, Stafford’s Perry Hotel, and Chandler’s restaurant. Tales of hunting for Petoskey Stones—including details of the history of the Michigan State Stone—and visits to Hemingway Country in Walloon Lake are also featured. This touching novel focuses on grief and loss as well as the risk and hope for a lasting love. Like all of Viola’s lighthearted titles, it is also a bit sassy and humorous, with a touch of nostalgia. A Wish for Winter makes a great book club read, followed by a seasonal getaway to the places showcased.

Published in the spring of 2021, Early Morning Riser is the second novel and third book by Katherine Heiny. Set in Boyne City (where Heiny once lived), it is the story of twenty-six-year-old Jane who moves to the small northern town to teach second grade and befriends a bohemian, mandolin-toting woman; falls in love with a brawny and uninhibited divorcee with whom she establishes an on-again-off-again relationship (including several interesting encounters with his ex-wife and her new husband); and deals with the ups and downs of life, work, and family. Whimsical, funny, and at times heart-wrenching, readers are immersed in the small town’s lifestyle and culture and can easily imagine being Jane’s neighbor or friend and supporting her through the ongoing changes in her life.

Author Michael Lindley beautifully blends historical fiction with romance and mystery in his northern Michigan novels The EmmaLee Affairs (originally released in 2006 as The Seasons of the EmmaLee) and its sequel, The Summer Town (first released in 2008 as On Past Horton Creek). In the first title— set in the idyllic resort community of Charlevoix in the early 1940s, as well as present-day—Lindley explores the deep and complex emotions of unexpected love, betrayal, murder, and redemption as two families from different social classes find themselves tragically drawn together by the relationship of their son and daughter. The sequel continues the saga with two parallel stories bridging time and a vast cultural divide. Set in the early 1950s as well as modern time (2008), it focuses on a scandalous assault late one night in the dunes along the beach which sets off a series of events that pits the characters and the elite summer community against each other. Of interesting note, the EmmaLee is based on boats like the 191-foot yacht Sylvia, which graced the waters of Round Lake in Charlevoix each summer during the 1930s and 40s. The ship was commissioned by the Navy at the outset of World War II and never returned to northern Michigan. The latest information available on the Sylvia had it sailing the trade routes of the Greek Islands as a cargo ship through the 1960s. Its current whereabouts, or condition, are unknown. Lindley says he first heard stories about the EmmaLee during childhood summers spent at his great grandfather’s marina and boatworks on Lake Charlevoix.

The Petoskey State Park is one of the inspirations for Susan Coventry’s Harbor Springs Novels.


If you’re looking for a sweet but steamy series, check out The Harbor Springs Novels by Susan CoventryThe Perfect Distraction, The Perfect Gentleman, and The Perfect Blend, featuring sisters Beth, Becca, and Brooke, respectively. Throughout this three-volume series, the sisters search for inner peace and independence but ultimately find love in the harbor town where they vacationed as children. Coventry, who vacationed in the area many times—thus inspiring her works—found some of her favorite spots also provided the perfect story backdrop. The storyline weaves in and out of various locales, including Stafford’s Pier restaurant, Johan’s Bakery, Tom’s Mom’s Cookies, and Petoskey State Park. Each of these books can be read as stand-alone stories or together in a series. Think of it as the teenage Sweet Valley High series popular in the 1980s, but for adults!




Stewert James and his historical novel, The Penny, outside of one of the book’s settings—Chandler’s restaurant in Petoskey. (Chandler’s bar is also pictured in the header image.)

Petoskey author Stewert James (the pen name for Tom Renkes) has also written several books centered on this lakeshore community, including the generational tale called The Penny, released in late 2020. Based on real members of James’ family and actual events in history, the book centers around the lives of “Penny,” her husband, Frank, their friends and family, and their individual quests for love, purpose, and legacy. The book spans a century and a half and includes references to the Civil War and the Andersonville military prison at Camp Sumter with the present-day set in Petoskey—specifically sites such as Chandler’s and Roast & Toast. Most of James’ works are set in and around the town he now calls home. Including Writing with Hemingway at City Park Grill, a collection of colorful short stories that were written in the famous downtown pub where Ernest Hemingway was said to have hung out during his young adult years. Stewert’s latest title, Jesus Walked Down My Alley: A Frank Flannigan Mystery, which was just released in February 2024 as an eBook, is set in the fictional Brow Point (between Petoskey and Charlevoix, near Nine Mile Point). The first in this eSeries, Moving Tables: A Frank Flannigan Mystery, is set primarily at “Frank’s Place” (aka Chandler’s) and features several characters that locals are sure to recognize. Both center around Frank Flannigan, an FBI agent from Chicago, who despite his retirement, seems to find predicaments that need solving. Lovers of political thrillers will enjoy Stewert’s Super PAC series (Strikethrough, Nine-Day Shadow, and Dark Money Fracking) which include scenes at Palette Bistro, Brother Dan’s Pantry, Center City Gym, and the Northern Lights bowling alley.



The most noted author to pen stories from the Petoskey area was Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway, who spent the first twenty-two summers of his life at the family cottage on Walloon Lake. We were first introduced to his alter-ego, Nick Adams, a century ago in the 1925 In Our Time which featured fourteen short stories including Big Two-Hearted River (set in the Upper Peninsula community of Seney, based on the Fox River) and Indian Camp (also set, according to some scholars, in the U.P.). The larger collection of stories, written during the 1920s, was published posthumously in 1972 under the title The Nick Adams Stories. Set in and around Walloon Lake, the stories are autobiographical of Hemingway’s time in the area where he learned to hunt and fish, where he first fell in love, and where he recovered from war injuries. Another lesser-known novella is The Torrents of Spring, written while Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, were living in Paris. Locales in this 112-page title include Mancelona and Petoskey. Of all the places associated with Hemingway—Oak Park, Walloon Lake/Petoskey, Kansas City, Toronto, Paris, Spain, Key West, Cuba, Ketchum—northern Michigan boasts the most documented and preserved sites open to the public and collectively promoted by the Michigan Hemingway Society as the Michigan Hemingway Tour.

The book cover for The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway imposed on a picture of Walloon Lake.


Most of these titles can be found or ordered from local bookstores—including McLean & Eakin in Petoskey, Between the Covers in Harbor Springs, and Round Lake Bookstore in Charlevoix—as well as at regional libraries.

About the Author: Dianna Stampfler is the president of Promote Michigan and the author of the best-selling books “Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses” and “Death & Lighthouses on the Great Lakes.” She loves traveling around the Great Lakes state, with Hemingway country being among her favorite destinations.