Happy exciting BLOGMAS day 12!
I decided to stick my neck out one day and ask Atria Books if William Kent Krueger would be willing to answer some questions about his new novel This Tender Land for my blog. I woke up at 6 AM one morning to an email back from the author himself, accepting. I was so excited that I woke my boyfriend up from a deep slumber.
Thank you to Atria Books for forwarding the request. Thank you to William Kent Krueger for taking time out of his day to answer my questions and for being a kind person overall. I will remember this forever.
I hope you all enjoy learning about this incredible novel and the mastermind behind it! I had a lot of fun. I even bought myself a signed B&N exclusive edition of This Tender Land, and I’m excited to display it on my shelves.
Links to my review for This Tender Land:
1. I read on your website that you researched childhood development at the University of Minnesota. All the children in This Tender Land are very well developed, but I was curious to know if you learned anything new from creating characters like Odie and Mose?
WKK: I learn something new with every character I create in any story I write. For me, it’s like running into someone new and getting to know them. They have much to offer as characters, not just as elements of the story. In creating the Four Vagabonds, I learned lessons in forgiveness, lessons about grief, lessons about family and friendship. I have a lot of input on my own, of course, but the characters themselves dictate so much, and I try to give them plenty of room to breathe and act and grow.
2. I work at a library and have noticed an increase in books involving Native American characters/culture. What inspired you to write about white brothers in an all Indian school?
WKK: For more than twenty years, in my Cork O’Connor mystery series, I’ve dealt with issues that are significant to the Native community. The tragic history of the Native American boarding school system is something I’ve been aware of for a very long time. In the early stages of conceiving the story for This Tender Land, I knew that I wanted the orphans to be running from a horrific environment. I couldn’t think of anything more horrific than life in one of these boarding schools. And because I knew from the beginning that one of the kids on the odyssey the Vagabonds were going take would be Native American, it all fit together nicely.
3. Was there a specific building/place that gave you inspiration for the Lincoln Indian Training School?
WKK: I drew a lot of inspiration from the Pipestone Indian Training School, which was situated in southwestern Minnesota, but is no longer in existence. The physical layout and many of the specific elements, however, were an amalgam of elements I gleaned from my research involving many other boarding schools.
4. This novel discusses a lot about the land and the environment around these children as they make their long arduous journey to St. Louis. Is there a deeper meaning behind that?
WKK: Any good story, I believe, ought to be a doorway to a consideration of ideas and themes that have universal appeal and application. So, in my conception of the novel and what it might be, I saw the river journey representing all kinds of odysseys—spiritual, emotional, even physical. And I also believe that any good story ought to leave itself open to multiple interpretations. Readers ought to be able to read into it whatever their own lives and perceptions direct them to see. It’s not unusual for readers to point out to me something they found of significance that went completely over my head in the actual writing of the story. But once they bring it to my attention, I can see where they’re coming from.
5. I love that Odie is a storyteller. When you were brainstorming ideas for the book, did you already know he would be a storyteller? If not, was there something else he was going to be known for?
WKK: I knew all along that Odie would narrate the story, but that he was also a storyteller was something I only discovered once I began the actual writing. It seemed a natural part of his being. In the same way, I discovered the nature of Albert and Mose and all the complexity that is Emmy. Composing this story was just as much a journey for me as it was for any of the Four Vagabonds.
6. There are a ton of diverse characters throughout the book. My favorite being Herman Volz. He truly was an upstanding guy. Do you have a favorite character? Did it change while writing the book?
WKK: I always identified with Odie. There’s so much of who I am in that wonderful kid. Although I adored all the Vagabonds (and I understand your appreciation of Herman Volz), my favorite, start to finish, was Odie.
About the Author
*Photo is from his website.
William Kent Krueger is the author of This Tender Land, published on September 3rd, 2019. He also wrote a stand-alone novel called Ordinary Grace, published March 23rd, 2013, winner of the Edgar Award. His Cork O’Connor mystery series is also a winner of many awards, including the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, the Minnesota Book Award, the Anthony Award, the Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, and the Friends of American Writer’s Prize. Krueger briefly studied at Stanford University, then dabbled in numerous jobs—freelance journalism, construction, and logging timber—before becoming a writer. He even studied childhood development at the University of Minnesota. Krueger makes his living as a full-time author and lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with his lovely wife Diane, a retired attorney. You can learn more about him and his novels on his website: https://williamkentkrueger.com/
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