BANGOR — Jeffrey Hope never envisioned himself writing a children’s book. Yet, to his surprise, his debut novel has been categorized as middle-grade fiction, aimed at readers aged 8 to 12.

“I spent a couple of years draft after draft of what I thought of as a fun story about two brothers. My goal to write a story with silly humor. There’s no violence, no swearing, no relationship trouble. I was shocked to learn I was actually following the rules of chapter books for middle-grade readers,” Hope said.

“I’ve had such a great time learning about fiction writing. This project has created so many incredible unintended consequences. I routinely find myself in the middle of a lecture adding something I have learned from the world of fiction that relates to the media world we all consume daily,” Hope said.

Hope’s book, Real Spies Don’t Use Rowboats, tells the story of brothers John and Sam, who aspire to become professional spies like their hero, James Bond. Set in the 1970s, the novel, written from John’s perspective, quickly diverges into the absurd, reflecting his wandering mind.

“These days, there are many stories about kids working secretly for the government, or taking on villains, vampires, and zombies. I applaud those stories, but I wanted to create a more realistic world with real humor, relationships, and adventures set right here in Maine,” Hope said.

The fictional setting of Cricket Cove, a village on Maine’s mid-coast, provides the backdrop for John and Sam’s adventures. The boys’ ambitions are continually thwarted by practical obstacles, such as their parents’ refusal to let them use the family’s motorboat alone.


Born in Bangor and raised in the mid-coast region, Hope’s childhood was steeped in the maritime culture of Maine. Hope’s formative years were filled with adventure across John’s Bay, Penobscot Bay, and Downeast Maine, much like the characters in his book.

While his initial passion for drumming led him toward music, Hope’s enduring love for storytelling ultimately prevailed. He graduated with a journalism degree from Emerson College and enjoyed a successful career as a multimedia journalist in Maine and Alaska before joining academia. Hope continues to find joy in teaching, especially with a new twist, connecting lessons from fiction writing to the broader media landscape.

Real Spies Don’t Use Rowboats is now available where books are sold.

For more information about Real Spies Don’t Use Rowboats and Jeffrey Hope, visit

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