Author William Kent Krueger to speak at Nobles County Library in Worthington
“I’ll talk about the importance of stories, where they come from, what they mean to us all and how they can help transform us as human beings."
WORTHINGTON — Readers, fans and library-lovers are all invited to hear bestselling mystery-thriller novelist William Kent Krueger speak from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Nobles County Library in Worthington.
“I’ll talk about the importance of stories, where they come from, what they mean to us all and how they can help transform us as human beings,” said Krueger, who has visited the library in Worthington nearly a handful of times since he became a published author.
Krueger isn’t from Minnesota, which may surprise those who have read his books; he was born in Wyoming and grew up in Oregon. He fell for Minnesota hard when he moved to the state with his wife when she chose to attend the University of Minnesota Law School.
“I lived kind of a nomadic life before that… I never really had anywhere to call home,” Krueger said. “I fell in love with this place and its people, this adopted home of mine.”
His best-known central character, Cork O’Connor, has mixed Ojibwe-Irish ancestry, and has deep roots in northern Minnesota.
“When you are a writer of fiction, what you’re looking for is conflict, because it’s conflict that drives great stories,” Krueger explained. “When I looked up north in Minnesota, conflict is what I saw. Conflict in the weather, conflict in the two cultures trying to live up there … white and Ojibwe … and not always doing a good job of it.”
He wanted his character to mirror the cultural conflict. Krueger ensures his depiction of Ojibwe culture is accurate by having some of his Ojibwe friends vet his books before they’re published.
And even in the prologue of the first Cork O’Connor book, “Iron Lake,” published in 1998, the sights, scents and sounds of northern Minnesota shine through as a young Cork goes on a bear hunt.
Krueger still visits northern Minnesota when he can, and especially when he knows what season he’ll set his next Cork O’Connor book in, so that he can take in the colors, scents and feel of the places there, listen to what people are talking about and tell the story to his readers.
His writings also range to southern Minnesota, though — “Ordinary Grace” is set in the Minnesota River valley, and “This Tender Land” starts in southwest Minnesota in the Pipestone area. Krueger is also working on a standalone book set in a fictional town based on Jackson.
“I think it’s just a lovely place,” he said of the town.
As mystery-thrillers, his novels feature some dark moments for the characters in them.
“When I published my first mystery in the Cork O’Connor series, I joined a community of writers who turned out to be among the most supportive, generous, decent people you could possibly imagine, and paradoxically, we create incredible mayhem in the pages of our novels,” he said. “And I think the reason we can be so decent and still write such dark stories is that we do take a look at the dark side of human nature, and the dark side that is in us all. And we face those demons, and we’re able to deal with them, so when we come out of writing a book, we have purged ourselves, I think, a bit.”
Krueger is looking forward to his visit to Worthington, and offered some advice for prospective writers.
“Do it every day. Sit down and carve out some time every day, seven days a week, to do the work,” he said, noting that it would help build the discipline necessary to be a writer, reinforce for the writer and everyone else that it’s important to the writer, and in the end, the writer will have accomplished something.