Meet Allen Eskens
As a talented author, with two stunning novels out, what are your goals when writing a new novel?
I have, in my head, two goals, the first is to give the reader a suspenseful plot to keep them turning pages. The second goal is to draw the reader into the characters and evoke emotion. Achieving both those goals is difficult, but as a reader, that is what I look for in a novel.
Your Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Juris Doctorate degree in Law have helped shaped you as writer. When writing your novels what kind of research do you have to do, if any?
I’m always researching scenes, going to the places that I am writing about and filling my senses with what is around me. I also try to be accurate in what I write about, especially historical events that come into the novel. I do most of that research online, but have been known to hit the library to do research as well.
Can you tell us readers what it is like going through the M.F.A program?
As a matter of fair disclosure, I didn’t finish the MFA program. I already had a law degree and didn’t plan to teach, so I studied those elements of writing that I felt I needed to become a better writer. When it came time for technical writing or classes that didn’t apply to creative writing, I chose not to take them, and thus didn’t finish my degree. But while I was there, I was inspired to become a better writer. I was particularly inspired by classes that I took from Terry Davis (author of Vision Quest). I learned important tools and gained a greater understanding of the craft of writing.
Your debut novel, The Life We Bury, is the most intriguing and suspenseful novel that I have ever read. What inspired you to write such a stunning novel?
First of all, thank you very much for that wonderful compliment. The Life We Bury came from the notion that I wanted to start with an average Joe and have him thrown into an extraordinary circumstance. I came upon the idea of a college student doing an assignment from an actual assignment I did in college. But I also wanted to tie that in with an emotional story. I knew that I would have Joe running away from home to go to college, but I didn’t know at first what he was running from. When I came up with the backstory of Jeremy, the autistic brother, I knew that I had my novel.
You have mentioned that you have written a second novel called, The Guise of Another. Can you briefly tell us readers what this new book is about?
The Guise of Another is the story of two brothers who are both detectives in Minneapolis. Max Rupert (the detective from The Life We Bury) is a homicide detective and his younger brother Alexander is in Frauds. Alexander’s life and career are in a downward spiral and he gets a case that he believes will rehabilitate his reputation. He throws himself into the case and bites off more than he expected. When things get really serious, Max tries to help his brother survive the carnage that gets unleashed.
In your novel, The Life We Bury, who was your toughest character to create and which was the easiest?
I think Carl was the most difficult to create because I wanted the reader’s opinion of him to change over the course of the novel, but not because he does something overt to change that opinion, but because the reader gets to know him. I think Joe was the easiest, because there is a lot of me in Joe.
What are your other hobbies besides writing perfect thrillers/mysteries?
I enjoy wood working, although I have not had time to build anything lately, and I have rescued dogs in the past, but with the travelling that I’ve been doing, I’ll hold off on that for a while as well.
What is your advice to those wanting to become writers?
My advice is learn the craft. No matter how talented a writer may be, there is never a point where he or she should feel that they have finished learning. Even the most talented athlete still trains and gets advice from a coach. I see so many writers who think that once they have a good idea for a story that they can just write that down and have a novel. I think to myself that I should be able to take any simple tale—say Jack and Jill went up the hill—and, through craftsmanship, write a suspenseful tale full of rich language. Once a writer can do that, then they can tackle that wonderful plot idea.
What three things would you say writers should mostly focus on when creating their novels?
Characters: Make them complex. Everyone has a history and that history dictates who we are and what we think. Characters should have that complexity as well.
Plot: Understand the three-act arc. Understand the elements of plot that Joseph Campbell wrote about (see also Chris Vogler). These elements have been forged over ions of storytelling. Writers do much of this intuitively already, but if they understand what they are doing and why, they can expand upon their story.
Language: Make it fresh. Every now and again I’ll come across a line so well written that I’ll close the book and just think about the sentence (usually wishing that I’d come up with it). A book does not need to be rife with this brilliance (we can’t all be Sylvia Plath) but let the reader know that you have those arrows in your quiver (excuse the cliché).
Can you share with us readers on plans for new novels, if any?
Right now I am working on a three book arc for Max Rupert, The Guise of Another being the first of the three. After that, I have a plan for a story for Boady Sanden (the attorney in The Life We Bury). I also have a plan to do a sequel for The Life We Bury.
Where can readers find you and your books online?
You can find my books just about everywhere online, Amazon, B&N, KOBO, BAM.