Edith Magnusson, the hard-working heroine in The Lager Queen of Minnesota is actually a composite of some of the women closest to author J. Ryan Stradal — his own mother and grandmothers. Stradal wasn’t seeing the strong, Midwestern women who raised him reflected well in contemporary fiction. So he decided to write those characters himself.
“Sometimes when they are represented they can be oversimplified or caricatured … ” he says. “I know these people too well to do that. They contain multitudes just like everyone does — only they don’t toot their own horn about it.”
Growing up in Minnesota, Stradal says it took time to find out how complex people were. Sure, people may present themselves simply, “but that certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t contain a great deal of complexity and intelligence and wonder,” Stradal says. “I saw that growing up, and I really wanted to write characters that mirrored that.”
The novel is a family saga and the story of family business. Stradal says he visited more than three dozen breweries in his research for the book. “The women I met working at these breweries were really inspiring,” he says.
On writing for his mom
I have one reader in mind when I write, and that’s my mom. … She passed away almost 15 years ago and has never read any of my published work.
J. Ryan Stradal
I have one reader in mind when I write, and that’s my mom. She’d wanted to be a writer herself and she raised me to be a writer. She’d gone back to college to get an English degree when I was a little boy and she’d read her homework assignments to me as bedtime stories. Growing up in that house, it was hard not to want to be a writer and be a novelist with that influence.
She passed away almost 15 years ago and has never read any of my published work. My first short story was published a few months after she died. So I feel I write to honor her legacy as a writer, and as an influence, and also to keep her alive in my heart. That’s why she ends up in so many of the characters. … It’s one way I think about her every day — is to write for her and put her in my characters.