My writing career began with a book that took me twenty years to complete. I started researching and rough drafting the story in late 1982. For months I soaked up all of the early Iron Range history that I could and crafted people and scenes to fit the early 1900’s. I had an easy access to the Research Center at the Ironworld Discovery Center, the Hibbing library, and the Hibbing Historical Society. Originally, the story was going to be titled The Giant’s Ridge but that changed after about my fifth rewrite of the manuscript. Despite my best efforts, my writing was convoluted and/or too tightly scripted. Several rejection letters later I put the project to rest: An ambition that wasn’t to be fulfilled. Maybe, just maybe, there would be another time and another story, but a year of my life had been devoted to an effort that didn’t end happily.
After a lengthy dormancy (the manuscript was stored a in a box in my basement for 17 years) I reread my story and picked up the plot threads. Time and place were perfectly orchestrated—the problem was in my characterizations. But, the challenge would be–how to give life and breath to my creations? I found a credible ‘voice’ in a titan of early Hibbing journalism: Through the eyes and words of Claude Atkinson, my people became the dynamic of the story. Earlier, everyone was doing what I thought they should be doing. That was why the story really didn’t have an essence. Once headstrong Peter and likableTony and the lovely Mary Bellani were allowed do their own thing, they did . . . and what they did was far more interesting than anything I might have imagined. The revitalization began in mid-2000, after my retirement from ISD #701- the Hibbing public schools.
More often than not these ‘liberated’ characters amazed, enlightened, and inspired me. Allowing them to tell their own story (not mine) brought a new life to this literary endeavor. At times I agonized over the dilemmas they put themselves in, at other times I laughed out loud at their cleverness and guile . . . somehow they managed just fine without any manipulation on my part. Finally, I published To Bless or To Blame in 2002. At the time I did not know that this would be the beginning of what would ultimately evolve into an elaborate series of novels.
To Bless or To Blame was a successful debut novel and won acclaim as a finalist in the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards. The first thousand copies sold out and a second (eventually a third) printing were necessary. Before establishing any credible marketing strategies, I was absorbed in writing a sequel. A Blessing or a Curse was published in 2003. Both books were published through Stanton Press of St. Paul, Minnesota. Without catching my breath, the third novel was under way as I continued my disciplined pattern of early morning writing, smoking, and draining pots of coffee: Usually four to five hours a day and usually seven days a week. Writing the first draft always went rather quickly, rewrites were tedious. Through the first three novels, my friend Ed Beckers, was my primary story critic and editor. Kathy Serrano, Nancy Erickson, Norma Grant, and Dan Bergan assisted in editing my early books. In 2004, Bless Those Who Sorrow was published. These three novels were intricately and generationally connected while each retained a necessary separate identity.
What has come to be known as the ‘Mesabi Trilogy’ portarys a prominent Hibbing family through three generations and the first half of the twentieth century. Each story combines drama, intrigue, and romance with colorful characters both fictitious and real. With lives intricately entwined, the men and women of the incomparably rich ethnic and historical Mesaba Iron Range of northern Minnesota live the days and years of their lives. The stories, however, have a much wider sweep—just as the red hematite iron ore was made into steel and was spread around the globe, so also did the people of my stories.
There was little pause in my storytelling. An avid reader of mystery and crime novels, I felt challenged to venture into that genre while retaining the essence of the earlier stories. Pack Moran was a Hibbing cop faced with resolving the suspicious disappearance of his best friend—a black man who lived in a community smitten with an undercurrent of racism. The year was 1956. The Hibbing Hurt my fourth novel, was a strong seller from the start. Within six months a second printing was necessary. Somehow, I found more ‘gut stuff’ in telling this story and it felt good. As with each book, strong characters (male and female) create the story for me by doing what they need to do to cope with the issues they encounter. It’s the unique and surreal familiarity with people’s ambitions, motivations, and inspirations that an author experiences as he writes.
Following The Hibbing Hurt, I struggled with the next story. After graduating from Hibbing High School, young and frustrated Amos Moran does a disappearing act. What was supposed to be a teenager’s rebellion/, runaway story, just wasn’t working. I think I trashed about five different beginnings—one of which was seventy pages! Frustrated, I took a break from the elusive project and visited a friend in Flagstaff, Arizona. I found Flag to be a most intriguing city, a college town with a wonderful dynamic. Wandering around town, talking with locals, hanging out on the NAU campus, my intangible story found some roots. Back home in Hibbing, a book I titled FLAG, came together in about six weeks. This was a fun story to tell, a murder story with a strong youthful and romantic elements. Confused Amos and winsome Sadie were products of the seventies. As with my earlier books, Ed Beckers was a primary story critic but others pitched in as well: Gail Nevalainen, Faith Marston, Richard Dinter and June Hendrickson.
