Take a look into the past with nonfiction authors at ArtWorks

Something about a really good book makes us all want to ask, “Did that really happen?”

Welcome to your 2015 ArtWorks Festival preview. This week: our nonfiction authors. So yes, in these cases, that really did happen.

First up are St. Paul-based authors Erin Hart and Paddy O’Brien. The married couple shares a deep love of Ireland and its culture, traveling there regularly for research. While Erin writes archaeological crime novels set in its mysterious boglands, Paddy’s book — “The Road from Castlebarnagh” — is a musical memoir that recounts his childhood there in the 1950s and ‘60s.

“People often ask why I chose Ireland as a setting, and I have to say that I think Ireland chose me,” Erin says. “There’s something about Ireland’s complex and contradictory nature, all those layers of history one on top of the other.”

Erin’s novels Lake of Sorrows and The Book of Killowen were both shortlisted for the Minnesota Book Award, while Paddy — a two-row button accordion player, tune collector, teacher, and composer — received Ireland’s TG4 Gradam Ceoil Irish Traditional Composer of the Year Award, the highest international honor in Irish traditional music, in 2012.

Author John Haymond currently has two books up for publication, one of which — titled “Tragedy Enough to Go Around” — examines the legal controversies surrounding the aftermath of the 1862 US-Dakota war in Minnesota. Haymond earned degrees in English and History from the Universities of Minnesota and Edinburgh, Scotland, and spent 21 years in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper and infantryman. “That, coupled with a childhood spent growing up in Thailand and the Philippines,” Haymond says, “has given me a well-traveled background that greatly influences my work both as a historian and a writer of fiction.”

Michael Cotter’s books, which include “The Killdeer,” are much like Paddy O’Brien’s in that they derive directly from his experiences on the family farm, where Cotter was born in 1931 and has since watched its evolution from horsepower to computerized machinery. His stories have carried him across the nation, including to the Smithsonian and the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee.

Cotter has found that telling his own stories causes others to share their own stories. “It’s an unexpected reward binding us together,” he says of these shared experiences. Cotter has received the Circle of Excellence award from the National Storytelling Network.

Stay tuned for more on our author stage and other musicians, artists, and activities. Until next week.

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