36 Books Blog: Pete Hautman

Each day leading up to the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony, we’ll be featuring an exclusive interview with one of our 36 finalists. Learn more about these incredible local writers and gear up to see the winners announced live in person April 6.

Interview with Pete Hautman, author of Otherwood

Category: Middle Grade Literature, sponsored by Education Minnesota

How does if feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?

Awesome! Minnesota has so many talented writers, I’m always surprised and delighted when one of my books makes the cut. I really look forward to hanging out with so many writers and dedicated readers.

Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know.

Otherwood is a very personal novel. It is loosely (very loosely) based on my childhood, but with all the imagined magic made real. It’s a mystery, a ghost story, and a coming of age tale. The setting is based on the place I grew up, with woods and fields and very few rules, but updated to the present day. You can still go visit the places mentioned in the book—now the Westwood Nature Center in the northwestern corner St. Louis Park. It’s not as wild as it was half a century ago, but it’s still a cool place to visit.

Let us know a little bit about your writing life. What brought you to a writing career and how did you become a published author?

I was a closet writer for twenty years before I “came out” and started sharing my work with others. My first novel, Drawing Dead, was published when I was forty, after several years of working on it and two years of submitting my work to agents. Most novelists come slowly to their craft, and I was no exception. I like it better than any of the other jobs I’ve held, though I do miss the regular paychecks.

Minnesota is often ranked highly as a state that values literature and reading. In your experience, what is it about our state that makes it such a welcoming place for writers and book creators?

Excellent schools, excellent libraries, and an excess of “reading weather.” We also have the Loft Literary Center (a tremendous resource for developing writers), several world-class publishers, great bookstores, and some extraordinary writing programs in our colleges.

What is something you are good at that few people know about?

Identifying and cooking wild mushrooms.

What do you love about libraries?

Books. I know libraries offer a lot more than books, but the books are what I love. Oh, and the smart, dedicated, indispensable librarians who rule the stacks! Without them I would be lost.

Pete Hautman
Pete Hautman is the author of thirty novels for adult, teen, and middle-grade readers, including the 2004 National Book Award winner Godless, Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner The Big Crunch, three New York Times Notable Books, and four Minnesota Book Awards. His novels range from science fiction (The Obsidian Blade) to mystery (Blank Confession) to contemporary drama (Godless) to romantic comedy (What Boys Really Want.) Recent books include the the middle-grade novels Slider (2017) and Otherwood (September, 2018). With novelist, poet, and occasional co-author Mary Logue, Pete divides his time between Golden Valley, Minnesota, and Stockholm, Wisconsin.