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Suspenseful young adult fantasy set in the Minnesota Northwoods

Book cover for the book "Maxwell Cooper and the Legend of the Inini-Makwa" and to the right, a photo of the author, Simon Hargreaves.
KAXE / Contributed
author, Simon Hargreaves
Writer Simon Hargreaves.

Writer Simon Hargreaves gets inspiration from the fantasy genre and guests at his northern Minnesota resort.

AKELEY — Simon Hargreaves is a writer living in Minnesota. But before that, he lived in California, went to school for photography, and worked in cinema and television. Family health issues led him to the Midwest and eventually Hargreaves and his wife settled in the Northwoods of Minnesota near Akeley, where they manage a resort.

In a recent What We’re Reading interview, Hargreaves talked about his novel, Maxwell Cooper and the Legend of the Inini-Makwa, and writing in the supernatural suspense genre.

Maxwell Cooper and the Legend of the Inini-Makwa is the story of 14-year-old Max Cooper, a highly talented young artist who dreams of attending the prestigious Apogee Art Academy to work on his fantasy drawings. But his father is fiercely against this, demanding that Max focus on the “real world.”

On their annual family vacation at a resort in Northern Minnesota, and in defiance of his father, Max draws a portrait of a local legend — the monster known as the Inini-Makwa, who magically comes alive. As friends and other resort guests keep disappearing, Max must find a way to reverse what he’s done.

Hargreaves explained the story originated with some advice he had read about writing: write for just one person. At the resort he manages, he was inspired to do so for one of the guests — a 9-year-old boy who spent all of time sitting in the lodge and talked with Hargreaves about becoming a writer himself.

“We sort of just sit and chat all week long while his family is here vacationing. So I'll pick this kid and I'll write this book for [him],” Hargreaves said.

The next week, with a fresh batch of vacationers, the resort provided Hargreaves with additional inspiration for Maxwell Cooper. He overheard a conversation in the lodge where a father was criticizing his son’s desired career path.

"We're looking for things that are just gonna explode your mind and broaden those horizons that you couldn't get just in the everyday world."
Writer Simon Hargreaves on fantasy writing.

“I thought, ‘I get that you want your kid to be successful and you don't want them to make mistakes, but you still gotta let your kid be a person and … let them follow the path that they want to follow.’ That conversation was sort of the impetus for the relationship between Max and his father in in the book,” Hargreaves explained.

He also looked back on his own youth for his character Max.

“As a 14-year-old boy, I remember massive, massive hormone shifts that made you angry and made you sort of resentful. You're just looking for that … one little toehold of freedom,” Hargreaves said. “And I don't think that he consciously knows that that's what he's looking for, but subconsciously it is there. That plays a big part in the conflict that he has with his dad throughout the book — that desire to be his own person but not really knowing what that means or how to do that.”

Writing his book in the supernatural and fantasy genre was a given for Hargreaves, who grew up reading fantasy.

“I think for young people especially, there’s a need and a desire for what David Farland, who's an acclaimed fantasy writer, calls ‘the wonder genre.’ We're looking for things that are just gonna explode your mind and broaden those horizons that you couldn't get just in the everyday world.”

Maxwell Cooper and the Legend of the Inini-Makwa was a 2023 Minnesota Book Award finalist and it’s Book One in what Hargreaves is calling The Bear Tooth Point series. He’s currently working on Book Two and has lots of stories lined up for future books.

Find out more about writer Simon Hargreaves on his website.

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Tammy works at Bemidji State University's library, and she hosts "What We're Reading," a show about books and authors.