36 Finalists Blog 2024: Nicole Kronzer

Nicole Kronzer, author of The Roof Over Our Heads

Young Adult Literature Category, sponsored by Minnesota Humanities Center

Each week leading up to the 36th annual Minnesota Book Awards, we are featuring exclusive interviews with our finalists. You can also watch the authors in conversation with their fellow category finalists here.

What is one detail you wanted to include in this book, but couldn’t find a place for?   

I have a hard time letting some characters be “middle ground” people in my books. I’d really like a major arc for everyone whose name we know, but I find myself writing books with enormous casts, so there simply isn’t time for every single one of them to learn something and grow and change throughout the book! Finn’s friend Noah is one whose backstory and arc got left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. But it was awesome. Trust me. (And a little too dark for the tone of the book, to be honest.)  

Tell us about someone who proved instrumental to the creation of this book.   

Craig Johnson is a former manager of the James J. Hill House in St. Paul, the historic home I modeled the Jorgensen House after in my book. Craig was a font of knowledge about the Hill House, the Hills themselves, their servants, and St. Paul in the 1890s. He also beta read for me and served as my “in-conversation” partner for my book launch! The Roof Over Our Heads would have been a shadow of itself without Craig’s generosity of knowledge, time, and enthusiasm.  

Tell us about a favorite read from the past year. Why did you find it enjoyable, insightful, or memorable?  

This question is tricky because I have so many Minnesota author friends who had amazing books out this past year! But perhaps the most memorable one was Moby Dyke: An Obsessive Quest to Track Down the Last Remaining Lesbian Bars in America. The author, Krista Burton, and I were matched up this summer at WordPlay, the Literary Loft’s annual book and author festival. When the Loft contacted me and told me I’d be on a panel with Krista, I raised an eyebrow. A nonfiction travelog and a young adult novel together? Had we been paired up randomly? But when I started to read Krista’s book, I immediately deduced the connection: both of our books are about striving to belong.  

I fell in love with Krista’s voice as a writer, and by the time we met in person, I felt like we were already close friends! I had to remind myself to chill out a little. Just because I knew how she decided to move to Rochester and how she met Davin and the number of credit cards she had to max out to fund her trips didn’t mean she was ready to hear about my hopes and dreams for the future. Except Krista is so incredibly nice that she totally did.   

Please tell us something about yourself that is not widely known.

I love television. Like, love it. But I’m a mom who was very concerned about screen time, so we had all these strict rules about it when our daughters were small. 

But then the pandemic struck. Our girls were in third grade and sixth grade, and no one at Chez Kronzer ever stops talking, so I thought television would be an excellent way for us to be together while taking a break from the cognitive load of navigating four conversations at the same time.  

We marched those girls through every episode of The Office, Parks and Rec, Brooklyn 99, The Good Place, Gilmore Girls, Jane the Virgin, and Taskmaster. When lockdown ended, we kept watching. It has become a revered nightly ritual. I have even been known to say to my children, “Are you serious with that homework right now? Can’t you put it off so we can watch more Ted Lasso?” 

We have one show for when we’re all together, and separate shows for when my eldest isn’t home, when my youngest isn’t home, and for when Dan Kronzer isn’t home. When I come home from an evening out, however, my family is rarely watching TV without me. It turns out that I am the television linchpin. That’s probably something to look at more closely? But I’m afraid I can’t be bothered right now: Community is all cued up. 

Share your thoughts about the role and value of libraries.   

You mean besides the fact that they’re the best and totally a miracle? Like seriously. How would we ever convince a populace today to set aside tax dollars to buy a bunch of books and movies and music and let everyone–like, everyone–come and borrow them and take them out of the building for weeks and then trust they’d bring them back? And oh–there are also computers to use for free. And incredibly nice people who will help you answer any question you can come up with. And story time for your toddler and also homework help for teenagers and maybe you’d like to learn how to use Photoshop or look at Italian newspapers from the 1880s or talk to other people in your community about how that new No Turn Right sign by the grocery store makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine, and the whole time it’s a place where you can warm up or cool off and stay safe and have access to basically everything we’ve learned as a species ever?  

Truly. How did we get so lucky? 

Nicole Kronzer is a former professional actor and improvisor who now teaches English and creative writing. Her debut novel, Unscripted, was called “a truly special book, written at exactly the right time” by Printz Award winner Nina LaCour.