Minnesota's literary history is vibrant, varied and occasionally soaked in gin (we're looking at you, F. Scott Fitzgerald).
In 1930, Sauk Centre's Sinclair Lewis became the first American writer ever to win a Nobel Prize in literature; nearly a century later, Minnesota writers continue to rack up awards and earn rave reviews across many genres.
This week on The Daily Circuit, we're celebrating Minnesota Writers Week: five days of interviews with local writers working today.
"Minnesota is a terrific literary mecca with talent I don't want to miss," The Daily Circuit's Kerri Miller said. "I'm excited to talk to writers about how the history, sensibility and landscape of Minnesota influences their work."
Monday: William Kent Krueger
If you've been to the St. Clair Broiler in St. Paul, you may have seen William Kent Krueger at work. Krueger is a cafe regular: You can find him in booth Number Four at 6 a.m. sharp, bent over a spiral notebook, crafting plot twists for his latest crime novel. This has been his routine for years, even before he published his first book or landed on The New York Times bestseller list three times in a row.
Krueger's mornings at the Broiler have served him well: He is the author of more than 15 books, including the popular Cork O'Connor series. The series lead, O'Connor, is a retired cop of Irish and Ojibwe heritage who can never seem to find the peace he wants in Minnesota's northern woods: One case after another pulls him out of retirement. The next installment of O'Connor's adventures is due in 2016, along with another stirring Minnesota tale: "This Tender Land."
• Interview highlights: William Kent Krueger on The Daily Circuit on Monday, Jan. 26.
Tuesday: Jonathan Odell
Jonathan Odell has called Minnesota home for more than 30 years, but his Mississippi roots come alive in his books. He writes with a moving combination of beauty and honesty about the struggle for equality in the face of racism. The Star Tribune hailed his 2012 novel, "The Healing," for "combin[ing] the historical significance of Kathryn Stockett's 'The Help' with the wisdom of Toni Morrison's 'Beloved.'"
Odell didn't begin writing until after he'd built a successful business career, but once he started he found he couldn't stop: He wrote six days a week for three years to finish his first book. He finished the book — "The View from Delphi" — after taking a class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. He followed up with "The Healing" in 2012.
Odell's latest book, "Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League," tells the story of two women, one white and one black, who share only two things: the devastating loss of a child and a deep hatred for each other.
Odell joined The Daily Circuit on Tuesday, Jan. 27.
• Interview highlights: Jonathan Odell on The Daily Circuit on Tuesday, Jan. 27.
Wednesday: Marlon James
Marlon James's "A Brief History of Seven Killings" has been raking in the accolades. The creative writing professor at Macalester College earned "best book of the year" nods from The Washington Post, The Library Journal, Publishers Weekly and the A.V. Club. The book was also just named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
The New York Times hailed it as "raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting." It begins with a historic event, the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976, but jumps from there into a fascinating, kaleidoscopic narrative of Jamaican culture and politics. James himself was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and he brings the streets to life with a healthy dose of memory and wicked imagination.
Catch Kerri Miller's interview with James from Sept. 29 during the 10 a.m. hour of The Daily Circuit on Wednesday, Jan. 28.
Thursday: Margi Preus
Margi Preus takes young and old alike on fantastical journeys in her children's books. She draws on everything from historical tales of shipwrecks to Norwegian folklore as she builds beautiful worlds of adventure.
Preus' novel "Heart of a Samurai" has won a Newberry Honor and was an NPR Backseat Book Club pick.
Preus hails from Duluth, where she has taught fiction and children's literature at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and The College of St. Scholastica. Her artistic side extends to theater, as well: She writes comedy sketches, plays and even a comic opera or two on occasion.
Preus joined The Daily Circuit on Thursday, Jan. 30.
• Interview highlights: Margi Preus on The Daily Circuit on Thursday, Jan. 30.
Friday: Anton Treuer
Anton Treuer is the author of 13 books, including "Ojibwe in Minnesota" and "Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask." With "Everything You Wanted to Know," Treuer challenges stereotypes and invites an open, honest conversation about a range of topics, from hairstyles to sports mascots.
Treuer grew up on the Leech Lake Ojibwe Reservation. He went on to earn his undergraduate degree at Princeton, but returned to Bemidji, where he now serves as the executive director of the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University. Bemidji State is home to the first-ever collegiate Ojibwe language program in the country, and Treuer edits the Oshkaabewis Native Journal, the only academic journal of the Ojibwe language.
Treuer joined The Daily Circuit on Friday, Jan. 31.
• Interview highlights: Anton Treuer on The Daily Circuit on Friday, Jan. 31.