As another year is about to sink completely into the realm of memory, I can’t help but look back and marvel. I couldn’t have asked for, hoped for, or even, if I’d been able, crafted for myself a better twelve months. It’s been filled with the fruit of many labors. An old book greatly honored, a new book warmly received, and the contours of a future book roughly completed. Specifically, Ordinary Grace received an incredible number of accolades: the Edgar, the Anthony, the Barry, the Macavity, the Dilys, the Squid, the Silver Falchion. Windigo Island, the fourteenth entry in my Cork O’Connor series, appeared on a number of best books of the year lists. And the first draft of This Tender Land, the companion novel to Ordinary Grace, was finished. If one of the things that keeps us vital is steeping ourselves in the work we love, then it has been a year of great vitality and great passion.
As I look ahead now, what do I see? 2015 will be a quiet year in many respects. I will have no novel published in the upcoming year, so no long book tours, no long periods that will take me away from home and family. I’m looking forward to months and months of peace, of uninterrupted writing, of simply catching my breath. In each of the last three years, I’ve scheduled more than a hundred events—signings, author talks, workshops, conferences. This year will be different, blessedly calm, filled with quiet, I hope, the kind of quiet that allows deep contemplation to become possible, the kind of quiet that feeds our souls.
In terms of the writing itself, for those of you who are interested, this is what I’ll be working on. I will polish This Tender Land and prepare it for publication in the spring of 2016. I will complete the next in the Cork O’Connor series, a novel I’ve just begun to outline, and that will probably also appear in 2016. And I will begin work on a short novel, an idea that has been knocking around in my brain for more than a decade. So, clearly, I won’t be idle.
Every year is different from those that have come before. Although I have plans, I don’t really know what to expect. Life has a way of surprising us, doesn’t it?
And so, I wish every one of you the best on your own journey in the year ahead. May your days be filled with vitality, with passion, with love. And also with that blessed quiet that will feed your soul.
A few 2014 highlights:
January: What exciting news! Ordinary Grace has received a nomination for the Edgar Award for Best Novel! I couldn’t be happier for this book, which is so different from those in my Cork O’Connor series that I was afraid no one would be interested in publishing or reading it. I’m tremendously grateful to Atria Books for having supported Ordinary Grace from the outset. So very grateful to the independent booksellers who made sure that the novel got into the hands of readers. And especially grateful to all of those out there who read the story and embraced it. Now, to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne!
February: In my books, I write a lot about cold weather. I’m often asked if I believe you should write what you know. Definitely. Here I am with my wife, Diane, in our backyard. Yeah, like every Minnesotan, I understand winter pretty well. And understand, too, why the ancients used to have all kinds of orgiastic celebrations when spring finally came.
March: Driving cross-country from the Tucson Festival of the Book to Left Coast Crime in Monterey. Had to hit the National Parks along the way. What treasures! Here I am in Sequoia National Park, just a few minutes from viewing the famous trees.
April: I’m in Grand Rapids for the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College. I’m here with two thousand other attendees from all over this continent. This is one of the most amazing conferences at which I’ve been asked to present. The list of stellar authors across a broad range of disciplines is incredible. The focus, of course, is how faith informs our writing, but it touches on so many significant aspects of our lives. It is, quite frankly, knocking my socks off. (Photo taken at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum)
May: I couldn’t be happier having won the Edgar Award for my novel Ordinary Grace. In so many ways, it feels like the culmination of a lot of years of hard work. Not just the writing of a dozen plus novels, but all the ceaseless labor to get those books into readers’ hands. When I was given the award at the ceremony in New York City, the meat of my acceptance was simply this: “To write, to be published, to be read, to be appreciated. What more could any storyteller ask for?”
August: I’m at Killer Nashville, which has just become my new favorite mystery conference! As a guest of honor, I received a stunning black Fender guitar. Here I am with Clay Stafford, founder of Killer Nashville and all-around great guy, living it up with my new Fender.
August: When you do a signing in northern Minnesota, you never know who might be looking over your shoulder. One of Bullwinkle’s relatives dropped in on my signing at Piragis Northwoods Company in Ely and just had to stick his big nose between me and store manager Jordyn Nyquist.
September: I’ve taken a couple of days off from the book tour to volunteer at our church dining hall at the fabulous Minnesota State Fair. Here I am working the food line—hot steam table on a hot day!—with my lovely wife. One of the things I appreciate about the dining hall is that for every meal someone buys there, our church donates a meal to Save My Starving Children, a great non-profit organization that helps feed hungry children around the globe. Food, fun, fellowship, and a worthy cause—what could be better!
September: So, here I am among the brewing vats at the Excelsior Brewing Company for what was one of the most unique signing venues I’ve ever experienced. I talked to a very large audience, all of us pressed between these stainless steel behemoths and the serving counter. We drank really good beer, I talked really loud, and honest to God, we had a great time of it. Beer and books, a combination ordained in heaven.
September: In Europe for the very first time! Sunset on the Danube.
November: At Bouchercon in Long Beach. On my right, the Macavity. On my left, the Barry. Aren’t they lovely?
December: I finished the first draft of the companion novel to Ordinary Grace. When published, it will be titled This Tender Land. Oh God, I think it’s good. A lot of revision still to be done, but I believe I’ll pop the cork on a bottle of champagne and allow myself a little celebration of this milepost. Cheers!