Mystery House

Do You Know Minnesota Like Amy Knows Minnesota?

Amy Rea is a talented Minnesota writer (and knitter!) who published a book this year — about Minnesota.  It’s appropriately titled Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes: An Explorer’s Guide, and can be found on Amazon and at both independent and chain bookstores.  Isn’t this a nice cover?

Amy's Book Cover

I thought it was high time to chat with Amy about her book, and she graciously consented to an interview.  She’s so gracious, I didn’t even have to bribe her with cookies or anything.

T: Okay Amy, for the folks out there who don’t read KnitThink (yet) and have no idea who you are, who are you?

Amy: I’m a writer, reader, mom, wife, couch potato, knitter, cook (but not baker), and I hate the Christmas Shoes song. I’m just sayin’.

T: I haven’t heard the Christmas Shoes song.  I shall consider myself fortunate, and will try to keep it that way.  What’s your book about?

Amy: It’s a guidebook to Minnesota, covering all the interesting places to visit, sleep, and eat, and tips on getting around.

T: What made you interested in writing about Minnesota?

Amy: I’ve been a mostly lifelong resident (except for a couple of years in Vermont), and I’ve lived up north and in the Twin Cities, so I have a good grasp of different regions. When the opportunity appeared, it really appealed to me both because I know the state, but also because I knew I’d get to learn and see even more, which is exactly what happened.

Random MN 1

that’s just a random Minnesota winter shot.  As in, my backyard.
Because I am not a travel writer and am not running all over the state in freezing weather
just to get photos for this blog post.)

T: That’s the fun part of the book, too.  I’ve lived here for ages, and I found tons of places I’d never heard of in your book that I’ll have to add to our personal Places To Go file.  Our state’s full of surprises.

You also have a blog just for your book, A Closer Look At Flyover Land.  (And a column about things to do in Minnesota on WCCO’s blog, too!  She’s everywhere!)  What can we find on the blog that isn’t in the book?

Amy: There are lots of things. I’ll cover places I didn’t get a chance to visit and explore while researching the book, restaurants I didn’t know about or didn’t have time to check out, more in-depth coverage of one of my favorite topics (Festivals! The state is a giant party zone!), and occasional quirky news notes, such as a soon-to-come note about movie theater screenings of A Christmas Story (which, unlike the Christmas Shoes song, I love). Plus I’m compiling a list of other good MN blogs.

T: You’ve certainly been adding to my mental list of Things To Eat.  Now, confess.  How much yarn did you buy on your scouting trips?

Amy: What happens in yarn stores around MN stays in yarn stores around MN.

T: I’ll get that out of you later.  So, what was hardest part about writing the book?  The easiest?

Amy: The answer is the same for both. There’s so much to do and see. How to do and see it all–and how to write about–and yet, there was so much material, I never felt like I was stretching to fill pages. With more time, I could easily write a longer book.

T: I bet it was hard not kicking yourself afterwards about all the things you wish you could have included.  Or eaten.  What was the most memorable thing you ate, good or bad?

Amy: I have a bias for small cafes and diners, informal spots. Not that I don’t appreciate upscale, gourmet places, but I feel most at home in the little places. And that’s where the “comfort” food will be found. While visiting the North Shore and Duluth on a crazy-hectic schedule, I got lost while trying to find Skyline Parkway, a scenic but poorly marked road that overlooks Duluth and the harbor. I pulled into a little place called New London Café in a very foul mood, no doubt exacerbated by the fact that I was starving. The breakfast plate of fried eggs and New London Potatoes was nothing fancy, but utterly perfect, hot off the stove, and the server did an exemplary job of keeping my coffee cup refilled. Food and emotion, of course, are often paired, and this meal stands out in my mind not because it was so unique, but because it was very good and exactly what I needed at the moment.

T: Now I want potatoes and coffee in Duluth.  That’s the thing with your book.  It’s vividly written, and you can’t help but want to pile in the car and go off on a hunt for hidden Minnesota treasures after reading it.  But what about the other side — what was your least favorite place, someplace you felt obligated to tour for the book but really didn’t like?

Amy: Mall of America. No offense to those who love the place. It’s just not my cuppa tea. Although I do like the recently added American Girl store.

T: Not offended here.  I think the MOA is the fourth ring of Hell.  So what was your favorite place?  And what was the strangest place you visited?

Amy: Oh, wow. That’s a tough one. I loved the whole northeast quadrant of the state, from International Falls east to Grand Portage, and I love the river bluff towns (Mississippi, Minnesota, St. Croix rivers). I loved Lanesboro in the southern part of the state. And I loved the historical museums, small and large.

