Thrilled to have one of my favorite authors back on my blog to launch his latest novel. The Shadows We Hide is the much anticipated follow up to The Life We Bury. You can read my last interview with Allen by clicking the link here.
Welcome Allen Eskens!
Bestselling author Allen Eskens is the recipient of the Barry Award, Minnesota Book Award, Rosebud Award, and Silver Falchion Award and has been a finalist for the Edgar® Award, Thriller Award, Anthony Award, and Audie Award. His books have been translated into 21 languages and his novel, The Life We Bury is in development for a feature film.
Allen has a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota and a law degree from Hamline University. After law school, he studied creative writing in the M.F.A. program at Minnesota State University-Mankato, as well as the Loft Literary Center and the Iowa Summer Writer’s Festival. Allen grew up on the hills of central Missouri. He now lives with his wife, Joely, in greater Minnesota where he recently retired after practicing criminal law for 25 years.
Allen is represented by Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron and Associates Literary Agency.
There were four years between your debut novel, The Life We Bury, and its sequel, The Shadows We Hide. In between, you published three books in the Max Rupert Series. What led you down these two roads? Why the series between the first book and your fifth?
Thanks for this question, Elena. At the core of my writing is the hero’s journey. I want to see a character evolve and grow over the course of a novel (or trilogy), so that by the end of the story, the hero sees himself/herself or sees the world differently than they did at the beginning. In The Life We Bury, Joe survived a significant crucible. He wasn’t ready for another journey right away.
On the other hand, I saw a three-book arc for Max Rupert (a secondary character from The Life We Bury) that I wanted to pursue. By the end of those three books, Max would not only be changed, but emotionally and morally drained. However, over the course of those years, as Max’s story played out, Joe would become ready for his next journey. I also wanted time to pass so that Joe was in a different place in his life. Thus where Joe was in college in The Life We Bury, he is a reporter for the Associated Press in The Shadows We Hide.
“At the core of my writing is the hero’s journey.”
The Life We Bury and The Shadows We Hide revolve around amateur sleuth, Joe Talbert, while Max Rupert is a homicide detective. How different was it to write “mysteries” from both the professional and amateur perspectives?
There is definitely a sharp contrast between writing for a detective versus writing for an amateur. Foremost is that the professional is supposed to be investigating crime—that’s his job. He has the means and the training. He has access to forensic labs and the panoply of tools developed for professional investigations.
The amateur, on the other hand, is pulled into a mystery because of something personal that ties them to the crime—at least in my books that’s the case. He/she wants to see the matter solved because it is a need that must be fulfilled. Also, because there is no access to the professional accoutrements of crime fighting, the author must either find a way to give the amateur access to those tools, or must give the amateur sleuth some unique insight or knowledge that allows them to solve the crime—some special piece of information or experience that the professional investigators don’t have.
When you wrote The Life We Bury, did you know you wanted to write the second book?
I didn’t foresee a sequel to The Life We Bury until I almost finished revising it. At that time it occurred to me that if I were to manage to get the book published, I might want to write a sequel. I could see the outline for that sequel even then, and I knew that it would not take place until after Joe was out of college. Because of that, I added specific passages to The Life We Bury that I knew would be important if there were to be a sequel. I’m glad that I put that thought into it because the sequel would have been much more difficult if I had not.
Also, as I write my stories, I create a world with multiple characters who all continue to live in my head. I contemplate what a novel for any one character might look like as I am writing that character for the current novel. That way, if I ever decide to tell a story about that particular secondary character, I’ve developed them enough that their story has a running start.
“It feels great to be a full-time writer.”
You recently retired after twenty-five years practicing criminal law. How does it feel to be a full time writer? Has your process changed?
It feels great to be a full-time writer. When I wrote my first four novels, I did very little other than work and write. Now, I am so much more relaxed, and I’m able to enjoy a little free time to chill with my wife and dogs. I enjoy the process of writing more now as well, although I have long enjoyed the pursuit writing, even before I started publishing my work. I have also become a big fan of taking naps.
Your books are rooted in the Upper Midwest, specifically Minnesota. How does that environment, and the communities there, impact the characters and the stories they tell?
I like writing about Minnesota because there is a rich variety of both setting and environment to choose from. The Shadows We Hide has a strong tie to farmland, so it is set in the southwest part of the state. The Deep Dark Descending needed a scene of isolation, so I wrote that part of the story along the northern border. The Heavens May Fall played out in the metropolitan streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I can write stories that bake under the heat of the summer sun and others that force my characters to battle against the harshest winters that the country has to offer.
With that said, I just completed a manuscript that takes place in Missouri where I grew up. I needed to return to the world of my youth for that one.
What are you working on now?
As I mentioned above, I just completed a manuscript for a story set in Missouri. It is the backstory of Boady Sanden, a character in both The Life We Bury and The Heavens May Fall. The story takes place in 1976 and recreates the world of my youth. I am also attempting to write the screenplay for that one before moving on to my next novel which will be a story for Lila Nash.
Lila is the love interest in The Life We Bury as well as The Shadows We Hide (she also had a supporting role in The Heavens May Fall). Over the course of five novels, she has grown in confidence and wisdom. She had some bad things that happened to her in her past, and having graduated from law school in The Shadows We Hide, I feel she is ready to delve into that traumatic history.
” . . . never stop learning.”
Final Words of Wisdom:
My final words of wisdom for writers would be to never stop learning. There is so much to this profession and craft that I don’t think that I’ll ever stop learning and improving. If writing is your passion—if you must write in order to be fulfilled—then take the time to understand the craft and never stop adding to that understanding.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to spend time with us here!
Looking forward to reading the new book!