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Monday, November 16, 2015

It's for the love of the work


“When you're a writer, you're always looking for conflict. It's conflict that drives great stories.” – William Kent Krueger

I first got to know St. Paul, Minn.-based mystery writer Krueger when he would stop over to visit with English classes at Augsburg College – set up by his friend and my fellow professor Kathy Swanson.  She’d ask me to sit in from time-to-time when she had interesting guest speakers and after the first time I heard and spoke with him about writing and his techniques, I was hooked on his writing.  That was just shortly after he had Iron Lake, the first of his Cork O’Connor series, out on the market.  With his primary protagonist being half Ojibwe (the other half Irish) I was amazed to find out that he didn’t have any Ojibwe blood, since he does a remarkable job of incorporating great detail about Ojibwe culture into his stories. 

Since then, Krueger – who sets his tales in north-central Minnesota – has written more than a dozen other O’Connor mysteries.  With each, I’ve learned so much more about the Ojibwe, something he says he very much enjoys researching and writing.

“Readers anticipate that a significant element of every story will be additional exposure to the ways of the Ojibwe,” he said. “The truth is that I enjoy this aspect of the work.  Although I have no Indian blood running through my veins, in college I prepared to be a cultural anthropologist, so exploring other cultures is exciting to me.”
                                                                William Kent Krueger
Born on this date and raised in Wyoming, he also has this sort-of “Old West” feel running through the way his lawman/private investigator O’Connor operates, another wonderful element of his writing style.   And, I love his advice to beginning writers and have kept it as a mantra of my own.

“Write because you love the work,” he advised, “not because of what might come from it. The journey is the purpose. Very Zen-like, I know, but (for me) honest to God it's the truth.”

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