Peter Geye was the June/July Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob. I had a chance to ask this super creative and busy author a few questions about his new book and writing. Read on to learn more about Peter and to win a copy of his newest novel, Wintering.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Minneapolis, where I continue to live. I grew up in North Minneapolis and went to Minneapolis South High School. I later attended Minneapolis Community College and got my BA from the University of Minnesota. I consider myself Minnesota through and through.
I have three kids. They’re spectacular little people.
I love to travel and read and eat good food and drink great beer and whiskey. I love music, especially anything with a little twang in it. And given a choice, I’d always choose a cold day over a hot one.
2. What is the back story behind Wintering?
When I decided I was going to try to be a writer some thirty years ago, the first idea I ever had for a story was about a showdown in the Boundary Waters, a place I’d been going to since I was ten years old. I’ve always loved the idea that you can get lost in this place, and that even for all of its serenity, it’s a place where you can get into trouble pretty quickly. These seemed—and still seem, I might add!—like pretty good ingredients for fiction.
But I spent a long time coming to this particular story. Or rather, these characters and how they might inhabit that place. It would take a very long time to describe in any sort of detail how I got to the story as I’ve written it, but in short, I discovered most of these characters when I started writing my last book, a novel called The Lighthouse Road. That book originally began as the story of one woman, a Norwegian immigrant who arrives in Minnesota expecting a life of promise, but finding something else altogether. It wasn’t long before her son was having a son of his own, and then I knew I was going to write this many-generations long story. Harry and Gus Eide, the two main characters in Wintering were born in my imagination that long ago.
3. Usually an author puts some of his own life experiences in the book. Did you do that in
Wintering? Do you have anything in common with your characters?
I’m a writer that puts a premium on his imagination, or at least tries to. I think it’s my job as a fiction writer to make things up—to invent. Because of that, there tends to be very little of myself in my characters. In fact, I like to think of myself as totally absent.
I will say, though, that I tend to identify with my characters an awful lot. In Wintering, for example, I relate in very real and serious and complicated ways with all of the characters. I understand Harry’s despair, Gus’s idealism and wanting to know his father. And certainly I understand Berit’s longing and patience and endurance. But perhaps most importantly, I understand the way the stories of these characters’ pasts haunt them, and inform their whole lives. This was the big lesson in writing this book.
4. Where do you get your inspiration or story ideas?
To answer this question would be impossible. It’d be like retracing all the moments that lead to the love of one’s life, or like trying to explain to someone how you developed the personality you have. These stories come from my imagination, from my own longings and desires, but that’s about all I can smartly say about them.
5. Do you like to read? What are some of your favorite books and authors?
I’m an avid reader, and I read all sorts of books. I read a lot of books to review, and many others to blurb, and much if not most of this reading is pleasurable. But if I’m asked who my favorite books and authors are, I get a waylaid feeling. I have so many favorites. In the interest of playing along, though, here are a few favorite authors...
Lance Weller, Emily St. John Mandel, Amy Greene, Ron Rash, Jeffrey Lent, Richard Russo, Cynan Jones, Annie Proulx, Per Petterson, Joseph Boyden, Elizabeth Strout, Louise Erdrich.
My two favorite writers are Kent Haruf and Cormac McCarthy, for wildly different reasons.
6. Tell us a little bit about your two previous books?
My first book was a novel called Safe from the Sea and it’s the story of an estranged father and son who reconcile a lifetime of differences over the course of a few weeks in November. Most of the story revolves around the father finally telling the son about a Lake Superior shipwreck that the father narrowly survived.
My second novel was called The Lighthouse Road and it’s a story that moves back and forth between a young woman who has just arrived in northern Minnesota from Norway, and her son’s story many years later. I hope it’s a novel evocative of my favorite place—the North Shore of Lake Superior—and of a certain stripe of person, namely, the hearty, mostly laconic people who settled here.
7. How do you carve time out of your busy day to write? Are you a full time writer or do you have
My day job, if you will, is as a stay at home dad of three young kids. So I write around their schedules, which involve an amazing amount of food and trips to the park and games of every variety.
My writing life, accordingly, is pretty messy. That is to say, I write when I can, usually in the evenings and on weekends and whenever else I can squeeze a few minutes in with my notebook. I also teach at The Loft, which also takes up some time but is something I love to do. It’s a hectic, always changing schedule, but I’ve somehow managed to write and publish three books since I had kids, so I’ve figured something out. Just don’t ask me what it is!
8. Name one book that you believe is a must read for everyone and tell us why?
I think the book everyone should read is the one they’ve always wanted to, but never found time for. Pronouncements of important books always strike me as a little like religious fervor, all of this hear me, hear me, I have the answer? It sounds presumptuous and pompous and like nonsense. There are a thousand books that might fit into this category, but which book I would call “must read” would be different for almost every person I know.
9. Have you begun working on a new book? Can you tell us about it?
I am working on another book. Two of them, to be exact. One is a novel I’m calling Northernmost, and it will be the last of the Eide family books. Or anyway I think it will be. It takes place in my fictional town of Gunflint, Arctic Norway, and Minneapolis and will span more years than either of the first two Eide novels.
The second is a book of nonfiction called Laurentide. It’s about my relationship with the North Shore, my life as a stay at home father, the things I treasure most in this world, and the things that mystify me most. I hope to finish both by the end of next year.
10. In one sentence tell readers why they should read, Wintering?
I would never say “this is the reason you should read my book,” I would only ask that if it sounds like something you’d enjoy, give it a try. I poured my heart into it.
If you would like to win a copy of Peter's book, Wintering, please click here: