Minneapolis-based writer Peter Geye will be reading from his new novel “The Lighthouse Road” at noon Sunday at The Bookstore at Fitger’s. Geye’s novel is set on the North Shore, just like his award-winning debut “Safe from the Sea.” I’ll have a story on Geye in the News Tribune this weekend, but here is some of the stuff I couldn’t shoehorn into it.
Quick review: “The Lighthouse Road” is the story of Thea Eide, a young immigrant who lands on the North Shore and becomes a cook for a bunch of lumberjacks. The story jumps 20-plus years into the future in alternating chapters to tell the story of her son Odd, a one-eyed, fishing, boat-building, whiskey running lad. He’s got himself mixed up in a bit of a predicament with a sister-mother figure who helped raise him.Yeah, that.
This is a hugely descriptive book that feels like someone dropped Cormac McCarthy into a snowscape and it has a cast of layered characters.
Fun fact learned in this interview: Geye writes on paper. In pen. Keeping it real, yo.
ON THE NORTH SHORE, WHERE HE IS A REGULAR VISITOR
PG: When I’m writing the books and doing research, I’m up there even more. A bit part of the process is spending time on the shore, taking walks and having quiet moments and just kind of soaking it all up.
I say this about the North Shore: If you’re in the right place at the right time — not at Gooseberry Falls on the Fourth of July — you can get really caught out of time. I love that sense of timelessness you can have up there. The weather and the seasons and the lake trick you. You can forget it’s 2012. I like to think there are spots along the shore where it’s not so different as it was 100 years ago, and that’s what I love about it.
ON WRITING ABOUT A REGION THAT IS NOT SUPER HIP IN THE LIT SCENE
PG: That’s part of the allure of writing about it. One of the first decisions I made was that I wanted to write about a place that people didn’t write about so I’d be able to hopefully stake my claim on it.
ON WHETHER HE’S WORRIED HE’LL BE DEFINED AS A WRITER WHO ONLY WRITES ABOUT NORTHERN MINNESOTA
PG: I’m not worried about that. When I’m in that place in that landscape in the imagination, it just comes so much more to life. Partly it’s because it’s what I’m comfortable with, partly it’s because I’m a fan of the place. I’m going to keep going to the well until the well runs dry.
ON THE FICTIONALIZATION OF THIS PLACE
PG: The fiction writer is a liar. We tell stories and make things up. Even though I try for authenticity at every turn, at the end of the day I’m still a fiction writer and I get to make stuff up.
ON THE NAUGHTY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ODD AND REBEKAH IN ‘LIGHTHOUSE’
PG: When I’m stuck or having trouble making sense of characters or a scene, I will try to remove myself from the process. I will literally interview the characters. It’s method writing. I go into their head and try to be them.
It struck me right away that there would be an attraction. Rebekah is beautiful. For her, especially, Odd was one of her only friends. Her story is so complicated. She doesn’t have any idea what is appropriate or inappropriate. She only knows what she wants or desires. It seems pretty plausible that she might be confused about her feelings for Odd. It is twisted. Both Hosea and Rebekah are twisted.
One of the things I appreciate most is strangeness and people who do and say strange things and are in strange situations.
ON RESEARCHING HIS NOVELS
PG: I sort of do my research backward. Occasionally I know that I need to find a fact or detail. More often it’s the case that I’ll be reading things out of curiosity and something will strike me. I’ll incorporate it in that way. The research finds me instead of me finding the research.
I specifically went and looked at a lot of history on logging camps and boat building and the development of Duluth. It’s sort of a half-truth that it finds me. I will read whole books on boat building looking for terminology and they will find their way into the story. It’s very unscientific. It takes a ton of time. It’s more of a hobby than research.
ON ‘SAFE FROM THE SEA’
PG: I had written a lot of stories, tried and failed at a couple of novels. I was confident that I could do it. I didn’t know anything about the story except that I wanted it to be set on the North Shore. I didn’t know there would be a shipwreck and the father and the son. I was so aimless and disorganized.
PG: I decided when the book was accepted for publication I was just going to be happy with it. Anything good that came from it would be gravy. Fortunately, there was a little gravy to come with it.
I’m trying to maintain an even keel with the new book as well. Both the good and the bad can take a lot out of you. There is little you can do about it. I wrote the best books I could at the time. I’m really happy that so many people have enjoyed the. It bums me out when people don’t enjoy it.
ON HOW HE WRITES
PG: I write everything by longhand. And I know that it sounds out of touch with reality. I get a simple pleasure from the sound of pen on paper. I write with a certain pen and a certain kind of paper. It’s the way I do my best work. I’ve tried to stop.
ON WHAT HE READS
PG: I’m a super avid reader. I read all the time. Almost exclusively. Most of what I read is contemporary American or Canadian fiction. I definitely read anything I can put my hands on. Books that are set in this part of the country. Anything that has to do with rural or Midwestern life that has some sort of spare realism. I like that.
Larry Watson, Danielle Sosin and Leif Enger. Folks who write about the same sort of people. I like Southern writers, they’re so lyrical. There are a lot of great western writers. Too many for me to mention.