Minnesota just right for inspiration; Diversity lends to state’s charm

Published 8:29 am Monday, August 28, 2017

Author Chris Norbury said he dropped any idea of exotic locales for his books.

Minnesota does just fine, thanks a lot.

“It’s that Minnesota sensibility that we have here; we feel superior to everyone else in the world — and we’re right,” he joked, during a presentation at Sweet Reads Book and Candy on Saturday, one of the events as part of the Austin ArtWorks Festival.

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He said the diversity of its people, landscape, even weather, makes Minnesota a great setting for books, from its farming communities in the south, to the “super urbans” of the Twin Cities to the “strange little ethnic pockets” in the northern regions that provide great grit for characters.

Norbury, from Owatonna, is a relatively new author, having worked in a number of professions — financial adviser, band director and wine consultant among them — before the pull of writing caught him.

“I never thought I could be a writer,” he said, but he began to try his hand at short stories and attend writer conferences.

“What I found was that it’s a lot harder than it looks,” he said.

Norbury said writing “was an organic process” at first.

“Now, I am getting better at outlining,” he said. “The hardest part of it was putting the right pieces in the right places.”

His first book, “Castle Danger,” has found a favorable reception by critics and readers. The suspense novel is set in northern Minnesota, and follows the story of Matt Lanier, who has been unjustly accused of a violent crime.

“I wanted to take a normal guy and ruin his life,” Norbury said. “I like to give my characters moral dilemmas an average person might have, but then magnify them.”

Set against the winter savagery of northern Minnesota, “Castle Danger” is actually the middle of two other books Norbury will write as a series — “Straight River,” his next, will be a prequel to “Castle Danger.”

Minnesota weather, in fact, becomes a significant character in his book, Norbury said, noting the intensity of the storm weathered by his hero also adds intensity to the story.

Norbury said he was happy with the book’s reception. The novel also earned the BRAG Medallion, an award given by a private organization to independently-published authors, and judged by a wide circle of readers.

Norbury has a true love of Minnesota authors and supports them with reviews and positive mentions whenever he can.

“The deck tends to be stacked toward best-selling authors,” he said. “I make a point to look for books written by local authors when I can.”

He praised Sweet Reads and owner Lisa Deyo for having “one of the funkiest bookstores I’ve ever been in,” but better yet, one that promotes and features Minnesota authors whenever possible.

“This is a wonderful place,” he said.