William Kent Krueger On writing, inspirations, and his new novel This Tender Land. | More2Read
 

William Kent Krueger On writing, inspirations, and his new novel This Tender Land.


Raised in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, William Kent Krueger briefly attended Stanford University—before being kicked out for radical activities. After that, he logged timber, worked construction, tried his hand at freelance journalism, and eventually ended up researching child development at the University of Minnesota. He currently makes his living as a full-time author. He’s been married for over 40 years to a marvelous woman who is a retired attorney. He makes his home in St. Paul, a city he dearly loves.

Krueger writes a mystery series set in the north woods of Minnesota. His protagonist is Cork O’Connor, the former sheriff of Tamarack County and a man of mixed heritage—part Irish and part Ojibwe. His work has received a number of awards, including the Minnesota Book Award, the Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, and the Friends of American Writers Prize. His last nine novels were all New York Times bestsellers.

Ordinary Grace, his stand-alone novel published in 2013, received the Edgar Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America in recognition for the best novel published in that year. The companion novel, This Tender Land, is scheduled for publication in September 2019.

http://www.williamkentkrueger.com



 

Lou Pendergrast

Welcome and congratulations on your latest novel Desolation Mountain that was in my best books of 2018 selection.

I Loved the use of an Eagle in the tale. Tell me more about the seed and inspiration behind the story?

 

William Kent Krueger

Long before I began to consider all the elements that would be a part of the story, I knew two things: I knew how the manuscript would begin, and I knew how it would end. Those two scenes—the vision at the beginning where the image of the eagle you’ve mentioned and the closing scene between Stephen O’Connor and Henry Meloux—had been with me for a while. Two other ideas contributed the meat of the story.  The first was the death of Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone in a plane crash in 2003, just days before the election that would have returned him to Congress. Lots of questions about that tragedy have continued to go unanswered.  And the second element was a desire to bring back Bo Thorson, the protagonist from my only stand-alone thriller, The Devil’s Bed. Readers have been clamoring for his return for years, and I thought it was time. 


Desolation Mountain
Now in Paperback


Lou Pendergrast

You have a new one out this year September 3rd 2019, This Tender Land. What will we expected from this tale?

 

William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land is set in southern Minnesota in the summer of 1932.  It’s the story of four orphans running from the law because they’ve committed a terrible crime. They know if they take to the roads to escape, they’ll be captured quickly because a huge manhunt has been launched. They’re afraid to ride the rails, as everyone else in the Depression was doing, because the railroads were patrolled by private cops called bulls, and the bulls had a reputation for being incredibly cruel.  Instead, they decide to take to the rivers. They canoe a river called the Gilead to the Minnesota River.  They canoe the Minnesota to the Mississippi. They’re plan is to canoe all the way down the Mississippi River to Saint Louis, where they believe they have family and they’ll be safe.

I’ve always wanted to write an updated version of Huckleberry Finn.  This is my Huckleberry Finn. I say in the prologue, it’s a tale “of killing and kidnapping and children pursued by demons of a thousand names.”


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LP

What is the story behind it?

 

William Kent Krueger

Following the success of Ordinary Grace, which is a very different story from those in my Cork O’Connor series, my publisher contracted for another novel in a similar vein, a companion novel, if you will. I spent the next two years writing that manuscript.  It was contractually due to my publisher over three years ago. Two months before I was to deliver the manuscript, I set up a meeting in Chicago with my agent to talk about revisions, because there were problems with the story. At our meeting, I told my agent that rather than revise the piece, I wanted to prevent its publication.  It wasn’t the story I’d imagined it would be; I didn’t know how to make it that story; and, frankly, my heart wasn’t in it anymore.

Turns out, I have an understanding publisher. They agreed to let me have another go at a companion novel. So, here’s the deal. The expectations for the companion novel were enormous, crushing even.  The whole time I was at work, I was trying to meet everyone else’s expectations instead of looking into my heart for the story I really wanted to write.  When all those expectations were lifted from my shoulders and I felt free again, I saw pretty clearly the story I wanted to write.  I told that story in This Tender Land.


LP

That Edgar Award for Best Novel for Ordinary Grace in 2014. How has that and has your writing and publishing been like since it?

 

WKK

An Edgar opens lots of doors and gives a mystery writer a certain level of credibility.  Beyond that, nothing’s really changed.


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE 2014 EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
WINNER OF THE 2014 DILYS AWARD
A SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2013


LP

This interesting character of yours Cork O’Connor, what would his bio read?

 

WKK

He’s a regular guy who believes in seeking justice, standing by his commitments, and loving and protecting his family.  He’s also the former sheriff of the fictional Tamarack, County, Minnesota, and a man of mixed heritage, part Irish-American and part Ojibwe.  He’d be a good guy to have a conversation with over beers.


LP

You praised a book published in 2019, Finding Katarina M. by Elisabeth Elo. I loved that one too and in my interview with the author she mentioned how she had traveled and researched for the novel.

Which tale of yours had the most extensive research?

 

WKK

The would be Sulfur Springs, #16 in my series, published in 2017. I wanted to talk about the issue of the refugees streaming across our border with Mexico. To do this, I had to set the story in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona, a place I didn’t know at all when I decided on the setting.

I spent a good deal of time along the border in Arizona, interviewing Border Patrol officers, locals, volunteers with the humanitarian groups who risk arrest by putting out food and water and clothing for the refugees. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience, and the book that came from it is one of my favorites in the series.



LP

Yes I loved that tale remembering.. “Is Cork Ogichidaa? “one who stands between evil and his people.”

As I am mentioning must-reads, anything from 2018 or 2019 you also loved and recommend? 

What’s your one sentence or two on the works?

 

WKK

My new favorite voice on the mystery scene is a writer named Howard Michael Gould. His debut novel last year was titled Last Looks. It’s full of humor and thrills and features one of the most unique protagonists to come on the scene in a very long time.



LP

Writing, when, where, and with what do you do it?

 

WKK

I begin my writing around 6:00 AM every morning, seven days a week. I do all my creative work in a local coffeeshop.  Although I wrote my first eight or nine novels longhand, I compose on a laptop now.


LP

What writing advice would you give to the aspiring author?

 

WKK

There’s only one reason to write, and that’s because you love it. Forget about pursuing fame and fortune.  Just follow your heart.


LP

Which characters in fiction do you re-read and recommend?

 

WKK

 Scout Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. The most authentic narrative voice in American literature.  Huck Finn runs a close second. Nick Carraway, the narrator of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is also wonderfully compelling and so Midwest.



LP

Those are great characters, love them all, especially the tale To Kill A Mockingbird.

Which writers and their books inspired you in becoming an author?

 

WKK

Early on, I wanted to be Ernest Hemingway, and for way too long tried to write the great American novel as he might have written it.  When I wised up, I began to write more profoundly out of a sense of place, and Steinbeck taught me a lot about how to do this.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Tony Hillerman, whose iconic Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee mysteries have set the standard for all genre authors who incorporate elements of Native American cultures in their work.


https://ehillerman.unm.edu/biography



LP

Thank you for this chat its has been a great little peak into an authors heart and mind.

 

WKK

Thanks for giving me this opportunity to talk about myself and my work. 




 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 03 May 2019