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Minnesota author at library next week

Author William Kent Krueger will be speaking at the Detroit Lakes Library on Nov. 13. Submitted Photo

For years, author William Kent Krueger was striving to write the next Great American Novel, to be the next Earnest Hemmingway. After many years though, he changed his dream and found his own niche.

“It was stupid on so many levels,” he said of his quest for trying to be the next Hemmingway. “But that’s what I tried to do for a very long time. Much too long.”

How much is too long? About 20 years.

Instead, he decided to write suspense-mystery novels, a niche that has taken him to his own place in writing history. Beginning with “Iron Lake” in 1998, he has published a total of 15 novels.

Krueger will be speaking Wednesday, Nov. 13, in the Detroit Lakes Library as part of the library’s centennial celebration. The Carnegie portion of the library is 100 years old this month.

There will be cake and a book singing after Krueger speaks Wednesday, and Thursday will include a ribbon cutting and tours during the day and a book reading with Jackie Jenson that evening as part of the Luminate the Lakes celebration.

Over the last few months, Krueger has been spending time on the road, promoting his newest Cork O’Connor mystery book, “Tamarack County.” But, he made sure he had Halloween night at home in the Twin Cities to give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

“I purposely didn’t schedule anything for today because I love to be home on Halloween and give out Halloween candy to the kids,” he said during a phone interview on Oct. 31.

Born in Wyoming, Krueger and his family moved around when he was a kid. He found the girl he would marry in Nebraska, and the two eventually found their way to Minnesota when he was 30.

“When I first started writing mysteries, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I ought to be doing because I wasn’t a big reader of mysteries.”

His father was a high school English teacher and raised his children to read great literature rather than the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. 

Though he maybe didn’t read mysteries, he was still very much a reader. Since he was very young, he never went down for a nap or went to bed at night without a story first. From a young age he knew he wanted to be one of those storytellers.

“I’m not sure you can be a writer without being an avid reader first.”

When he decided to write a mystery novel, he took a class at The Loft Literary Center in the Cities for some guidance.

Though he has manuscripts back from his “Great American Novel days that will never see the light of day,” Krueger didn’t have to peddle his first mystery novel. With the help of a good agent, his first novel, “Iron Lake” was published. All of Krueger’s novels take place in Minnesota.

“I served a very long apprenticeship and I had a pretty good sense what I wanted to do when I wrote ‘Iron Lake,’ and it turned out to be very successful for me,” he said.

His mysteries have continued to flow from his mind to his pen — or rather his computer now — ever since and he has no shortage of ideas.

“I think when you’re a storyteller, you open a door for yourself and stories just start coming at you. The question for me is not am I going to run out of stories, but will I have enough time to write all the stories that I’d like to write.

“And the answer to that is no.”

Krueger started writing in a Twin Cities café called St. Clair Broiler. He wrote out his novels longhand on a pad of paper.

“I was running drastically behind deadline,” he said.

After writing out the novel, he’d have to transcribe it all onto his computer. He did this for years, until he finally made the switch to a laptop a few novels ago — though not without some hesitation.

“I always thought writing longhand was part of the magic of what I accomplished, and I was concerned that if I monkeyed with the magic, maybe the words would stop coming to me but that hasn’t proven true.”

He may have lost the step of writing on a notebook and transcribing, but he hasn’t lost his knack for writing in coffee shops.

“I make sure what I do write is the very best thing that I can so I’m not unhappy with anything that has my name on it that’s published out there.”

And though the Great American Novel never quite panned out, Krueger is happy where the road has taken him, though he never would have guessed it years ago.

“Most authors are like me, when you begin and you just want to write a book that somebody will think is actually good enough to get published.”

During his book tour, which will be wrapping up soon, Krueger said he’s been a part of about 60-70 events from mid-August to mid-November.

“I do that because I have such a commitment to my relationship to pretty much the independent booksellers in Midwest, and the country as a whole, and with the libraries. I absolutely love doing these events.            

“Who wouldn’t like going to a place where people have gathered to tell you they like what you do,” he said with a laugh.

Krueger has been to the Detroit Lakes Library in the past, and said he’s excited to make his way back.

“I am so looking forward to being in Detroit Lakes. I did an event for the library there along with Minnesota Crime Wave many, many, many years ago, so a visit to Detroit Lakes is overdue.

“I’m looking forward to having folks turn out, and I promise to give them a good time.”

Come see William Kent Krueger speak at the Detroit Lakes Library as part of the centennial activities on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. It is a free event.