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Minn. author Mary Casanova on hooking readers right from the start

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Mary Casanova is a Minnesota author of young adult and children's books.
Mary Casanova is a Minnesota author of young adult and children's books.

Mary Casanova is an award-winning author of over 40 books, many set where she lives, on the border of Minnesota and Canada. From her Dog Watch chapter books, to young adult novels like Ice Out and picture books like Utterly Otter Day, she’s been charming readers of all ages for decades.

Mary Casanova grew up in St. Paul and always dreamed of a life up north, writing.

Forty years and at least 40 books later, that’s exactly what Casanova has done with her life near the Minnesota and Canadian border.

This spring, she toured the Arrowhead Library System with a program about the writing process called “Up North, a Writer’s Journey.” She talks about writer’s block and research and using the five senses when writing. Essential to Casanova’s books and her talk are strong beginnings.

Mary Casanova/submitted
Young adult novel Frozen by Mary Casanova set in the 1920s

“Readers still need to know: ‘Why do I care? Why should I turn the page? What’s at stake for this character?’” Casanova said.

Casanova is writing more picture books and working on developing her young adult novels into television scripts. Set in the 1920s and 1930s in Voyageurs National Park, the novels feature teenagers dealing with economic disparities, Prohibition and the rugged, isolated terrain.

For example, in Frozen, Sadie Rose was left in a snowbank by a mother who worked in a brothel and adopted into a corrupt senator’s family. She embarks on a journey to discover who her mother was and to find her own voice.

Casanova writes for many age groups, but it’s girls in ninth through 12th grades she’s focused on recently when it comes to inspiring writers. She is the founder of Northwoods Young Writer’s Camp on an island in Rainy Lake. There may be a few slots available for summer of 2023.

In addition, she’s considering adding a workshop for adult women interested in writing as well. Find more information and email her directly for information on this summer at her website.

In this episode of the Between You & Me podcast, KAXE's Heidi Holtan and Chelsey Perkins talk about their own experiences as readers and writers to introduce Casanova's KAXE Morning Show conversation. One minor correction: the book Perkins mentioned about the writing process is actually called Save The Cat! — not Who Killed the Cat. KAXE regrets the error.

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