A distinguished evening with author Krueger

Minnesota author William Kent Krueger, left, receives a basket of gifts

from Colleen Goggins King of the New Prague Area Education Foundation
Monday, Feb. 11. Krueger was the 2013 Distinguished Speaker for the foundation. To see more photos click on the blue button, lower right. (Patrick Fisher Photo)

"Once a story begins, it can go anywhere."

Minnesota author William Kent Krueger revealed that to an audience of more than 70 people on Monday, Feb. 11. Krueger was the 2013 Distinguished Speaker for the New Prague Area Education Foundation. The event was held at Prairie Pond Vineyard and Winery, 105 Main St. E.

Krueger’s statement likely not only describes writing, but the turns his life took. A best selling mystery writer, he explained how his father, an English teacher who encouraged reading, inspired him. His father would embellish the Little Golden Book "The Happy Family" by making ants at a picnic into giant ants. A day at the beach became one filled with tidal waves. His dad’s "nonreading" of the book taught him a story can go anywhere and is only limited by a person’s imagination.

Krueger decided he wanted to become a writer. One inspiration was Ernest Hemingway, both as an author and his mythic image. He wanted to emulate Hemingway by also writing the great American novel.

"It kept me from discovering what kind of writer I am," he said.

In 1987, Krueger received a Bush Artists Fellowship that allowed him to concentrate on writing a novel. The result, "The Demon Hunter," a battle of good and evil set in Nebraska, was rejected. After that failure, "I didn’t write a word for two years."

He was encouraged to try again and he decided to try writing a mystery. Krueger confessed he hadn’t read them. He thought there was a formula, but found there wasn’t. While there was a structure to mysteries, they were also simple, sturdy and flexible.

His first mystery "Iron Lake" introduced his popular character Cork O’Connor. Those and his other O’- Connor mysteries are set in northern Minnesota.

Kevin Kreger, a retired English teacher from New Prague who introduced Krueger, said he likes the character. "He evolves," said Kreger. "He’s half Irish and half Ojibwa, so he’s a good mediator," he noted. While O’Connor is flawed, he’s also a family man, which are just parts of him.

Krueger said that what makes a good mystery novel is one that is a puzzle that has an ending that is intelligently possible, emotionally satisfying, "offers dialogue that sings" and has character development. Usually it’s not the plot that makes a novel great. "It’s all the beauty that surrounds the plot.

"I learned that words are jewels and when placed correctly on the page, my God, do they sparkle," said Krueger.

His novels also allow him to address various issues. His forthcoming novel "Ordinary Grace," which he read from, deals with how a death affects a man’s faith.

Since his works are fiction and don’t reflect life, he’s been told he prints lies. "The world is chaos and we all know it," said Krueger. He said that stories offer order for some time and they often reflect the deep meanings of values and ethics that people hold onto. "At the heart of those lies are truths that I’ve come to believe in deeply."