Author Lorna Landvik came to town this week, toting a sheaf of one-liners and a litany of character impressions that entertained a band of loyal readers at the Brainerd Public Library.
The featured speaker in the library's lunchtime "brown bag lunch" series, Landvik tossed chocolate Hershey Kisses to any audience member willing to pose a question for the author to answer.
"It's my reward system for getting people to ask questions," she said later in an interview. "They respond because it's chocolate."
And respond they did, as many of the 65 mostly women peppered the author with questions about her professional and personal life.
With three successful novels in the marketplace and a fourth on the way, Landvik is fast becoming a major writer on the Ballantine label, as indicated by the company's decision to promote her works with nationwide book signing and speaking tours.
Her first novel -- "Patty Jane's House of Curl" in 1995 -- recently qualified for best-seller status when the number of sales passed 100,000, the author said.
Landvik's other two novels -- "Your Oasis on Flame Lake" in 1997 and "The Tall Pine Polka" in 1999 -- have made it onto regional best-seller lists.
"I haven't cracked the New York Times Bestseller List, yet," she chuckled, "but I'm happy with sales.
"I love it when it (sales) happens, but that's not my motivation for writing the book," she added. "However, the more it sells the more people are reading it."
Character-driven novels typically set in Minnesota, Landvik's works draw favorable comparison with those of Garrison Keillor and Fannie Flagg, according to reviews that appear at Internet bookseller sites.
Landvik said her characters are "never based on a specific person, but I draw on the characteristics of people I see around me."
Her novels have been greeted enthusiastically by reviewers around the country, gathering three consecutive Minnesota Book Award nominations in the process.
Kirkus Review termed her "Patty Jane's House of Curl" the "latest slice of American life, a genuine pleasure," and other reviewers have called her characters "clever and offbeat."
Landvik's earlier career as a standup comedian was readily apparent during her Brainerd speech Monday, sliding easily from joke to joke as she discussed her writing career.
She and her husband, artist Charles Gabrielson, reside in south Minneapolis with their two daughters.
The couple returned to Minneapolis in the mid-1990s so Landvik could pursue her writing career after a decade of modest success as an actress and comedian in Los Angeles.
Landvik said she wrote short stories during her acting and comedic pursuits but turned to long fiction "when I settled down enough to realize that's what I always wanted to do. I was distracted for a long time."
Her first novel, "Patty Jane's House of Curl," was picked up by a small press in 1995, reissued in paperback by Ballantine Books, which has published each of her subsequent novels in hardback and paperback.
Landvik's fourth novel, "Welcome to the Great Mysterious," is due on shelves in September, she said.
The author declined to discuss its characters or plot, other than to say the action takes place in a western Twin Cities suburb and in Manhattan.
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