Vermilion Drift

Vermilion Drift, the 10th in the Cork O’Connor series, goes on sale in bookstores everywhere tomorrow. This is a book that has surprised the hell out of me.

I don’t know about most authors, but me, I’m almost never a good judge of the quality of what I’ve written. Except for one or two rare exceptions, by the time I’m finished with a manuscript—all seven or eight revisions—and my editor and I are in agreement that the work is ready for production, I’m usually sick to death of it. The story is lackluster, the writing pedestrian, the twists all telegraphed well beforehand. Everything about the project feels flat. I want nothing more to do with it, and am so ready to move on to the next story, which I’m always certain is bound to be better than the piece of dreck I’ve wasted the last year writing.

Vermilion Drift was no exception. I remember thinking at the end of the process that eventually every author has to turn out a piece that falls short, and I figured this was the piece for me. There were good elements in it, to be sure—the remarkable Iron Range setting, the deliciously dark secrets from the past of Cork O’Connor, the wonderful role Henry Meloux played. But overall, I thought I’d come up shy. All I could see were the weaknesses, the words that didn’t quite say what I’d hoped they would, the obvious manipulations, the floppy motivations, the potential for disaster.

Then I saw the finished book. Oh, is it lovely. One of my favorite covers. And then the reviews started rolling in. Starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus. Kirkus, for god’s sake! They never like my stuff. Last week, I got word that the book will be reviewed in The New York Times Book Review, and is being considered as a People magazine book pick. We even got a call from Hollywood.

So now I’m stoked. What’s changed? Nothing, really, except I’ve been able to step back from the work and look at it through different eyes. With a little distance—and with the encouragement that comes from a good critical response—it’s easier to see the strengths of the story instead of focusing all that I know falls short.

No work is perfect, but at the outset we always believe somehow we can make it so. In the end—to maintain sanity—an author needs to learn to come to terms with the great potential and the ultimate reality. Kind of like loving someone even though there are things about them that drive you nuts.

14 Responses to “Vermilion Drift”

  1. Pat Nipper Says:

    I think it’s called “writer’s remorse.” Most, if not all, writers suffer from it–especially we who can’t seem to find a publisher.

  2. Andy Ringquist Says:

    My husband and I just finished reading Vermilion Drift and we just wanted you to know we thoroughly enjoyed it. The only thing I did not like was the swearing. We have read all your books and think you are a great author and story teller. We were wondering about the cabin on the jacket. It is really a beautiful sight. I hope it is not Indigo Broom’s cabin.

  3. Betty Koffman Says:

    Just finished reading Heaven’s Keep–a fantastic book. I have loved all your books, and if Vermilion Drift is any better, I’ll be amazed. You have deserved for a long time to be on the NYTimes bestseller list!

    BK, Kingsport TN

  4. Laura Says:

    I just finished Vermilion Drift. Wow. I really liked it. I wasn’t sure how you were going to tie it all together and you did and amazing job. I could feel Cork’s frustration with Meloux during this journey and his fear about his father’s gun’s role in it all. You could tell that he really was ready to face it all when he finally went to see him. This is probably my favorite to date though I’ve enjoyed the whole series. Thanks.

  5. Mason Says:

    I just read Vermilion Drift to review for Monsterlibrarian.com. Should be up soon I hope. It was my first of your books to read, but I thought it was so good that I read it in about 5 hours over two days. That doesn’t happen to me too often. Even the ones that aren’t great will take me a week or more to slug through. I will definitely be starting at the beginning of the series now to play catch up.

  6. Deb Shelton Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your your experience, Mr. K! It is great to hear an accomplished writer sharing similar struggles I face as a fledgling writer. Some days I look at my work and say, “Wow- that’s awesome!” But other times, I read it and think, “Who would want to read such pathetic drivel?” Thanks for sharing your heart. I am encouraged!

  7. Elizabeth Cabalka Says:

    OK Kent,

    It is entirely your faulth that I am ever-so-sleepy today! (And you have my hearty thanks.) Yup, stayed up way too late reading Vermillion Drift, which I got Saturday morning. Couldn’t put it down!!! You’re the only man I know that can keep me up all night. (Lordy, I hope my husband doesn’tread this.)

    You’ve done it again, another rich, delicious, utterly satisfying read. Ever since I first discovered Bounday Waters in the shelves of the Grand Marais Lodge, Cork has been like a good friend that pops up (sorry, couldn’t resist) periodically and inhabits my thoughts.

