They say not to judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly how I first found William Kent Krueger and his Cork O’Connor series. When considering which books to review last year, the cover of Manitou Canyon caught my eye. Intrigued, I investigated further and learned that Canyon was the fifteenth novel in Kent Krueger’s series starring Cork O’Connor, a former cop turned private investigator (and part-time cook at his little burger shack) living in Minnesota.
A huge fan of C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett series, I’m always on the lookout for similar types of novels and, after bingeing on the O’Connor series last year, I was excited to tear into the new Cork book, Sulfur Springs.
In his latest novel, Cork’s case takes him away from Minnesota and into southern Arizona. Out of his comfort zone, Cork struggles to find Peter, his wife’s adult son, who–after leaving a garbled voicemail stating that people were looking for him because they think he killed someone–has gone missing.
While searching for Peter, Cork finds all kinds of trouble. And it doesn’t take long for him to realize things aren’t quite what they seem.
Whether you’ve been reading William Kent Krueger’s books since the beginning or are looking to jump in, Sulfur Springs is a perfect choice for mystery and crime fans–especially if you like C.J. Box, Ace Atkins, or Craig Johnson.
Ahead of his lengthy book tour, William Kent Krueger took part in our Five Questions segment. Don’t miss his answers below, which include the title of next year’s Cork book, plus the title of the companion novel to Ordinary Grace that he’s currently working on!
TRBS: Sulfur Springs is the 16th Cork O’Connor novel. Did you ever imagine, back when Iron Lake came out in 1998, that this series would still be going strong sixteen books later?
Kent: “Does any author really imagine something like this at the beginning? When I was at work on Iron Lake, I just wanted to write a story that was good enough someone might want to publish it. I realized near the end of the first draft that I was creating relationships too complex to tie up easily at the end. I thought about where I might want all these people to be eventually in their lives, and it seemed to me I might need to write three books to make that happen. After three, it was simply hard to stop. I’m just grateful I have readers who have continued to stay with me all this time.”
TRBS: This book takes Cork away from Minnesota to southern Arizona. How fun was it for you to write a book with Cork in a different state and out of his element?
Kent: “Sulfur Springs is one of my favorite books in the series. Some of that is because I had such fun researching the locations in Arizona. My eyes were opened in so many ways—weather, geology, geography, and social and legal convolutions. The story I’d imagined had to be altered in many respects to stay true to the nature of that region. One of the things I set out to do with the manuscript was to write a story in which Cork is a bit of a fish out of water, away from his beloved Minnesota, trying to figure out the spirit of a place that’s so alien to him. I love writing a strong sense of place, and the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona provided that in spades.”
TRBS: Is there a chance fans might ever see Cork on the big screen? If so, which actor would be your dream casting choice to play him?
Kent: “I’ve been dealing with Hollywood since Iron Lake, the first Cork O’Connor mystery, was published in 1998. We’ve been close several times, but one of the things I know now is that with Hollywood nothing is predictable. Overnight what seems set in stone can simply melt away. I have a good agent out there and I’m always open to the approaches we get, but I never have any expectation. Which is fine. I write because I love the work, not because I thought I’d ever get rich from it or see it on the big screen.
“I used to play the ‘What Actor Is Cork O’Connor?’ game, but I gave up that long ago. The truth is that I’ve given very few hints about what Cork looks like physically, so almost any good actor could play him.”
TRBS: What is your writing process like? Do you write at the same time every day, follow a strict outline, or just sit and make up the story as you go?
Kent: “My alarm goes off at 5:45 AM every day. I get up, get dressed, and go to a coffee shop, where I spend two hours writing. I go home, have breakfast, work out at the YMCA, have lunch, do the business of being an author (all that damn email communication), then go back to the coffee shop for another two hours.
“I used to outline significantly. These days I just try to think the story through as clearly as I can before I sit down to write it. This process usually takes several weeks, or even months, while I’m finishing my current contractual obligation to my publisher. By the end of that imagining process, I know the story—how it begins, how it ends, who did what to whom and why. I like this because in the actual writing I don’t have to think about what happens next. I can concentrate on those elements that I find much more interesting than simple plot. I’m talking about the language itself, the evocation of setting and of place, how best to highlight the themes I want to weave in, the backstory of the adjunct characters, etc. Along the way, I do make changes to what I’d imagined the story to be, but they’re seldom major.”
TRBS: Lastly, now that Sulfur Springs is hitting bookstores, what’s next for you–will you take some time off or start the next book right away?
Kent: “I’m just finishing up the first draft of the next Cork O’Connor novel, which will be titled Desolation Mountain. It’s scheduled for publication in the fall of 2018. Then I return to work on the companion novel to Ordinary Grace. The book will be called This Tender Land, and, God willing, will be published in the fall of 2019.
“I’m never not at work on a story. Writing is my passion. Writing is my life.”
Sulfur Springs, the latest Cork O’Connor adventure from New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger, is now available in bookstores everywhere. Run out and get your copy (or stay in and order here) right away!