Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

The Quiet Horizon

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

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:

William Kent Krueger
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!

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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.

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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.

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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)

Edgar and Me
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?”

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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September: In Europe for the very first time! Sunset on the Danube.

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November: At Bouchercon in Long Beach. On my right, the Macavity. On my left, the Barry. Aren’t they lovely?

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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!

Edgar and Me

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Edgar and MeIn Minnesota, killing someone isn’t the worst crime you can commit. The worst crime is what we call here “getting the big head.” This means letting an honor or some publicly recognized good work make you believe that you’re better than other folks. In my own mind, this isn’t quite as bad as murder, but it’s not a good thing either.

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 last week, 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?”

I have a great deal for which to be thankful. And I know something important that will, I hope, help keep me from getting the big head. It’s this: All storytellers hope for recognition and for reward, and in a just universe, we would all receive these things in equal measure. The reality, however, is that too many fine, beautiful, powerfully written stories don’t find a proper audience. It has nothing to do with their quality, but rather a mountain of elements beyond anyone’s control. Ordinary Grace is a good book.  Hell, it’s a wonderful book.  But there are others out there just as deserving of the kind of recognition this novel has received.  So in the end, I realize that I am both lucky and blessed.

I hope the same for all of you out there who are in pursuit of your own dreams, whatever they may be.

The Days Run Away

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

One of my favorite lines of poetry comes from Charles Bukowski, the great California poet, novelist, and postal worker:  “And the days run away like wild horses over the hills…”   I watch them go now, the days, in exactly the way Bukowski said, and every year they seem to vanish faster than before.  What they leave behind is a cloud of dust and memory.

The Bookshelf, WinonaAs the dust settles this year, and I consider the memories, I’m a little overwhelmed.  It’s been a momentous twelve months.  Between early March and late August, I published two books, something I’ve never done before.  I toured for both these novels, visiting old friends in bookstores across the country, and making lots of new ones.  In fact, I signed at eighty stores, mostly independents.  I love these booksellers who, in this market so dominated by the online giant Amazon and by big chains, are like scrappy kids battling bullies in the schoolyard.  In truth, I owe independents a great debt.  During the kerfuffle that went on between my own publisher, Simon and Schuster, and Barnes and Noble, when my books—and those of so many S&S authors—were ignored by the big chain, it was the independent booksellers whose dedicated hand-selling helped both Ordinary Grace and Tamarack County hit the New York Times bestseller list.  To all of you who own the small brick and mortar stores out there, God bless you!

William Kent Krueger visits the Duluth Public LibraryI also visited more libraries than ever before, thirty-five altogether, all across the Midwest and the Rockies.  Oh, do I love library events!  Those in small towns are especially memorable, because often they’re accompanied by a potluck dinner.  There’s nothing that makes a Minnesota author feel more welcome than a potluck meal.

I attended several mystery conferences and book festivals, traveled a spider web of gorgeous back roads, battled through blizzards and driving rain, rose again and again in the bleak predawn hours to catch early flights, and although all this travel was exhausting, I have to say I pretty much loved every minute of it.  I adore book events, the opportunity to talk to readers and answer their questions and hear their own stories.  So many of these stories are better than any I could ever imagine on my own.

So, when I look back, I see a year that seems to have fled quickly over the hill but has left me with a profound sense of fulfillment and gratitude.  It’s also filled me with that fire I so need, which is an anticipation of things yet to come.  There’s much to do 2014.  I’ll complete the manuscript for the next Cork O’Connor novel, titled Windigo Island, which is scheduled for release in August.  I’ll also plunge back into the writing of a companion novel to Ordinary Grace, a book I’m calling This Tender Land. 

I will, of course, continue to travel.  If you and I haven’t met yet, maybe 2014 is the year our paths will cross.  I’d like that.

A few 2013 highlights:

William Kent Krueger in Cabo
February: Just kickin’ back in Cabo. A week of R&R before Ordinary Grace is released.

Love is Murder
I had a ball at Chicago’s annual Love Is Murder conference. A stellar lineup of fellow genre authors (including Lee Goldberg and Libby Fischer Hellmann, pictured above) and a host of welcoming fans, always a hallmark of this lovely, intimate Con.

William Kent Krueger in Sedona
March: When God made the earth, he created two Edens. One is called Minnesota. The other is the Red Rocks area of Sedona, Arizona.

