Minnesota author Fredrick Soukup, a Pequot Lakes High School graduate, did not play it safe when writing his debut novel, "Bliss." The work of literary fiction, partially set in Minnesota, paints a picture of love complicated by a young couple’s socioeconomic and racial differences.

“Writing 'Bliss' presented a personal challenge because years of examining its characters’ worldviews had a powerful effect on my own,” Soukup said in a news release, referring to his experience writing the 225-page novel that depicts America at its best and worst. “I’m not an expert on America, on race or on love. My time with 'Bliss' has further convinced me that the realm of fiction is for those with more questions than answers, those who wish to understand the things which they almost certainly can’t.”

The artistic result of Soukup’s labor is a modern-day "Romeo & Juliet," in which societal constructs, not families, imperil the relationship between white main character, Connor, and strong-willed, confident Danielle, a woman of color. The compelling and thought-provoking work will appeal to socially conscious readers who wish to honestly explore these dynamics themselves.

"Soukup's characters are like tidal waves, the changes in their lives build quietly, grippingly and crash into the reader with real force,” Kyle Ellingson, a short-story author and fellow Minnesotan whose stories have appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Redivider and Chicago Quarterly Review, said in the news release. “I've read him for years, and while 'Bliss' may be his debut, it is just a glimpse of the gifts he has to offer.”

Interested readers can pre-order the book in paperback from Regal House Publishing and major outlets for $15.95. The novel releases March 2, when it will be available in stores across the state and country.

Soukup is a St. Paul-based literary fiction author, a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School and St. John’s University. He has published works in Fluent Magazine and Sou’wester. He was a semifinalist for the 2017 American Short Fiction Prize and shortlisted by C&R Press for its 2019 Book Award.