Jane Fredericksen has been writing since she was a child, starting with a book of poems in first grade that she cribbed greatly off Robert Louis Stevenson. She didn’t have time to worry about the implications of plagiarism, however, because she and a friend had already jumped into a new project — creating serial comic books, complete with cliffhangers and illustrations.
As the Winona native grew up, so did her writing. She majored in journalism and spent 20 years doing freelance reporting in radio. She took writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. And after winning a screenwriting contest, she worked up a movie script that she pitched to Hollywood.
The script got some nibbles but no takers, something she now realizes was for the best. She reworked it as a novel, “Redemption’s Run,” which is this year’s Star Tribune summer serial and starts next Sunday.
In rewriting it as prose, she was struck that the 110 pages of a typical film script were not enough to dive into the story the way she wanted.
“After a while, I felt like I really want to pull this and get into it in more depth, into the characters and into the themes a little bit more than I felt I had a chance to do in a movie script,” Fredericksen said.
Her debut novel takes place in Bayfield, Wis., and centers on 12-year-old Kacie, who is searching for her father in every boat that passes by. When a young captain arrives in town, she believes he could be her father and stows aboard his boat, Redemption, in hopes of finding what she’s been searching for her whole life.
Counting its first incarnation as a script, Fredericksen worked on the story off and on for 15 years. She works at Mahtomedi Middle School as a paraprofessional working with special-education students, doing her writing mostly during summers.
She described her writing process as a “hate-love relationship.”
“There are things about it that you passionately love when it’s there and you get that special moment, the aha moment,” she said. “But then it can be frustrating, too, when things aren’t working right or you hit the block.”
We talked with her about the book, how she approaches writing and her experience — or lack thereof — sailing on Lake Superior.
Q: Where did the idea for “Redemption’s Run” come from?
A: I actually had been writing a different middle-grade novel and it wasn’t going anywhere. My characters were literally lost in the woods. So I closed my eyes at one point when I was sitting at my desk and tried to go to my happy place, and one of my happy places is Bayfield because I’ve been going up there a long time.
As I was doing that, I had this image of a young girl in a boat just sailing by, and she had this really determined look in her eye. I remember asking her, “What are you doing?” And she said, “I’m looking for my father,” and then she just sailed away.
This sounds sort of hokey, but that image stayed with me, and suddenly I knew I just had to leave those other characters in the woods and go follow this one.
Q: How did the story turn from the original movie to a novel?
A: Having the script was nice because there was a bit of a backbone to it already, so I knew what the basic story line was. I’ve been working on the story for so long, my husband jokes that I went through three computers.
I’d work it this way for a while, and then decide to do something else with it, and then revise a section of it. But just sitting down and writing the first draft of the novel took probably three months because I knew the general story line of it — it was just things I wanted to pull out more. I really wanted to work on the ending, because that was the feedback I had gotten.
Q: You mentioned that Bayfield is one of your happy places, and it is the prominent setting throughout the novel. Why did you choose Bayfield?
A: It’s such a fascinating place; the history is so rich, and it’s so scenic. There’s so many places to go, you could probably go to any one of the different Apostle Islands and probably have a different story because every one of them is so unique.
I’ve gone on a number of sailing trips there, overnight and visiting, probably since about 2003.
But I had visited Bayfield many times before that, too. A friend of mine took me up there one time, and I fell in love with the place and just kept going up there and visiting.
Q: Are any of the characters inspired by real people?
A: I always say that my characters are a little bit of me, so as a 12-year-old there’s part of me in Kacie, part of her in me — that stubbornness, determination. She’s probably braver than I am, though. There’s no one in particular she’s based on, though. She came as a fully formed character.
Q: Did you do any outside research on sailing for the novel?
A: I did a lot of research — I like to say I know enough about sailing to be dangerous at it. I am not an expert by any means, and I’m sure there are going to be people who take issue with some of the things in the story, but I justify it by saying these are the characters and these are the actions they took.
A lot of things I had to research online and in-depth, like what are the procedures you do when there’s a man overboard, what are the procedures for reefing and dealing with a storm, and what are emergency medical procedures on a boat.
Q: Did you take any trips to Bayfield for research?
A: Yeah, I was kind of mixing research and pleasure. They have a wonderful museum there, too, so I certainly availed myself of that. And if I took a sailing trip, I always pumped my captains with questions to the point where they probably thought, “Oh, my gosh, what is this person doing?”
Q: Where do you find the time to write, especially during the school year?
A: That’s always a challenge. I am a believer, though not an adherent, of the “write every day” policy. I find it easier to do so during the summer — I do write every day during the summer, so that’s probably been the bulk of my time where I’ve written. But I do try to write during the school year, as well.
I’m not good at doing it in the morning. I’m not a morning person — so it’s mostly afternoons when I get home and evenings.
Q: What are you working on next?
A: Right now I’m kind of between projects. I’m just trying to develop a new one right now. I’m actually pulling out something that I had written in high school; it’s Dystopian. The timing on it may or may not be good, so we’ll find out. But I’m working with that again and developing the characters and the setting. It’s very different, because it’s more in the future.
Kelsy Ketchum is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.