"Bone" voyage

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May 21, 2002 // UPDATED 1:20 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Anjula Razdan
Anjula Razdan

Ex-Downtown lawyer once read mysteries to relieve workplace stress; then she started writing them

After serving her time, former lawyer and real estate developer Susan Funk took a deep breath, got out of the rat race and penned \"Bone Flour,\" a historical mystery set on Downtown riverfront that was published just a few months ago.

The southwest Minneapolis resident thought her new avocation as a writer would be a quiet, solitary activity, a far cry from the Downtown hustle and bustle that she had left behind.

She was wrong.

\"My characters were always with me,\" Funk said. \"They\'d wake me up in the middle of the night and tell me what they should do, or they\'d come talk to me when I was on a treadmill.\"

Sometimes, Funk said, her husband would suggest after work that they socialize with friends.

\"A lot of times, I would say, \'Oh, I\'m so sick of people,\' and he would look at me like I was crazy because I had been alone all day,\" she said. \"But, I had spent the whole day with my characters. It really felt like there were other people in our house.\"

Hence, the book\'s dedication to Funk\'s husband: \"To WOOD, for sharing our life with all my \'friends\' in Bone Flour while I was writing this book.\'\"

Mystery devourer Sitting with Funk in her warm Lynnhurst neighborhood home, you get the idea that she must been a good lawyer. Wry and sharp, Funk has the sort of fast-talking, whipsmart persona that most of us achieve only after numerous shots of espresso.

A native of La Crosse, Funk has lived in the Twin Cities for 20 years. Most of her life, she said, has been on a very \"linear path.\"

\"You know, I went from high school to college to law school to a big firm to high-profile projects,\" she said. \"But, there was always a side of me that said, \'Hey, I\'m here too.'"

Devouring mysteries to mitigate the stress of workaday life, Funk said she would often daydream during \"boring Downtown meetings\" about potential mystery books she could write.

\"I often would read these books and think, \'I can do better than that,\'\" she said.

Deadline delay She and her husband saved their money, and about eight years ago quit their dayjobs and traveled for a few years to Asia, Central America and Europe. After the backpacking trip, Funk said she thought she could start and finish her book in three months.

Wrong again.

Funk started on the book in early 1997 and had a first draft within ten months, that she sent to select family and friends to read. After another rewrite and another critique, Funk said, almost three years had disappeared.

\"I finally decided to cut this thing loose because it was talking over my life,\" she said.

Funk sent the manuscript out to several national agents, a process she said was very impersonal. After seeing her manuscript end up in a Boston agency and sit there for more than a year and a half, Funk decided to look at local presses and eventually hooked up with Edina-based Beaver\'s Pond Press.

\"I had a lot of control working with a small press,\" said Funk, who chose a 1934 pencil drawing of the Stone Arch Bridge as the cover of her book.

Currently, Funk is in the marketing phase of her book, which is in one store (see sidebar). She hasn't heard if Ruminator, Orr Books and Barnes & Noble will carry \"Bone Flour.\"

Book clubbing A great marketing tool, she said, has been the book club network.

\"Two weeks ago, I spoke at my sister-in-law\'s book club in Grand Forks, N.D., and everybody was so excited because an \'author from the Cities\' was coming, so that was big time,\" Funk said. \"I have five book clubs I\'m scheduled to talk to and, of course, they all have to buy the book."

\"You have to be a little shameless during this process," she added with a laugh, "and, that\'s taking a little bit getting used to.\"

Funk is still on the fence about writing another book -- she's heartened by questions about a sequel -- but, if she does, she said she might name her characters after family and friends, as she did in "Bone Flour."

Is there any similarity beyond each character and the real namesake? Funk says no.

"Not at all," Funk said. "My 14-year-old niece is the drunken mother of the villain."

\"Bone Flour,\" by Susan K. Funk. Published by Beaver\'s Pond Press, Inc., Edina. Copyright 2002.

Available at Once Upon a Crime bookstore, 24th St. and Lyndale Ave. S, and through www.midwestbookhouse.com.

Back cover: A Fast-Paced Historical Crime Novel Set in Minnesota. After a late-night fire in the historic Mill District, architect Emma Randolph unearths a human skeleton in the abandoned, century-old grain elevator built by her great grandfather.

Emma has her suspicions about the fire -- and isn\'t afraid to voice them. But the identity of the mystery corpse soon becomes her real obsession. Emma\'s investigation takes her back to the golden age of the flour barons and the violent labor unrest of the Depression years...and from splendid mansions on an exclusive city lake to a rustic cabin in the remote northern woods. It also threatens to expose dark secrets long buried in her family\'s past -- and may cost Emma her life!