William Kent Krueger in New Orleans
April: Me, in the Big Easy with a few jazz greats. I play the harmonica–badly. We–my lovely wife Diane and I–had a great time in Nawlins and a terrific welcome from the folks at Garden District Books. 

Snow in May
May: Here I am beside my car in the parking lot of my hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, on what was supposed be my beautiful spring book tour. What the…? Six inches overnight.

Winona, MN
Just a couple of days after driving through snowflakes, the temperature hit ninety. Here I am with two of the loveliest things on earth: My wife Diane, and, in the background, the maze of islands on the Mississippi River near Winona, Minnesota.

Grand Tetons
July: With my family, I spent a week in the Teton Mountains of Wyoming in a cabin with no Internet access, cell phone service, or television. It was heaven!

Palmer House Hotel in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
August: My wife and I spent a night in the famously haunted Palmer House Hotel in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. We had a marvelously spooky stay. The creepy goings-on were capped when a water glass that had been left on the abandoned dinner table next to ours flew off the table and slammed to the floor with a force as if someone had angrily throw it there. It shattered into a hundred pieces. No human being was within ten feet of that glass. We looked with astonishment to the bartender, who simply shrugged and said, “Happens all the time.” 

William Kent Krueger and Margaret Coel
I did a signing at Barbara Peters’ wonderful store The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale with the always lovely Margaret Coel.

Gothenburg, Nebraska Pony Express
September: In Gothenburg, Nebraska, my wife’s place of birth. It was an important stop on the Pony Express route, and they’ve preserved the old log structure that serviced those intrepid riders.

halloween
October: Decorating for my favorite yearly celebration: Halloween! That’s me under the skull. (My wife has always been afraid success as a writer would give me a big head.)

Bouchercon 2013
Here I am at Bouchercon (Albany, NY) with friend and fellow Minnesota crime author Julie Kramer and my stellar publicist from Atria Books, David Brown.

William Kent Krueger visits the library in Detroit Lakes, MN
November: I spoke at the centennial celebration of the opening of the first library in Detroit Lakes, MN: a Carnegie, now a National Historic Landmark building. For the celebration, they commissioned a cake constructed as a perfect replica of that original library. The most awesome baked good I have ever laid eyes on!

AM Radio and “Ordinary Grace”

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

When I was a kid, maybe eight or nine years old, my brothers and I pooled our saved allowances and bought a really cool radio.  It stood about a foot high and was shaped like a rocket.  It rested on its tail fins, nose pointed skyward, and out of that nose we drew up the antenna to get a signal.  We had that radio for years.  For some of the time, we lived in very small towns or on farms, and that rocket radio was our connection with the greater world.  I remember lying awake at night listening to music broadcast from the AM super stations out of places like Omaha, Des Moines, Cincinnati, Denver, and Oklahoma City.

Over time, I also owned a bunch of portable transistor radios, and then there were, of course, the radios in the cars my parents owned.  As a result, I grew up on Rock and Roll and Rock-A-Billy and all the popular music piped ceaselessly across the AM airways in the 50s and 60s.  Better than a time machine, certain songs take me back immediately to a particular moment in the past: “Peggy Sue” and the summer of 1957 when I was in love with a girl named Nelda Griffin; Roy Orbison’s “Cryin” and me trying to hit those high notes just as my voice was beginning to change; Brylcreeming my hair so that I could look like the Everly Brothers, and singing “So Sad” to myself in the bathroom mirror.

When I began writing Ordinary Grace and trying to summon memories of the kind of summer I wanted to create for the story (in the end, the summer of 1961), I went back and listened to a bunch of the old songs that I grew up with.  Amazing how effective they were in helping me capture so much of the sense of being a kid back then—the innocence, the freedom, the unbounded possibility, the feel, for an adolescent in small town America, that there was this great world out there far beyond the corn fields, just waiting to be experienced.

The folks at Atria Books, my publisher, picked up on that sentiment and have put together a collection of some of my favorites from AM radio in the 50s and 60s.  They’ve created the playlist on Spotify.  If you have a free moment, check it out.

For those of us who grew up with AM radio, it’s a cool blast from the past.

Disneyland, Death, and the Hereafter

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

If you’d to know how I was almost murdered on my way to Disneyland or how The Incredible Shrinking Man has affected my whole theological outlook,  follow these links to a couple of blogs I did as a guest for the terrific Criminal Element website:

How I Hitchhiked to Disneyland and Almost Died

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from The Incredible Shrinking Man