It starts with the unequal distribution of inheritance through the sale of a family farm. It ends with two sisters and a granddaughter finding peace in their passion for brewing beer. The women in this story are devoted to their craft, although not always to each other. Their journey will resonate with families of any background in any part of the world.
Beer lovers will appreciate the attention to detail author J. Ryan Stradal brings to this novel, in which he pays tribute to his native Minnesota from his adopted home of Los Angeles. His ingrained love for family and tradition is gently blended with humor and a deep understanding of the grieving process.
In “The Lager Queen of Minnesota,” Stradal has developed a story that draws us in and reminds us of what is truly important. What comes through in this interview, as in his writing, is Stradal’s appreciation of his roots. Blood is thicker than water, and apparently, so is beer.
On his family inheritance
“The people that raised me really raised me in a way that made me feel not just eternally grateful to them, but grateful to them in a way that I feel like that’s who my audience is. I’m writing for them. I’m writing for my mom. I’m writing for my grandmother. I’m writing for my mom’s friends. I’m writing for the teachers and librarians who put books in my hands and who helped me be not just a writer, but the person I am today.”
On finding the balance between joy and grief
“I find I’m at my best as a writer when I write as open-hearted as possible, when I feel like my heart is opening here in this chair, looking at this screen, and I’m taking in the whole of the people who have loved me and have enabled me to be in this extremely fortunate, privileged situation to be writing a novel. And when I think about writing for them, and writing for people like my mom, I think about the complexity of their lives, and I try to honor that by creating characters that have this breadth of emotional experience, that are reflecting on a loss in one paragraph and doing something to make a reader laugh a few paragraphs later. I really want to create for my reader a sense of people frolicking within the extremes of human emotion.”
On enjoying a unique flavor of beer
“The Minnesota State Fair every year becomes a kind of a proving ground for unusual beer flavor. I remember one year – I think most years, actually – there’s a mini-donut beer. It’s Minnesota. It’s a mini-donut state. That was a big one. When I first had that, I thought, okay, here’s something they’re not even going to try in other places. They’re not going to do this in Washington State or Florida or Texas. I don’t know how good it’s going to be, but it’s going to be something that Minnesotans are going to attempt … and probably only Minnesotans.”