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Lake Country Faces: Pequot Lakes grad becomes twice published author with 'Blood Up North'

Fredrick Soukup - known as Mike when growing up in Pequot Lakes - publishes literary fiction novels "Bliss" and "Blood Up North."

Pequot Lakes author Fredrick Soukup and family.jpeg
Fredrick Soukup; his wife, Ashley; and their daughter, Clare, 2, pose with Soukup's two published novels, "Bliss" and "Blood Up North," at their home in St. Paul in January 2022.
Contributed / Fredrick Soukup

After graduating from college in 2010, Fredrick Soukup worked a variety of different jobs, including at a deli, as a personal care advocate for vulnerable adults, in law enforcement and at a financial business in an annuity call center.

“I kind of bounced all around,” Soukup said.

But he always knew he wanted to write.

Persistence paid off, and Soukup now anticipates the release of his second literary fiction novel in February. “Blood Up North” follows “Bliss,” published in 2020.

I always knew I would be creative in some capacity or I wouldn’t be happy.
Fredrick Soukup, author

Soukup wasn’t a writer when attending Pequot Lakes Schools, where he graduated in 2006. People are more likely to remember him as Mike Soukup. His middle name is Michael, and he went by Mike growing up.

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“When I was in kindergarten, there was another kid named Fred … so I went by Mike,” he said.

The son of Fred and Roxanne Soukup, he lived in Pine River until age 5, when his family moved to Pequot Lakes. He attended Pequot Lakes Schools and enjoyed playing sports in high school, particularly football and basketball.

During his senior year, he broke his leg during the homecoming football game.

“After I broke my leg, my passion kind of shifted toward music,” Soukup said.

He studied music, wrote songs and played guitar at St. John’s University in Collegeville, where he earned a degree in philosophy.

“It all kind of shifted toward writing fiction,” he said. “I’m not a great singer or guitar player, but I’m able to put lyrics down. I always thought, if that’s what I’m good at, that’s what I should pursue.

“I always knew I would be creative in some capacity or I wouldn’t be happy. It’s a lot of work and I've come a long way. There’s a lot of work to do yet,” Soukup said.

Living in St. Paul since 2011, Soukup and his wife, Ashley, have a 2-year-old daughter, Clare, and a second daughter due in April. Soukup is able to write full time while watching his daughter while Ashley works for General Mills.

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He’s written a lot of manuscripts - “more than I can count” - that he sent to agents and publishers. Receiving rejection letters comes with the art form and he’s used to that.

“I had a lot to learn about the craft - everything basically,” Soukup said. “Characters, setting up scenes, story hierarchy, syntax. Things I was vaguely familiar with but didn’t feel were important. I was really wrong about that and over the past 12 years now I've had to learn a lot of new things.”

Several agents were interested in his debut novel, “Bliss,” which is a story of love complicated by a young couple’s socioeconomic and racial differences and is partially set in Minnesota. But they all passed on it, so Soukup turned to independent presses and found Regal House Publishers.

“‘Bliss’ was born of my experiences working at a juvenile detention center in St. Paul,” Soukup said, citing the major cultural differences and meeting people from such different backgrounds with such different stories.

“Bliss” was a finalist for the 2021 Minnesota Book Awards, received a 2020 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) bronze medal in the category of Great Lakes Fiction, and was a finalist for the 2020 Eric Hoffer Award.

The author-writer I was when I started ‘Blood Up North’ is quite a bit different than who I am right now.
Fredrick Soukup, author

Another independent press - Vine Leaves Press - picked up “Blood Up North,” which will debut Feb. 15. Set in the rural northwoods of Backus, the novel centers on young Cass, who agrees to help her brother hide cash he stole from a drug dealer. To protect herself, she must fend off their corrupt cop uncle, lawless cousins and vicious father.

“The work will appeal to fiction readers who enjoy gritty, fast-paced thrillers,” a news release says.

Explaining why he based the novel in Backus, Soukup said his grandfather lived there and he spent a lot of time there growing up.

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“The house where lots of the action takes place in ‘Blood Up North’ is the house, in my mind, where he lived,” Soukup said, noting he liked the backwoods setting.

“Characters in the novel are sort of devious and wicked and coarse, and that’s not my experience with people from Cass County. It served the art and that’s why I did it,” he added.

Drafts take roughly a year to write, with three to four months to formulate a plot and gather material he needs to write, and another six to eight months to execute it. Soukup started writing “Blood Up North” in 2017 and was still editing as late as last fall.

“The author-writer I was when I started ‘Blood Up North’ is quite a bit different than who I am right now,” he said, noting he felt the same with “Bliss.”

He’s currently working on three other manuscripts. One is done and he’s sending it to independent presses. “Ashes to Ashes” is about two foster brothers who reunite following the passing of their foster mother. The novel is set in Pequot Lakes, but Soukup changed the town’s name in his book to Sibley.

The idea comes from his family taking care of foster children when he was young, which he said was formative for him.

He has a couple of other works he’s in the process of editing and sharpening. His goals include continuing to write and progress as an artist while raising his family in St. Paul.

Regarding his success thus far, Soukup said:

“I don’t really think about anything in terms of success and failure, or I try not to. I always feel like I'm coming up short and I haven’t reached where I want to go. … I just feel like I still have so much more to do, so much work to do.”

Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.

Related Topics: PEOPLELAKE COUNTRY FACESPEQUOT LAKESBOOKS
Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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