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The Next Big Thing: 10 Questions and Answers About My New Book

I want to thank Kathleen Jesme for inviting me to join this project. Kath and I grew up in the same small town on the Minnesota-Canadian border, a place that still influences, in very different ways, her work and mine. Back then we played flute duets; now we tell our stories. Kathleen’s poetry is luminous and lasting. I am honored that she has chosen me to participate in this project. Her thoughtful and irreverent blog can be found at

Next week, two local writers will guest blog at where they will answer the same 10 questions. They are Julia Klatt-Singer, who writes wonderful poetry and prose and is also a visual artist, and Mary DesJarlais, whose debut novel, Dorie Lavalle, offered a fascinating look into the life of a female bootlegger in the Minnesota of 1928.

So here we go:
1.What is the working title of your book? I tend to look to music for my titles—my debut novel is Hand Me Down My Walking Cane. The (very) tentative title for the new one, a sequel, is Living on the Road, a favorite line from a song by the late Townes Van Zandt.

2. Where did you get the idea for the book? From the book and the characters that preceded it. I began two contemporary crime novels–criminal law plays a major role in my day job–but the characters and the 1930s kept calling to me. I thought I left the people in the book in a good place, but they beg to differ. They are still restless and itching for new adventures.

3. What genre does your book fall under? Like the last one, it is some hybrid of literary and historical fiction.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie? Here’s my dream cast: Jessica Chastain would play Rose; Gael García Bernal as Emil; Meryl Streep as Hilde, Emil’s mother; Jeremy Irons as Carl Rousseau, Emil’s father; Robert Downey, Jr. as Little Roy; Tantoo Cardinal as Sadie; Sally Field as Hazel; George Clooney as François; Jessica Lange as Minnie; Graham Greene as Joe Beaudette; and as Magnus, Gabriel Byrne.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? What do you do after you’re thrown out of the place you love?

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Neither, thank you very much! North Star Press, who published Hand Me Down My Walking Cane and has been wonderful to me, is eagerly awaiting Living on the Road.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I am still embroiled in the first draft, so I don’t know yet.

8. Who are your main influences? Writers: Gabriel García Márquez, Louise Erdrich, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, C.J. Sansom (Winter in Madrid), Michael Crummey (Galore). Photographers: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, Russell Lee (and other FSA, Farm Security Administration, photographers).

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? The preceding book and my ongoing fascination with the 1930s, including the Spanish Civil War, and the people who lived those times (see # 2).

10. What else about the book may pique the readers’ interest? If you, like me, are intrigued by lost people, lost places, lost causes and stories not yet written about, then you will want to read my book.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Ken Skrivseth #

    Eagerly waiting for the new book, must have a signed copy!

    March 6, 2013

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