The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 6, 2013

Novelists mystical about process

ST PETER — Sitting down to write a fiction novel, three authors agreed Saturday, is like embarking on a mysterious journey fraught with surprises and with a destination unknown.

Minnesota authors Erin Hart, Peter Geye and Thomas Maltman presented their thoughts on historical fiction crafting during a panel forum at the 2013 St. Peter Book Festival in the city’s community center.

The authors said their abiding fascination for people and places of historical note was the genesis of their writing careers.

For Hart it was eerie artifacts unearthed in the bogs of Ireland. For Maltman is was a compelling interest in the U.S.-Dakota conflict. And for Geye it was the magnetic allure of Lake Superior’s North Shore.

Not that fascination equals ease and speed of writing, they all said.

“I wasn’t very disciplined when I started writing,” Geye said, jokingly slipping into his inner voice: “You should have a character when you sit down to write a novel.”

He said it took him 10 years to write “The Lighthouse Road,” which he cryptically summarizes as a book delving into the vagaries of “whiskey, an apothecary, fish and boats.”

Hart said it took her six years to write the archaeological crime novel “The Book of Killowen,” a bog-inspired tale of a man who died in the 9th century and whose body was found centuries later in the trunk of a car.

Hart described her unknown-journey process as she began writing her novel based on that whimsical premise.

“Someone asked me how that could be,” Hart told forum attendees. “And I said, ‘I don’t know. I have to write the book to find out.’ I approach novel-writing as an archaeologist approaches an excavation. I have to work my way into a story.”

Maltman, author of “Little Wolves,” suggested that writing about the Dakota conflict was almost cathartic after he researched that often overlooked chapter in Minnesota history.

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