William Kent Krueger set a scene of his bestselling novel Ordinary Grace in Redwood Falls.
But he wouldn’t say which scene.
“It’s not one of the more well-known places in Redwood Falls, but it’s a place that means something to me,” he said Wednesday evening.
It’s not often the Redwood Falls Public Library gets a visit from a writer with two books on the New York Times bestseller lists, but Krueger lives in St. Paul, so it was only a short jaunt for him.
And besides, Krueger obviously loves this part of the state.
“I’m currently about a third of the way through a companion piece to Ordinary Grace, and it’s set in southern Minnesota, too,” he said.
Krueger, a native of Ohio, only moved to Minnesota when he turned 30 and his wife attended law school here.
When he became a writer at 40 (“It was a midlife thing,” he admits), Krueger decided to write books set in his adopted state.
Most of his books — mystery novels — are set near the boundary waters.
Wednesday was Krueger’s second visit to the Redwood Falls, hence his familiarity with the town. His first visit almost a dozen years ago, when he only had two books published and traveled the state doing publicity.
Now he’s up to 14 books, many of them bestsellers, and still writing the way he was in the beginning: in coffee shops in St. Paul as the sun is rising.
At Wednesday’s meet-and-greet, Krueger read a chapter of the mystery he is currently working on, and rattled off a list of reasons why he writes:
1) “I write because I love stories.”
Krueger said he wrote his first story in third grade, about a dictionary that sprouted legs and walked around complaining that no one appreciated it enough.
The reaction from his parents and teachers was enough encouragement to keep him going.
2) “I love language.”
He said, “Words have power. The right words can make people laugh or cry.”
3) “Writing centers me.”
He said, “When I started writing, I had another job, so I’d write in a coffee shop from 6 a.m. until 7:15, when a bus would take me to my other job.
“It helped me develop the discipline necessary in any artistic endeavor. If I wrote every morning, it fed me something I needed to be fed. I was taking care of me, and providing a center for my life. Coffee shops are kind of sacred places for me.”
Page 2 of 2 - 4) “Writing gives me a tremendous sense of accomplishment.”
Krueger admitted he has a shelf at home with all his books lined up on it.
“Yes, sometimes I just sit back and stare at it, and think, ‘I did that!’
Krueger said when he was a young man living in Denver, Colorado, he worked for the city parks and rec department.
Part of his job was helping turn vacant lots into small parks where people could get away from the pressures of the world for a little while.
“I think of my books in sort of the same way,” he said.
5) “I write because I can’t not write.”
He said many people feel the same way about things they care about.
“I know gardeners who can’t not garden.”
6) “I have a vivid imagination!”
Krueger said when he was a little boy going to church, all the grown-ups thought he was a very good little boy, paying rapt attention to the preacher.
“They didn’t understand what was really going on,” he laughed. “I had this thing for Nancy, a girl whose family always sat across the aisle from my family.
“When everything thought I was paying attention to the sermon, I was imagining the church was chock full of bad guys, and I was swinging down from the choir loft, swinging my cutlass and saving Nancy!”
One of the two books Krueger is currently working on is also set in southern Minnesota. Titled The Tender Land, is it due to come out in the autumn of 2015.
One of the reasons he does the book tours is research, getting to know the small towns that make up this part of the state.
If a little bit of Redwood Falls appears in The Tender Lands, it’s because Krueger likes to know what he’s talking about.