Monday, May 3, 2010

Guest Blogger Janet Spaeth

When I had the chance to write about Minnesota, I seized it. It was my chance to write a love song to this beautiful state.

Authors are often asked, How do you get your ideas? Usually my response is simple: I have no idea. But in the case of these books, I do know. Each one had a very specific start.

The first book, Remembrance, began with a scene as clear as if it had been filmed. That “movie” stayed in my head for ten years before the rest of the story emerged. It was a story of colors (this happens to me sometimes, not often enough to make me worry about my sanity, but enough to keep things interesting). This story was the glorious deep blue-purple spill of the hour around a winter sunset, when the orb has ducked behind the trees and the rest of the world is awash in this beautiful hue. I set Remembrance between Crookston and Bemidji, where the prairie suddenly ends—and you’re in the north woods. That part of the state will always own a piece of my heart.

The second book, Kind-Hearted Woman, set on the Minnesota River near Mankato, came from a little drawing I did one day and stuck on my bulletin board at work. It was of the cat on the post. Why did I draw it? Why did I save it? Excellent questions without excellent answers. But that small drawing was the genesis of this book—that and the sense of overwhelming heat that lays (lies?) heavy on the back of your neck and makes sweat trickle down your spine. It’s also my salute to teenagers who have ADHD. There wasn’t Ritalin in the Depression, remember. I wanted to make Bud as charming and lovable and frustrating as so many ADHD children and teens are. My family spent some enchanted time in the Mankato area, along the Minnesota River, and I had to set this book there in honor of those memories.

The Ice Carnival is the last book and its inspiration was the Winter Carnival in St. Paul. There really is a Winter Carnival there every year, complete with an ice castle! It gets bigger and better every year. If you have the chance, go to it! And while you’re there, go to Grand Avenue, down by the Crocus Hill area. That’s where Cristal and her family and the Berings lived…in my mind, at least. This area is my home away from home, where I go when I need to get away from my workaday life. I have some wonderful friends who live there, and over the years we’ve become family.

I must thank, by the way, the people who helped me with these books. The Minnesota Historical Society—I love you, love you, love you. St. Paul Public Library’s reference librarians saved me by emailing me photos—you are wonderful! And my friend M.E., you’ve talked me through plot lines and details, and walked me up and down and over your neighborhood until I had The Ice Carnival’s setting clearly in my mind—and I cherish you for your friendship and support (alert eyes might notice that my first Heartsong was dedicated to her).

I hope you’ve been enjoying your time in Minnesota! Next, I’ll be seeing you in North Dakota!


Erica Vetsch said...

Isn't the MN Historical Society the best? They have an amazing library. Last fall I took a behind the scenes tour and got to see the 100,000 (!) boxes of archives available in the library.

Janet Lee Barton said...

Great post, Janet! Loved Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy series that took place in Deep Valley-- the fictional Mankato where she was raised! Would love to visit there.

Janet Spaeth said...

Erica, the MNHS is fantastic! I love that place, and the help they give is astonishing.

Janet, yes! Those books are wonderful, aren't they? The entire Minnesota River area is wonderful and so beautiful.

Thanks for the comments!

Kacie said...

Janet, I love the way you describe your inspiration for your first book in the series in vivid, vibrant colors--what a lovely idea!

CatMom said...

Janet, thank you for this blog post! (yes, I'm a few days behind,LOL). I met you in MN at my very first ACFW Conference, and I liked you right away! You seemed so kind and easy to talk to. ~ Looking forward to reading your books, and blessings as you continue your writing career.
Hugs from Georgia,
Patti Jo :)