    I am so grateful with the thoughful way you dealt with the empty house on Gooseberry Lane. I say this as one lost a spouse nine years ago and wandered empty halls with my pets and generally forgot to eat. I also understand how living in a place that previously fit so well – a family home – can feel like walking in someone else’s shoes after the death of a loved one. Especially in that first year… Simply moving through the day feels like being tasked with writing a novel with your non-dominant hand in a foreign language. My hat’s off to you, Kent. I don’t know how you knew to communicate those nuances so beautufully. I hope it is not through personal experience.

    I also know that Cork can create a new life that is different, unexpected and equally satisfying. I did.

    I send very best wishes and heart-felt congratulations on your much-deserved success.

    Write on!
    ~ Elizabeth

  8. Elizabeth Cabalka Says:

    OK Kent,

    It is entirely your fault that I am ever-so-sleepy today! (And you have my hearty thanks.) Yup, stayed up way too late reading Vermillion Drift, which I got Saturday morning. Couldn’t put it down!!! You’re the only man I know that can keep me up all night. (Lordy, I hope my husband doesn’tread this.)

    You’ve done it again, another rich, delicious, utterly satisfying read. Ever since I first discovered Bounday Waters in the shelves of the Grand Marais Lodge, Cork has been like a good friend that pops up (sorry, couldn’t resist) periodically and inhabits my thoughts.

    I am so grateful with the thoughful way you dealt with the empty house on Gooseberry Lane. I say this as one lost a spouse nine years ago and wandered empty halls with my pets and generally forgot to eat. I also understand how living in a place that previously fit so well – a family home – can feel like walking in someone else’s shoes after the death of a loved one. Especially in that first year… Simply moving through the day feels like being tasked with writing a novel with your non-dominant hand in a foreign language. My hat’s off to you, Kent. I don’t know how you knew to communicate those nuances so beautufully. I hope it is not through personal experience.

    I also know that Cork can create a new life that is different, unexpected and equally satisfying. I did.

    I send very best wishes and heart-felt congratulations on your much-deserved success.

    Write on!
    ~ Elizabeth

  9. Scott Phillips Says:

    Kent,

    Keep up the spectacular work. My wife just bought me Vermillion Drift for my birthday and knowing how much I love your work gave it to me three days early!

    I can’t wait to stay up all night reading!

    You are a wonderful author and I thank you for your work …. keep ‘em coming if you can!

    Congratulations on the New York Times Best Seller list …. People better pick you!

    Scott

  10. Marilyn Jernigan Says:

    I have loved every one of your books. Cork is such a wonderful, individual. He deserves some happeness now. Jo was a combative, less than supportive mate, (probably is what made her a good lawyer) and Cork deserves someone who can make him laugh. Something Jo seldom did and is so important. (See he is a real person to some of us) The only thing else I want to empart is “WRITE FASTER!!!!!!!!”

  11. Michelle Says:

    Just finished Vermillion Drift. I have one question. I may have missed this during Cork’s confrontation with Issiah Broom, but who hit Cork over the head when he was at Indigo Broom’s burnt down cabin? And why? Thanks

  12. Mary in Michigan Says:

    Just finished your latest book, Vermillion Drift. I have read all your “Cork O’Connor” stories and I must say I love them all. You mentioned that at the end of the process of writing you felt that the story falls short. Believe me your stories do not “fall short” but instead entices the reader for the next story. I can’t wait for your next book. You are one of my favorite writers.

  13. Bill Minnich Says:

    I just finished Vermilion Drift, and have read all ten of the Cork series. You might guess that I like them a lot. I was pretty bummed with Jo’s demise, and had a hard time imagining where you’d go with her no longer in the picture. Her absence leaves a real empty place, but this was a very gratifying followup. One thing I need to point out, although I’m sure someone else must have beat me to the punch: unless I’m grossly mistaken, there appears to be a pretty significant editing gaffe about 2/3 of the way down page 35, while Cork is speaking with Ophelia in the North Light Center in the beginning of his investigation into Lauren’s disappearance. The line: ” ‘She has a weakness for expensive Italian footwear’, Lauren said, with only the slightest note of censure”, whereas it’s actually Ophelia responding to Cork’s observations about the deceased Lauren.
    Sure wish I didn’t have to wait several months for the next one. And unfortunately, my other favorite mystery series, Quebecois Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, seems to be on about the same publication schedule, and I’m all caught up there too. August for #6.
    Thanks Kent!
    Bill — Ann Arbor

  14. sue in michigan Says:

    Hi, I just finished Vermilion Drift and thoroughly enjoyed it, as I have all of your other books. So now I’m looking forward to the next book and what direction Corks life will take in it. While I’m waiting I am going back and re-reading all of the earlier ones and enjoy them now just as much as I did the first time. Only problem is sometimes I’m a little late for work but as my boss is as much of a fan as I am it’s no problem.