I’ve found a new favorite writer, William Kent Krueger. This was his debut book in from 1998. I don’t know if I had heard of him before I accidently downloaded his book, Iron Lake from the Washington State Library database. Within the first two paragraphs I knew I was on to something. The way he describes the snowy landscape of norther Minnesota was reminiscent of Hemmingway, such as in his short story, Big two-hearted river. It is his profound, but simple descriptions of the mundane. How a windshield wiper blade pushes snow across his Bronco’s windshield.
As I studied the author, I was not surprised when he said his favorite author was Hemmingway. My editor has told me, “Mike, you need to get away from these old classics. Write like a modern.”
Of course there are modern writers that are quite good as I have read many of them. But I did spend a period of time reading the authors who have nailed the commercial aspects of their books and was greatly disappointed. Of course, McDonalds makes good money over their over-salted, bland french-fries they sell through drive through, but many of us still prefer the taste of a well-designed culinary experience. I have to admit that a spoonful of peanut better is still divine, to me.
The other thing I like about William Krueger is that I relate to his journey of writing, to a point. He published Iron Lake at age 48. Now, profoundly differently from me (and 99.0% of writers) he says he lived the late-blooming author’s dream. He had no trouble getting his first book published. As a matter of fact, there was a bidding war for his book by major publishers once the manuscript was read. They were correct in their bidding because his book was the number one best seller on the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers for six weeks and was voted the “Debut Novel” of the year.
When Krueger was interviewed about that, and criticism by other writers that it was not fair because he had not paid his dues, he explained it this way. While he was an unknown, and he did drop out of college while he was studying early childhood education (I believe), then spend much of his life as a logger, he never stopped writing. He said he had spent 10,000 hours writing prior to writing Iron Lake.
I started writing in medical journals when I was 26. I found it easy. I never had an article rejected, not one. But that was a totally different world. It was objective. I do love objective writing (data-driven) but I love creative writing much more. But I was late to the creative writing world. I had not paid my dues, when I started, in 2010. It has been a very steep learning curve. While I do have some gifts in the area of imagination, I lack in other areas and am working hard to compensate.
In my latest work, working title now, The Runner Stone, I’ve worked the hardest. I’ve spent about 1,000 hours alone on this work. I’m presently doing my 23rd re-write. I’ve attended six workshops and listened to countess podcasts on writing, and most importantly, I’ve read 100 novels this year. I’ve also worked with 10 dear people who functioned as “beta readers,” and one hired editor-coach. I still have a ways to go. While my original plan was to have the book out by the end of 2021, now my goal is by the end of 2022.
Writing has kept me sane. The winters of 2019 and 2020 were so depressing for me, that some day if I found out that my writing was what kept me from taking my own life, I would believe it. It is incredible to loose your health and your career in one hateful blow.
Besides keeping me distracted from the “sads,” my ultimate goal, as with any artist, is to seep a little joy into the minds of others, like what Iron Lake is doing for me. That was my purpose in Ristretto Rain. From a creative writing perspective, I promise that The Runner Stone will be better.
From a commercial standpoint, I have the same goal as the ITER Tokamak Fusion Reactor. Breaking even so my writing is sustainable. It is just not the time, but the expense of writing. Good editors cost money. If I don’t break even, a day will come that Denise will ask me to stop publishing books. But I want no one to buy a book of mine out of mercy, but because of the merits of the book.
I end this rambling piece, un-proof read because I’m writing as I’m waiting for a medical appointment, I will end in a voice of gratitude for those authors such as Hemmingway, William Krueger, Sylvia Plath, Joan Dion, and countless others. who have held the torch to show us the way to write.
7 responses to “Ramblings: On Writing”
FYI Kruger did a lot of his writing in a coffee shop in St Paul, not sure if he still does.
I read that. I asked Ramsey, who had lived in Minneapolis if he had heard of that Café in Saint Paul and he had not. I have my favorite places to write. Now, it is my sauna, where I spend the first two hours of the day. It works out well since I’m so cold sensitive now, an the book I’m working on takes place in hot Yemen.
I’ve really enjoyed William Kent Krueger’s books. He understands people, and his sense of place is wonderful. I’ve not been to Minnesota, but I feel I know it a bit from his books.
If you have read his books, you’ve now been to Minnesota. I’ve lived in Minnesota and can say that confidently.
I’ve read all of his books, I think. Pretty easy reading. But very good. He was actually sad lot at our church for a community reads book. That one was Ordinary Grace.
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I think he said in his interview that Ordinary Grace was his life’s best work. I’m looking forward to reading it next.
Oh wow, that was a good intro to Krueger’s career, an author I’d never heard of, but do now. Thanks for this interesting post!