Windom author turns detached garage into book haven

Windom author turns detached garage into book haven
Photo by Todd Hafermann

Windom resident Nicole Kronzer’s first young adult novel, “Unscripted,” comes out April 21, and she’s already at work on her next book inside her detached garage on Wentworth Avenue — in a space she’s created as her personal writing nook. 

When Kronzer realized she wanted to build a writing space, she and her husband, Dan, went looking on Nextdoor, where they found the names of three contractors recommended by neighbors. 

The first two contractors visited their Portuguese Colonial home and listened to their idea — they initially wanted to build a sunroom atop their tuck-under car garage — and then announced that the plan was crazy and too expensive. 

The third contractor was Dan Hanson, of Hanson Remodeling. 

“Dan came around and said, ‘It’s pretty expensive, but I’ll write it up,’” Nicole Kronzer said.

After receiving the quote, the Kronzers agreed it was out of their price range. 

They went through a few other ideas, including building a sunroom behind their house, which was still prohibitively expensive, and building an additional floor on top of their house —also impossible. 

Then a member of the Hanson Remodeling team, Julie Durand (who’s since moved on from the firm), suggested working with the unattached garage, which Kronzer had already been using as a writing space in the summer. 

“Well, you’ve got that little building,” Durand told Kronzer. “It already exists. What if we just winterize it?” 

The project’s total cost was about $70,000, including two built-in bookshelves, six new windows, a new door and screen door, a heating/cooling system, a new roof,and a new hardwood floor and subfloor.

Windom home remodeled
Nicole Kronzer had the detached garage outside her Windom home remodeled into a cozy space where she can write her books in peace. Photo by Todd Hafermann

A space to write 

Kronzer wrote her first (as yet unpublished novel) in summer 2015 in the detached garage next to her house. 

Kronzer’s youngest of two daughters was three at the time, and was finally able to safely navigate the slide in the backyard.

“When she stopped pitching herself headfirst off of things, I thought, ‘I can write now,’” she said. 

When the Kronzers moved in more than 15 years ago, the detached garage had windows and a door, but no screens or ventilation. The Kronzers made screens and put down decking. They painted the walls and pulled down sheetrock from the ceiling. 

The family used the garage space as a playhouse for the kids, and Kronzer used it as a writing space during the summer months, sitting in an Ikea chair and writing by hand in a notebook. During the winter, she had to move into her bedroom. “I hate working in my bedroom,” she said. “It’s dark, which is great for sleeping but not great for writing.” 

The family affectionately had been calling the garage “the Burrow,” after the Weasley family’s magical house in Harry Potter.

Nicole Kronzer
Nicole Kronzer sits inside her converted writer’s garage. Photo by Sheila Regan

Working with what they had 

Hanson said using the existing garage structure provided an opportunity to create Kronzer’s ideal writing space without changing the roofline of the main house, which would cause the project’s cost to balloon.

The work involved reinforcing the garage’s structure, which was somewhat compromised. Hanson’s team needed to do shoring and additional concrete work. 

“We insulated it and redid the walls,” he said. They also put in an air conditioner with a mini-split system, providing both heating and cooling. 

“It allowed us to create a cool space to focus on her writing,” Hanson said. “It allows her to go all year with nice windows, a writing space and a sitting space for her kids if they want to come join her.” 

The goal of the design was to create a kind of oasis for a writer to be able to focus away from the distractions of daily life. 

The Burrow, which is about 14 feet by 20 feet, is brightened by 6 windows. The vaulted ceiling and cool natural wood finish on the walls gives it “a cabin-y feel,” Hanson said. 

His team created custom cabinets for Kronzer’s books and supplies; on one side of the garage she has shelves full of her favorite novels (all autographed), which she peruses when she’s searching for inspiration. A shelf on the other side of her desk holds her books without autographs, novel drafts and supplies. 

“It feels like you are stepping into a little portal,” Hanson said. “It’s very cozy and warm.” 

Windom author turns detached garage into book haven
“It feels like you are stepping into a little portal,” contractor Dan Hanson says. Photo by Todd Haferman

Perfect timing

Kronzer signed with her agent in early February 2018. She found a publisher by June of that year, signed a contract in November, and started revisions with her editor in late January 2019, just as she was moving into the Burrow. 

 The novel is about a summer improv theater camp rife with toxic masculinity. 

“I had everything set up except I hadn’t put anything up on the walls,” she said. “I opened up my computer. I checked my email for the first time out here, and there was the first email from my editor saying, ‘Here are the changes I want you to make. You have five weeks.’” 

It was as if her writing nook had been waiting for her to be ready. “The heat was on, the furniture was here and then I worked on the book for five solid weeks,” she said. 

Before writing “Unscripted,” Kronzer spent a year revising that first unpublished book, and sent it off to agents, but didn’t get signed. “Someone said to me— as soon as you start querying agents, write your next book,” she said. She took that advice, and began writing, “Unscripted.”

The book takes place in a fictional summer camp, where kids from all the country learn comedy and theater improvisation. The main character, who dreams of being on Saturday Night Live, gets into the camp’s top improv team, only to find that she’s the only girl. The boys are rude and sexist, and her coach turns out to be an inappropriate monster. It’s a #MeToo book for teens. 

This time, she got her top choice for an agent. 

Hanson wasn’t surprised Kronzer got a great publishing deal. 

“Nicole is a very inspirational person,” he said. “Her personality is so outgoing and bubbly — you need your own quarters to get down and ready to work.”