For fans of the classic Cat Who series, one of the enduring mysteries has always been where exactly is Moose County? Where do Qwilleran and his two sleuthing cats—Koko and Yum Yum—actually live and bust crime? The author, Lillian Jackson Braun, described the location as “400 miles north of everywhere.” But readers are pretty sure that the place is somewhere in Michigan. I’ve always figured the Upper Peninsula. But others speculate that it’s north of Detroit, on the thumb of the mitten that Lower Michigan looks like.
When I came up with the idea for the King Harald mysteries, I set it in a place called Beaver Tail County. And I’ve purposely been vague about where that is. All I’ve ever said is that it’s about two hours up the interstate from “the Cities.” I wanted Beaver Tail and New Bergen to be my own creations, taking bits and pieces of my home state and mashing them together.
Now if you’re from the American Upper Midwest, you’ve probably guessed that “the Cities” is shorthand for the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, here in Minnesota. I’m not aware of any other urban areas in this part of the country that are so nicknamed, although Iowa and Illinois do have their Quad Cities. (I’ve visited there several times, once for a project involving John Deere. A fun four town. Bix Beiderbecke country, too.)
But even though I’ve located New Bergen two hours north of the Cities, in my mind it’s a medley of areas that I love in the state. Beaver Tail County is farmland and prairie and pine forest and lakes and rocky cliffs. It has pretty little towns that resemble Grand Marais and Ely and Lanesboro and Northfield and New Ulm. It even has a well-ranked college, St. Magnus.
One of the most enjoyable things about writing a cozy series like the King Harald Mysteries is that I get to create a little town that I myself would love to live in. And since I’ve made Andy interim mayor of New Bergen, I can even control the politics. Now if only someone could create a Holodeck simulation of New Bergen, I’d be ready to take up residence.