Allen Eskens is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob for the month of February. I put Allen's book, The Life We Bury on my Goodreads "To Read" list 4 months before it was published. I knew then, that I would want to feature Allen on my blog and it has been enjoyable getting to know him and reading his awesome book. I had the chance to ask him some questions about his life and his book. Read on.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a writer and an attorney and a husband and father. I live quietly in the country outside of Mankato Minnesota, but I grew up in Missouri. For twenty years now, I’ve been studying creative writing the way some guys might obsess on golf or fishing. Writing was something I did to relax. I’ve now had the great fortune to publish my debut novel and am on my way to writing three more.
2. What inspired you to write The Life We Bury?
I wanted to write literary mystery with a protagonist who gets pulled into a mystery by circumstances as opposed to choice. I am also a fan of cold case mysteries. So with those two points in mind, I began brain storming ideas and remembered a class assignment I did in college where I went to a nursing home and interviewed a stranger. That idea became the genesis for The Life We Bury.
3. Usually an author puts some of his own life experiences in the book. Did you do that? Do you have anything in common with your characters?
There are many small details in the novel that come from my personal experience. For example, I borrowed a friend’s cabin up north to have a writing weekend. The cabin had electricity and a wood stove for heat, but no running water. I had to trek a couple hundred yards through waist-deep snow to get there. Before heading back to my car to get a second load of supplies, I made snow shoes out of a couple boards. That experience made its way into the story in Joes hunting cabin experience. I think it’s impossible to create a main character in a novel and not have some of yourself come through in that character.
4. The Life We Bury is your first novel. Can you tell us why or when you decided to become a writer?
I discovered, in high school, that I enjoyed expressing myself creatively. Back then, it was theatre. As I aged, I still felt a need to be creative. I am a huge daydreamer and writing seemed a perfect way to harness my daydreams and turn them into a creative outlet. After I got out of law school, I started studying creative writing in my spare time with an eye toward one day writing a novel.
5. Are you currently working on a new novel and will you share part of the plot with us?
My next novel, The Guise of Another (working title) is more of a thriller than The Life We Bury, and will be launched on October 6 of this year. The homicide detective from The Life We Bury, Max Rupert, and his brother Alexander are the central characters in the next novel. My goal is to write about a small community of characters who take turns being the protagonist.
6. Do you like to read? What authors or books influence you?
I am a poor reader. I like to read, but I have trouble finishing books. One of two things tends to happen. Either I get bored as the second act starts to drag and I put it down, or the writing is so good that I get inspired to do my own writing and I put it down. Don’t get me wrong, I do finish books, but not nearly as many as I start.
7. Name one book that you believe is a must read and tell us why?
I’m going to sidestep the obvious (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bell Jar, etc.) and pick a book from the mystery genre. I think that Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane is a must read for anyone writing mysteries. It shows how much a good writer can do in combining literary writing, complex plot structure and depth of character. All this and it’s still a great mystery.
8. What is the most important lesson/idea you want readers to take away from your book, The Life
The Life We Bury is a story about people dealing with guilt. One character is looking back on a lifetime of trying to escape his guilt, another is new to his. The lesson is that guilt will stay with you, change you, even destroy you if you don’t face it.
9. Can you tell us about the Innocence Project?
The Innocence Project is a nationwide program created to reopen cases where people may have been wrongfully convicted. With the advent of DNA evidence, we’ve been able to determine with certainty that some of those convicted were innocent. The Innocence Project seeks to find that evidence and get the cases back to court.
10. Your book, The Life We Bury has been nominated for the Edgar Award and the MN Book Award. What was your reaction when your book was nominated?
It is a heady thing to be nominated for an award, but to be nominated for three (I am also a finalist for a Rosebud Award at the Left Coast Crime Convention), that knocked me for a loop. It is humbling and exciting and I am enjoying the ride immensely.
11. Tell us in one sentence why we should read: The Life We Bury
People should read The Life We Bury because, in the end, it’s the story of a bond between two brothers and how that bond is tested in the course of a cold case mystery.
If you would like to win a copy of Allen's book please enter here: The Life We Bury Giveaway