Jean Edwards says words simply flow out her fingers and through her pencil.

Edwards, of Appleton, who just published her 15th book, has always had a love for the written word — especially sonnets, her favorite — but her work as an author never truly began until she moved back home to Appleton 20 years ago when her husband, who served a career in the Navy, retired.

"Your mother says 'never run off with a guitarist, never run off with a sailor,' — he's a guitar-playing sailor. I nailed it," Edwards said of her husband of 65 years.

After living all over the country, following retirement the couple moved back to Appleton and live in a former schoolhouse on the banks of the St. George River. Edwards grew up about two miles north on Route 131 in a home where well-known artist Uriah Dyer once resided.

She has been interested in writing since she was young, writing poetry and scripts for marionette performances. In high school, she continued writing poetry and stories, but did not publish her first book until 2005.

All of her books are based on real Maine historical events, but are woven with fictional characters. She bases many of her characters on family members — she has four children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren — and has them dress in character for photographs included in the books. She also has included cousins and nephews in her books.

"They model for free," she joked of the reason for the family ties to her books.

A distant cousin of famed poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edwards said she enjoys sonnets, just as Millay did, and they are often found interspersed throughout her novels to assist the story line.

"It's my favorite because it takes so much work," she said. "If you are going to write a sonnet, you have to really think, because you've got to hit the meter [iambic pentameter], you've got to hit the rhyme, and you have to make some sense."

After sending her first manuscript, "The Glove" off and waiting seven years without getting so much as a rejection letter, Edwards began self-publishing her books. "The Glove" is about Appleton's historic Oakes Mansion, which was constructed in 1896 by Francis Oakes, a wealthy New York dye manufacturer, for his wife, as an addition to her parents’ home on the Ridge, according to information from Penboscot Marine Museum. Oakes' wife was Appleton native, actress, and singer Adelene Sullivan. The house’s extensive outbuildings are now gone, but the main house still stands.

Her newest book is a "A Lifetime of Poetry," which contains poetry from her novels, as well as a chronological presentation of her other works, from 1940 to the present. It also includes song lyrics, children's rhymes and memorials.

At this year's Appleton High School Alumni Association annual banquet, a copy of the book made $400, which will be added to the organization's scholarship fund.

Her favorite of her books is titled, "Mercy, Merci," which is her second published novel of adventure, mystery and romance during the Revolutionary War.

"If you want a love story, it's what you want to read of all the tribulations — and they are historical," Edwards said.

With her vision deteriorating, Edwards is unsure how long she will be able to continue to write, but said she is going to keep at it as long as possible. All her books are handwritten, because she doesn't like to sit for long periods in front of a screen. Her daughter then helps to put her writing on the computer. She currently has another book off to the printer and an operetta in the works.

Edwards doesn't have a real plan when she writes, but said once she gets going, the words just keep coming.

"I don't know where it comes from, it just comes from somewhere and comes out my fingers and through my pencil," she said.

Writing was always her first passion, but while living in the Washington, D.C., area Edwards became the first nationally rated gymnastics official in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and D.C. She later earned her international license and taught judging clinics at the master's level. She also worked at the headquarters for the Health and Human Services Department preparing congressional correspondence for signature. She also served for a time as the assistant director of drama at a Maryland High School.

Other books of Edwards' include: "Shore Songs," "Phoenix," "Hello God, It's Me Again,' which she wrote while on vacation, "Maine Wildflowers," a three-book series about a young Maine sleuth named Mattie McCracken, and a three-book series based on a fictional Native American family, and "Robert Finds His Space," a children's book.

The covers of Edwards' books are currently on display at Come Spring Cafe in Union.

In addition to area bookstores, Edwards' work can be ordered at indieauthorwarehouse.com or on Amazon.

Courier Publications Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at klincoln@villagesoup.com.