SLAYTON — Dovray natives Pamela Bastien and Sheldon Schmitt were raised by parents who were "always reading."
Their mother was a teacher, and their father had subscriptions to 14 different newspapers. As adults, the siblings have each written a novel, and although neither currently lives in southwest Minnesota, they returned for a book tour — with the Murray County Fair as the final stop.
Schmitt said his novel began to take shape when he came home to visit during his service as chief of police in Sitka, Alaska.
"People always wanted to hear what it was like up there," he said.
He got used to sharing stories about his experiences in remote Alaska, and eventually began writing them down. Over time, a full-length novel took shape.
The main character of Schmitt's book, "Bush Blues," is a police officer, like Schmitt himself. The novel wasn't originally planned as a cop story, Schmitt said, but the character is a vehicle for telling stories about the Alaskan people and culture.
The landscape of the story is "Wild West-y" and "off the grid," Schmitt explained. "Andy Griffith kind of policing" serves as the backdrop for character development.
"Telling the stories is the easy part," Schmitt said.
More difficult for him has been publishing and marketing his book. He submitted "Bush Blues" to about a dozen publishers before he finally got a bite.
"I was pretty freaking excited to get the call," Schmitt recalled. "It's one of those moments you don't forget."
After Schmitt's book was accepted by Koehler Books, he told the publisher that his sister had a finished book as well. He was told to have her send it.
Bastien's manuscript was 126,000 words, and the editor asked her to cut it down to 100,000.
"I didn't want to cut anything out," she said. "It was my baby."
Both Bastien and Schmitt reflected that learning to work with an editor was a process. They realized over time that an editor is not being harsh, but is an expert who knows what sells books.
Bastien's book, "Counselor of the Beach," is a romance that follows the story of a Minnesota psychiatrist who retires to Naples, Fla. — a city Bastien called home for 18 years.
"A lot more goes on at the beach than you might think," Bastien said. Her nearly two decades of beach dwelling has made her something of a beach life expert, she added.
After having the book accepted, the second major moment in the publishing process is actually seeing the physical book, Schmitt noted. It's a surreal experience for the siblings to see their names on the covers.
Their southwest Minnesota tour included stops at the Marshall and Westbrook libraries. Westbrook, where the siblings graduated high school, drew the biggest crowd. The Murray County Fair was their final stop before returning home.
"I wish Mom would have been alive," Bastien said. "She would have been right there with us."
Both Bastien and Schmitt are already working on sequels to their novels.