Along my literary path I have diversified my offerings. I wanted to do a favorite childhood story for each of my kids. Shannon, my oldest, was the dedicatee of MAZRAL and DERISSA: an Easter Story (published in 2003). My tale of a spiritual experience involving a blind mouse and an obese dove, offered a unique perspective on the passion story: An untold miracle that happened on Calvary. Another children’s book; a Christmas story titled SANTA THE KING, came out in 2004 and was dedicated to my youngest daughter, Erin. The beautiful hardcover book was produced through Bang Printing in Brainerd (MN) and I’ve published with them ever since. The kids books were illustrated by my gifted and artistic neighbor, Dave Wirkula. Dave also designed the cover art for all of my books and I am deeply indebted to him for his help.
October 1, 2012
I must add a post script. After five years of the dreaded ‘writer’s block’, I finally awakened a barrage of creative ideas in early December of 2011. In January I found my stride. If you have been keeping up with my novels you will remember that the last Moran male was Mickey . . . and Mickey became a Catholic priest. My drought had much to do with my new protagonist. In my imagination I met a likable guy named Brian Slade. Brian was a ‘doppelganger’–a German paranormal psych concept that refers to a double of another person (a ghost walker). So, with my priest Mickey in Duluth and down-and-out Brian in St. Paul, I had both characters and settings. From there came the magic of creativity. What started to be a doppelganger story soon became something much more complex. I’ve titled the new novel A Passage of Redemption and dedicated it to a dear friend, Colin Isaacson.
Since January I’ve accomplished at least five rewrites and had several friends read the manuscript and input their comments and insights. I’m grateful to Rich Dinter, Jim Huber, Andy Miller, and Norma and Charlie Grant. I really like this story! At the end of September, A Passage of Redemption was sent to Bang Publishing along with a really striking cover design created by Renee Anderson at Express Print in Hibbing.
Now that you have discovered this website, I am hopeful that you will share it with others who enjoy reading—especially fiction. I’ve asked my friend and the site designer, Jeremy Hendrickson, to include a blog page. It will be my intention to share whatever writing I’m doing (or contemplating, or procrastinating about) with whatever following I develop. I am also hopeful that that you, and everyone you know, will patronize my little PJM publishing house by purchasing a book or two or . . . There is no gift quite as timeless as a good book. Peace and God’s blessings.
P.S. August 2013. I so enjoyed Father Mickey that I had to continue with his escapades. Who could ever believe that a priest’s life had to be a regimented routine of Sunday masses, weekend baptisms, and marriage ceremonies . . . the stuff of a spiritual but often boring lifestyle. Wrong! In a novel to be published in October, ‘The Sons of Marella Windsong’ will arrive at your local bookstore. Its fun and fast-pased and full of colorful characters–some fictitious and some real. I’ve had a baseball element in every story I’ve told . . . but in my new novel America’s sport is a major subplot. And the Minnesota Twins, my beleaguered home team, are cleverly knit into the fabric of the story. More details of the new book will be posted on this website in September. (As with ‘A Passage of Redemption’ I intend to make ‘The Sons of Marella Windsong available to Kindle and Nook readers.)
Any endorsement an author may earn is golden. I was blessed to meet an established, NY Times best-selling author at a book-signing event at Howard Street Booksellers in Hibbing. William Kent Krueger has had great literary success with his many books–the latest is a classic story entitled ‘Ordinary Grace’. We exchanged books at the time with his promise to give me some feedback and a possible blurb for my future books. Kent didn’t forget and I received an endorsement that was truly wonderful. He said: “Pat McGauley is an author who knows his territory, and knows how to write a compleling story. It would be difficult to find a more authentic literary voice coming out of Minnesota’s North Country.” Wow!
‘The Sons of Marella Windsong’ has done very well in sales and acclaim. The novel was nominated for the ‘Minnesota Fiction Award’ and the ‘NEMBA’ for best novel in northeastern Minnesota for 2013. In January I began my ninth novel. It remains untitled but will continue in the vein of my previous two novels. Yes, another Father Mickey Moran story. But there is much more than the Duluth priest to light up my readers. I’m having great fun with a character named Eddie Olson, and great heartache with a single mother named Mary Reagan. Everything has been coming together and I’m hopeful of publishing before the end of this year.
My publisher (Bang/Brainerd.Mn) has assured that ‘THE LAST MORAN’ will be published in late October. So, I’m busy with the marketing of my new title-setting up publicity, book-signings, and other events. This is the hard stuff for me . . . selling a new title involves selling myself.
How time has passed. Today is April 9, 1917, Passion Sunday in the Christian world. Since ‘The Last Moran’, three years ago, I have published ‘The Sacred Seal’ and ‘TEARS’. I am currently working on the second draft of ‘TWELVE’. my twelfth novel–and, probably my last. Twelve is a story, unlike the two mysteries that preceded it, is unlike my previous novels (except for characters and locales) and is more a series of contemporary events connected to Father Mickey. However different in terms of plot, I think and hope it works as well as my others.
My readership has enjoyed both the characters in Mickey’s world and the bizarre circumstances he finds himself in. I have cut back my book-signing schedule but have enjoyed numerous speaking engagements. Also, an authors most important link is with his distributor. Mine has been Partners and they have gone out of business. So, I face a diminished market and the slow demise of independent booksellers, who, like Partner’s can no longer compete with ebooks, Amazon, and the big box stores like Barnes and Noble. It is what it is.