My writing career began with a book that took me twenty years to actually bring to fruition. 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 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 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 main problem was in my characterizations. But, the challenge would be–how to give life and breath to the creations of my imagination. 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 likable Tony 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 was 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 underway 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’ portrays 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.
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. My third children’s story was THE MIDNIGHT HOUR and was beautifully illustrated by Rhonda Roskos of Grand Rapids. The story is magical and has been very successful.
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 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.
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 compelling story. It would be difficult to find a more authentic literary voice coming out of Minnesota’s North Country.”
How time has passed. Today is December 23, 2020, I hope to be starting my next novel in January. If I keep the same regimen as I have the past few years, the new story should be published in September or October. All I can say is that it will be a departure from the Mickey series. I have to admit that I am becoming weary of the publishing process. The story is one thing but getting that story to print is another. As a self-publisher I must go through several rewrites, have the story professionally formatted, obtain a copyright from the Library of Congress, purchase and ISBN (similar to our Social Security identification), purchase a barcode . . . and finally get the file to my publisher, Bang Printing, in Brainerd, MN. After I pick up cases of the new titles, the marketing begins. That’s the hard part. I must have enough sales to be able to publish the next novel. Believe me, with a mostly regional market, I consider myself to blessed to have enough success to keep my account in the black.
If you’ve read any of my books I’d appreciate your comments. My readers keep me inspired. Even further, it’s great if you make a comment on the site Goodreads. Many avid readers choose their books and authors by checking out what readers think on this well-respected site.
Thanks for your continued support.