Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Q&A with Allen Eskens

Allen Eskens is the author of the new novel The Heavens May Fall. He also has written The Life We Bury and The Guise of Another. He has worked as a criminal defense attorney for two decades, and he lives in Minnesota.

Q: The Heavens May Fall brings back some of the characters from your two previous novels. What are some of the challenges involved in writing about a recurring character?

A: As I write, I have my characters progressing over time as if their lives were also moving forward. For example, Lila Nash, who is in college in The Life We Bury, is in law school by the time my third novel, The Heavens May Fall, comes out. People change over time in small ways and in big ways, so I want to account for those kinds of changes. 

The Heavens May Fall is my third book, but it is the second book in a character arc for Max Rupert (also from The Life We Bury).  Over the course of those three novels, Max’s character will face a steady progression of challenges that will alter his perception of himself. 

Q: Did you know when you began the first novel that you would continue to write about some of the characters?

A: As a debut author, I was consumed primarily with the hope that I would get my novel published, but in the back of my mind I had the plan to write future novels about secondary characters from The Life We Bury. 

I like when my protagonists have to endure a personal journey over the course of a novel, which changes them. This is hard to do when you have a single protagonist over several books of a series. So I knew early on that I was going to create a community of characters and move from one to another to tell their stories. 

Q: How does your background as a criminal defense attorney inform your fiction writing?

A: It helps immensely to have first-hand knowledge about investigative and court procedures. When I’m outlining I can spend more time focusing on characters and relationships and less on the details of the external plot. Being a criminal defense attorney involves dissecting investigations and solving puzzles, so it dovetails nicely with being a mystery writer. 

Q: The novel takes place in Minneapolis. How important is setting to you in your writing?

A: Setting is incredibly important and Minnesota is rich in setting potential.  It has the metropolitan areas of the Twin Cities, it has farm country, it has the isolation of the wooded north, and it has extremes of weather, in particular the winters, which can act as a character unto themselves. 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: ...I am…writing the first draft of the third book of that arc [discussed earlier]. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I am very excited about the launch of The Heavens May Fall. It tells the story of the death of Jennavieve Pruitt, and is told from two perspectives. 

The first perspective is that of Max Rupert, who is investigating her death and is convinced that her husband, Ben Pruitt, committed the murder.

The second perspective is that of Boady Sanden (also a character from The Life We Bury), who is defending Ben Pruitt, and is equally convinced that Ben is innocent. Max and Boady are close friends in The Life We Bury, and that friendship gets tested in The Heavens May Fall.  

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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