Readers might recognize Rochester in book's pages
Columist Steve Lange speaks with fiction writer Cathie Armstrong.
Cathie Armstrong is a Rochester resident and author of the fiction books "The Edge of Nowhere" and "Roam." She answered questions in my regular Rochester Magazine feature "10 (or so) Questions."
Alright, so "Roam" is set in Rochester, and Rochester South High School is clearly Mayo High. You said that some characters were inspired by teachers and students who made an impact on your daughter (Amber) when she was a student. Give me one of the teachers.
Chris Schmitz. My father was a high school history teacher, and Mr. Schmitz is a history teacher. Mr. Schmitz comes to class every day in a suit and tie; my father also always wore suits and ties. So in the book I used Mr. Schmitz mostly as the prototype for the teacher, but also my dad.
My offices are in the Post Bulletin, and you call it the Rochester Daily. So I am clearly the “attractive editor in the wrinkled grey suit,” correct?
Of course, you are.
That’s what I thought. You’re from a small town in Oklahoma. What brought you to Rochester?
My husband’s job. He got a job offer the morning that we got married.
Really? So before the service, before the wedding?
At 9 o’clock that morning. The wedding was at 6 o’clock. And he told me about it at 7:30.
So he told you after the wedding?
Yeah. The short part of it is he said that he’d gotten a job offer from IBM. And I said, “Oh, where is it in terms of location?” He said, “Rochester, Minnesota.” We were here 18 months and they offered him full-time. And so he’s been in the same area for almost 30 years.
Alright, this sounds like a terrible version of “Let’s Make a Deal,” but are you carrying a cheap old man handkerchief?
Usually, but I switched bags before I came here. So my dad always carried a handkerchief with him everywhere he went. It sounds crazy, but when he passed away, we obviously began to take different things that were meaningful. I took his handkerchiefs. I have maybe half a dozen of them and it’s just kind of like a little talisman for me. My dad was always my biggest fan. I mean, there was nothing I could do wrong.
So he loved your books?
My dad, unfortunately, was still in the mid-stages of dementia when I was publishing my first book, "Edge Of Nowhere." So I hurried to get the book released because it was inspired by his family, and I wanted him to get a chance to read it. But he was already in the claws of dementia, and so he would read a little bit and he couldn’t remember what he’d read. So I’d call and he’d say, “Oh, I’m reading your book, it’s just wonderful, I just don’t know how you got all this right,” and I’d say, “What page are you on?” and he’d say, “I’m on page 52.” The next day I’d call and then he’d say, “Oh, your book is so great, I’m just enjoying it so much.” “What page are you on?” “27.” He read the first 50 pages a lot! He carried a copy of it in his jacket everywhere he went and he showed everybody.
That’s awesome. Usually, I don’t like to end these on a touching note, but I think I have to here.
It’s a good ending.
Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.