William Kent Krueger is the author of Heaven’s Keep, Red Knife, Thunder Bay, Copper River, Mercy Falls, Blood Hollow, The Devil’s Bed, Purgatory Ridge, Boundry Waters, and Iron Lake. His books have won several awards including the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, Barry Award for Best First Novel, Minnesota Book Award, Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, Minnesota Book Award, Dilys Award, and the Northeast Minnesota Book Award. I’ve met Mr. Krueger and was blown away by just how extensive his knowledge of the mystery genre is.
And now William Kent Krueger faces the 7 Questions:
Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Great Gatsby
The Old Man and the Sea.
The Great Gatsby
The Old Man and the Sea.
Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?
I try to spend between 3 and 6 hours on the creative stuff everyday, including weekends. Business takes up the rest of my time. My life is so full that I have only about an hour everyday to read. That's been the only real disappointment in becoming a published author. I have less time for the pleasure of reading.
Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?
A very long apprenticeship. For many years while I worked to keep a roof over my family’s head and food on the table, I wrote every day in a little coffee shop. I arrived at 6:00 a.m., wrote for an hour and fifteen minutes, then caught my bus to work. I wasn’t always focused on a specific project, just on the process of writing, of discovering who I am as a writer, which is one of the most important mileposts on this endless journey. In my early forties, I finally began the work on a manuscript that became Iron Lake, my first published novel. It was a mystery, because I thought it might be an easier way to break into the business. What I discovered in the writing of that first book was how challenging and how rewarding writing in the genre could be. I’ve been there ever since. When the manuscript had been critiqued by my writer’s group and we all thought it was ready, I sought an agent. A lot of rejections, then a nibble from an agent in Chicago, and ultimately a relationship with her agency. She took it from there. One of the exciting parts of that process—and one of the most exciting experiences for me ever—was the bidding war that broke out for the rights to that first book.
Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?
Anyone who reads and appreciates fiction understands intrinsically what makes a good story. So in every reader, I believe, is the foundation for a writer. What makes some of us write is a compulsion we’re born with. That’s certainly true in my case. I always wanted to be a writer. Others come to writing much later, but with no less fervor or ability. I do believe that there are fine stories written by those who’ve learned the craft. But I think the great stories come from a place that can’t be learned.
Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?
I love first and foremost the process of writing. I love imaging the story. I love crafting of the scenes. I love choosing the language. I love looking hard at a piece for the beauty that isn’t quite there yet but I know could be. I look at the process as a way of grounding myself in every day and of creating the energy that helps me meet and embrace the rest of what life offers me.
What I dislike most is what every writer I know dislikes most: the business. Once published, we all end up spending way too much time and wasting way too much energy on the work of promoting, on worrying about sales, on things that have nothing whatsoever with the passion that’s at heart of why we write.
Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)
I have no wisdom, but I do have advice. There are two elements I see in every successful writer I know: discipline and perseverance. Writing every day is, I believe, the best of disciplines. And if you do this because it’s what you love, and you persist in the effort, I really believe that in the end, you’ll be rewarded. The nature of that reward may not be what you anticipated. That is, it may not end up being fame and fortune, which are things beyond anyone’s control. But I absolutely believe that you’ll love the work you’ve done and won’t look back with regret.
Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
Harper Lee. She wrote only one book and got everything right. I’d love to ask her how she did that.
Actual Interview Date: 8/15/2009