Strangest? Hmmm…maybe the strangest is because my expectations were off, but I almost bypassed visiting the Bronko Nagurski Museum in International Falls because he was a football star, and I’m not big into football. But I would have missed a really interesting cultural/historic period analysis.  Who knew?

T: I certainly didn’t.  Now, I’m sure that your husband was suitably impressed when your book came out, but what about your kids?  Did you get the sort of reaction Michelle Obama got after giving the biggest speech of her life:  “Mom, we have to have a sleepover”?

Amy: Let’s just say that her kids were more excited. But I guess having your Dad become President is a bigger deal than your Mom writing a guidebook to Minnesota!

T: It’s all relative, though.  And to a writer, a published book is a huge deal.  What was it like to walk into a bookstore and see your book on the shelf the first time?  Was it better than sex?

Amy: Pretty darn close! I still get a little thrill. And yes, every bookstore I walk into, I go look for my book. I’m gratified to report that Twin Cities bookstores, chains and independent, are being very supportive in stocking the book and prominently displaying it. Although sometimes it’s prominently displayed because I move it there.

T: You must have been in the stores on my side of town, or they’re doing a good job of display, because I haven’t yet had to move your book for you!  I know that you write fiction, too.  Did anything you encountered inspire ideas for your fiction?

Amy: Oh, yeah. Just seeing how much some of the little towns, particularly up north, have changed–in International Falls, there’s a wonderful coffee shop (the Coffee Landing) that served spinach-feta quiche, delivered by a server covered in tattoos and piercings. That would never have happened 20, 30 years ago.  There are arts communities springing up everywhere. That transition from old to new could make for some excellent fictional explorations.

Random MN 2

(Yes, another random Minnesota backyard shot.  We have nice trees here.)

T: I’ll look forward to what you do with those images.  Would you ever write another travel book, and if so, what would be your dream location?

Amy: I’d love to, but I do believe that actually living in the place for several years makes a difference, especially in a territory as large as Minnesota. However, if someone would like to pay my expenses for me to, say, explore London for a couple of years, I bet I could write a dandy travel book.

T: I bet you could, too.  Expenses would include Colinette, yes?  So, now that you’ve breathed a big sigh of relief that your book is done and it’s wonderful and it’s in the stores, what’s next for you?

Amy: I’m currently ghostwriting a book for some corporate clients, working as a project manager and lead writer for the Sajai Foundation, and tackling my long-neglected novel.

T: Quite a lot, in other words.  Thanks, Amy!  I love your book, and I’m very much looking forward to that novel.

I can think of no finer gift to give for Christmas than a book, and hey, there are still shopping days left before Christmas!  Now, think about this.  If you have relatives coming in for the holidays to eat you out of house and home and generally make you nuts, give them a copy of Amy’s book so they can explore Minnesota for a few hours and you can get some rest.  Win-win, yes?  Come on now, start clicking!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. * deb says:

    Yes but can she “sell” Minnesota on a day like today -6 degrees and dropping!! Come to think of it, if anyone could, it would be Amy!! Great interview with a GREAT lady!!

    Posted 9 years, 6 months ago
  2. * bezzie says:

    You guys are nuts! But great interview!

    Posted 9 years, 6 months ago
  3. * Chris says:

    That was a fun interview! But now I’m really hungry for some reason…

    Posted 9 years, 6 months ago
  4. * cursingmama says:

    So – Amy hates Christmas Shoes too 😉
    I knew that….
    But I’ll share it with you so you can form your own opinion….
    I bet its a lot like mine & Amy’s.

    Posted 9 years, 6 months ago
  5. Cool interview! I’ll be sure to get a copy. 🙂

    Posted 9 years, 6 months ago
  6. * kmkat says:

    I agree with both of you, MOA is the fourth ring of hell. But the rest of MN rocks!

    Posted 9 years, 6 months ago
  7. * Amy says:

    Awwwwwww…you guys are too nice.
    Deb–I have a hot cup of chai tea, am bundled cozily in my big sweater, and sat reading on the couch with two snoring dogs. Can’t enjoy that in 90F weather!!

    Posted 9 years, 6 months ago
  8. * Carrie K says:

    I’ve already got my copy of her book, great interview Miss T! I can’t believe MN sounds so darn enticing. I live in CA for Pete’s sake.

    Posted 9 years, 6 months ago

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