A crime wave hit Brainerd Thursday night -- at least in a literal sense -- as four authors shared their thoughts on fiction and mastering a murderous genre.
The authors, who collectively created their foursome with the title of Minnesota Crime Wave, were part of the First Thursdays speaker series sponsored by the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library. The group has done two national tours.
Published authors Ellen Hart, Deborah Woodworth, Carl Brookins and William Kent Krueger, each had a list of literary honors and strings of books between them. Their stories were a mix of large and smaller publishing houses with familiar names like Random House, St. Martin's, Pocket Books, Fawcett and Avon.
Hart, who is now working on her 21st novel, wrote her first book in 1986 and was published about four years later. Woodworth, Brookins and Krueger all wrote their first novels in the early 90s with publications following about a handful of years later.
They shared habits of writing regularly, creating book outlines, conducting research, working on revisions and being open to magical twists and turns of character and plot. Krueger writes every morning at the St. Clair Broiler in St. Paul.
For his first book, Krueger sent queries to 32 agents in New York and received six answers of "no thank you." Then he tried a query letter directed to an agent in Chicago, who had given a talk at a writer's convention, and she responded. She sent his manuscript to four publishing houses and he received competing offers from St. Martin's Press and Pocket Books.
Now two of Krueger's books have been optioned for films.
June 7 -- Shannon Olson: "Children of God Go Bowling," "Welcome to My Planet... Where English is Sometimes Spoken."
June 14 -- Mary Winstead; "Back to Mississippi: A Personal Journey Through the Events That Changed America in 1964."
June 28 -- Susan Kay Law; "Marry Me," "A Wanted Man," "The Bad Man's Bride," "Last Man in Town."
Events at Brainerd Public Library.
As a group, they said they chose to write in the mystery genre because they liked to read those novels. Woodworth said she was fascinated by the criminal mind and what pushes people to the wall.
"I like dealing with characters who are outside the norm -- in one way or another. I like getting into their heads," Brookins said.
With books in a series with a continuing protagonist, the authors said their publishing houses wanted a book per year. Hart has ideas she pitched for new books to receptive editors but lacks the time to be able to do them all. But she said she was not complaining.
"I think there are a lot of people who would like to be in the position I am in," she said.
Hart said when writing there is an element of magic that every writer is looking for but cannot summon on demand.
"Those books that have that magic in just sing," she said.
The group is looking at creating an anthology, giving a variety of Minnesota crime writers the same clues on which to base their story. They want to name the book "Dead in Fertile," after the Minnesota city.
All agreed there is room in publishing for new authors. The authors' biographies and lists of their published works are available online at www.minnesotacrimewave.org.
After the event, Sherri DeLaHunt, Nisswa, Friends of the Library member, said she hoped more people could be attracted to attend the speaker events. About 25 people attended Thursday night.
"I know we are just scratching the surface."
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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