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Award-winning author Peter Geye will make his second personal appearance in Cambridge on Sept. 30 at the Cambridge Library in support of his book “The Ski Jumpers.”

Award-winning author Peter Geye will make his second personal appearance in Cambridge on Sept. 30 at the Cambridge Library in support of his book “The Ski Jumpers.”
In 2013 Cambridge readers were introduced to award-winning author Peter Geye when his book “Safe from the Sea” was chosen as the Cambridge Community Read. On Sept. 30, Geye is returning to Cambridge Public Library in a free event to discuss his new book “The Ski Jumpers.” 
“The Ski Jumpers” is the story of a writer and former ski jumper facing a terminal diagnosis who takes one more leap — into the past of soaring flights and broken family bonds.
How would you describe The Ski Jumpers to potential readers?
It’s the story of a broken family, one held together mostly by the fond memories of ski jumping two brothers share. It’s about estrangement and reconciliation, and the difficult forms of love that drive both. And it’s the story of a happy marriage.
But it’s also about ski jumping! And gangsters and crimes and drug dealing. Lastly, it’s another homage to the state I call home, perhaps especially to the north Minneapolis neighborhood I grew up in.
The Ski Jumpers follows Jon on his journey and struggle with a bad health diagnosis, but the story isn’t really about Jon and his health. Would you describe for readers what the book’s central theme is to you? Is it family? Is it redemption?
I’m loathe to assign meanings for readers, but for myself, the book is mostly about reconciliation, forgiveness, and the deep entanglement that is family life. 
There are so many journeys through time in this book to bring the reader and the characters through to the other side, but were there any pieces that were edited out or weren’t included that you might like to share with readers now?
Most of what was edited out were still more ski jumping scenes, if you can believe that!
But the question of the timeline is something I worked through literally for years, trying to devise a way to create the impression of a lived life. Seems to me we experience the world largely through three lenses: our memories, the moment we live in now, and our anticipation of whatever’s to come. Certainly, Jon experiences it this way. I hope I’ve demonstrated how interconnected these aspects are. 
In 2013 you were part of the Cambridge Community Read for Safe from the Sea. Can you tell me about your experience in our community?
I consider events like the Cambridge Community Read to be enormous honors. I know decisions about what books to read for events like that aren’t made easily, and that at any given time there are literally thousands of books that might fit the bill. That alone makes it humbling and very gratifying.
But then, too, there’s the chance to connect with communities in a very real and intimate way. That’s just the best. It is, in fact, the reason I show up at my desk each morning. That is, in hopes my work finds a community of readers.
Some of the Characters in The Ski Jumpers come back from Safe from the Sea which came out in 2010. Have you been thinking of this story since then or why did you tie this book back to that book?
I started writing The Ski Jumpers about the same time I finished writing Safe from the Sea, but I failed it time and again. When I finally figured out what the book was going to be about, and how it might fit together, including the Torr family and their cabin on Lake Forsone was a big part of the story. Way back when, though, I had no idea the Torrs would be a part of this book
Do you want to build a body of work that connects?
Ten or twelve years ago, I didn’t know the answer to this question was yes. But it most certainly is. I’m not sure why this is the case, but I take great satisfaction in finding ways to bring the books together. Even if it’s only tangentially. I especially like the notion that all these characters I’ve fallen in love with can connect in some way. Strange, I know. But also true.
Your characters are always so richly drawn. Have you always been a collector or observer of human nature?
I think this must be true, though I didn’t always notice it. What I have known for a long, long time is that I’ve always had a lot of empathy for people. This is true of people I know and love, of course, but it’s also true in a very general sense. For example, if I see a couple getting married in a park or walking out from their church under a storm of rice and well wishers, I almost spontaneously cry! No kidding!
At the back of the book, you talk about learning to ski jump at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. How much of the ski jumping competitions were drawn from your own life? How much of the book in general is drawn from your own past experiences?
Certainly I used my own life and experiences to tell the story, but it’s almost like those experiences are mere shadows of what happens in the book. That is, they’re all set in different years and places than what happened to me. I wanted to create that distance to ensure I was giving the story to Jon and Anton and Pops, instead of hoarding it for myself.
It’s also worth pointing out that though my dad and brother and I all ski jumped together, none of us were nearly as good as the characters in the book. For me, in a strange way, it was a chance to be a better ski jumper than I ever was in real life.
Every writer I’ve met has a story about why they’re drawn to the craft. What is your origin story? Why do you have to write?
I owe an awful lot to my high school English teacher, Dave Beenken. It was in his class that I learned to love to read, and that I wanted to write. I remember the way he challenged me to experience the stories he assigned, and as soon as I engaged with them, I knew I wanted to create a similar sensation. I’m so glad I met that man, and so thankful for his patience with me.
When did you learn your words had power?
In all honesty, it wasn’t until after my first book was published. I did an event where a woman stood up during the Q & A portion of the evening, and broke into tears because her relationship with her father was much like the protagonist in the book’s was. She told me she never had a chance to reconcile with her own father, and yet she found comfort in the story. I was shaken hard by that interaction, and in a weird way, I’m always trying to live up to the standard of creating that kind of potential depth in the books I write now.
In your opinion, besides your own books, what is the most underappreciated novel?
Most novels are underappreciated. But a novel I love as much as any I’ve ever read is In the Night of Memory by Linda LeGarde Grover. This is a book that should be read by everyone.
What can readers expect when they see you at the event here in Cambridge?
Hopefully lots of laughs! I write serious books, and I aspire to do important work, but it’s also true I think we could all use a little more laughter in our lives. It brings us closer together and helps us set aside our differences. So I’ll try to tell a few good jokes even as I describe and talk about a serious and sometimes sad book.
What can they expect from you in the future?
I’ve just sold two more novels, the first pair of a planned five book series looking back through the whole history of the state of Minnesota, from many vantages. It’ll take me at least a decade to see the whole project through, but the first book in the series should be published in 2024. 
Meet Peter Geye at the Cambridge Public Library in the Great Northern Room Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. 
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