Interview with Allen Eskens | More2Read Interviews
 

Interview with Allen Eskens


Allen Eskens is the bestselling author of The Life We Bury, The Guise of Another, The Heavens May Fall, The Deep Dark Descending, and The Shadows We Hide. He is the recipient of the Barry Award, Minnesota Book Award, Rosebud Award (Left Coast Crime), and Silver Falchion Award and has been a finalist for the Edgar® Award, Thriller Award, Anthony Award, and Audie Award. His books have been translated into 21 languages and his novel, The Life We Bury is in development for a feature film.

Allen has a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota and a law degree from Hamline University. After law school, he studied creative writing in the M.F.A. program at Minnesota State University-Mankato, as well as the Loft Literary Center and the Iowa Summer Writer’s Festival. Allen grew up on the hills of central Missouri. He now lives with his wife, Joely, in greater Minnesota where he recently retired after practicing criminal law for 25 years.

Allen is represented by Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron and Associates Literary Agency.



Lou Pendergrast

Welcome and thanks for this chat.

Books out of books, The Shadows We Hide what is the seed and inspiration behind this tale?

 

Allen Eskens

The Shadows We Hide was born of the open wounds left behind after I wrote my debut novel, The Life We Bury. Joe Talbert, my protagonist in both books, makes some monumental decisions at the end of The Life We Bury that will impact the rest of his life. I wanted to revisit those decisions. 

Also, the relationship between Joe and his mother was teetering on the verge of collapse at the end of the first book. By the time that the events of The Shadows We Hide come around, the relationship is gone. One of the themes I wanted to explore by writing Shadows, was the challenge of forgiveness, so going back to spend time with Joe and his mother was the part of the novel I enjoyed writing the most.


Lou Pendergrast

What next for you 2019/2020? Anything completed, to come, or still finishing?

 

Allen Eskens

In 1991, when I first gave a thought to becoming a novelist, I started writing a novel set in 1976 about a fifteen- year-old boy. I spent twenty years working on that novel before setting it aside to write The Life We Bury. As I wrote The Life We Bury, I created this character who is a law professor. Due to some weird breath of inspiration, I made the law professor the same character as that fifteen-year-old boy. Thus, my novel coming out next year is that novel I toiled over for twenty years. It is the backstory of Boady Sanden, the law professor from The Life We Bury.



LP

What do you hope to achieve with your writings and writing life?

 

Allen Eskens

I am a writer. I love writing and have loved it since long before I became a published author. All that I hope to achieve is to increase in my understanding of the craft, because that is what brings me joy. That I am able to make a living at it is a secondary consideration.


LP

When, where, and with what do you write?

 

Allen Eskens

I sit in my basement, in my most comfortable chair, with a laptop in my lap and my feet up. I usually write in the morning after taking my dogs for a walk. As I write this it is nearly nine at night, and  I am still in my chair because I felt particularly inspired today. I will go to bed tonight excited that I will get to return to my most comfortable chair again in the morning.


LP

What essential advice would you give to the writer trying to write their first novel?

 

Allen Eskens

Learn the craft. There is no shortcut.  I came to this discipline with the notion that if I didn’t have any talent, I would make up for it by understanding writing technique to a degree that would make readers think that I had talent. I studied creative writing for twenty years before venturing to publish a novel. I continue to study to this day, listening to podcasts, audio books, etc., anything to further my understanding and my abilities.


LP

Story mechanics, do you outline a plot? Any advice on outlines?

 

Allen Eskens

I outline. I believe it is imperative to outline, especially for new authors. That first manuscript—the one that I messed around with for twenty years—I didn’t outline that one. When I decided to give it another try, I outlined it completely without looking at the old manuscript. It was the same story, but a very different novel. I prefer to make my mistakes in the daydreaming and outlining process, not when I’m writing.


LP

Which stories and characters from fiction do you revisit most and why?

 

Allen Eskens

I don’t revisit characters all that often. When I read, I read to study the craft of other writers, so I don’t find myself going back over material I’ve read already. With that said, there are certain novels help get the creative juices flowing. I will go back to books like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Poisonwood Bible to get inspiration in writing voice. Or I’ll listen to Will Patton read James Lee Burke just to get that haunting cadence in my head. When I feel like my prose is falling flat, I’ll pick up Sylvia Plath or Cormac McCarthy. 




LP

Which books are your recommended reads?

 

Allen Eskens

The book that I recommend more than any other is Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River. I do so because I write in the Mystery genre and most of my conversations about writing and reading fall along that line. Mystic River inspired me because it showed me that mysteries didn’t have to be about solving the crime. Yes, there has to be a crime, but that needn’t be the heart of the story. What I want to do as a writer is use the mystery as a vehicle to tell another story. I want to have the mystery act as a catalyst, something that tossed an emotional bomb into the lives of the characters. I love having people say that my plots were twisty and creative, but to hear someone say that my story touched them is far more satisfying. 



Photo By
David Shankbone – Shankbone, CC BY 3.0, Link





 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 22 December 2018