Some of my closest friends know that I have secretly (over the last few years) been obsessed with author Allen Eskens. He writes in a style that captivates and moves, yet his style is written in a way that latches on to your soul. One reviewer wrote that he rips their heart out and sews it back together again, only to rip it back out again! How fitting for a guy that comes from mid-west roots in Missouri, trekked to Iowa for a short stint at the University of Iowa before transferring to the University of Minnesota and after latching onto a journalism education found his way into law school where he found a love of being a defense attorney.
He started writing as a way to express himself, and sketched and outlined his way over the last 25 years into an ongoing saga with fitting characters and fitting plots to keep you going all year! Move over John Sanford. If you like Sanford…pick up Eskens books…because in my humble opinion he’s better. I’m not joking.
So, last Friday, Allen Eskens was invited to speak on campus and as I was wandering the halls making my way to the lecture hall (where he was going to speak) I ran right into the man, legend, and upcoming literary star himself! Of course, I had many questions about his books and he asks me, “Have you had a chance to read The Life We Bury?” and in my excitement I answered “I’ve read every single one of your books”.
I have to laugh now as I ponder this brief discussion as I am sure he thought I was a nut job. But he smiled, and tested me by teasing me with his latest book (PUBLISHED TODAY…FYI!!!) practically handing it to me and saying, ‘Have you read THIS??”
‘No! I haven’t read THAT!!” I answered
Needless to say, I passed his little test, but it was a fantastic time meeting the author because I did have some big questions for him.
Without giving anything away for any of you future readers out there, my big question was a follow up from a Good Reads review I had written about one of his main characters, and how in one of his last books he did a complete flip in character and literally changed from a familiar person or hero to a complete stranger. This whole change in character nearly ruined the books for me, and I gave it a low star rating. I RARELY do that! So we discussed it, and to my surprise Allen wasn’t offended and went on to say that he was getting about a 50/50 split reaction from fans on the whole notion.
That impressed me as he explained his point (which might not make sense to any one of you who HASN’T read his books), but his main character, Max, had this internal struggle from a past murder of his wife. He locates the murderer and now faces the internal struggle and moral dilemma of “Do I kill this guy, or let him live”
Eskens called it, “the ultimate revenge book”
I still wrestle with some of it, but after he explained his position it made sense. But the carrot he dangled in front of my face, was the anticipation that the series is just getting started, and that the story (though taking a major shift) is long from over.
The rest of the time Allen talked about his style of writing. He sketches and outlines like crazy, plots and subplots and tries to create a character arc for characters, and when the creative process is almost over (3-4 months) he takes the next couple of months to write it, than he re-works it and makes edits before turning it into his agent, who also makes revisions. All in all, he said it takes approximately a year to write a book. The process doesn’t stop, and he is always thinking of the next story, but he already knows where things are, and knows details about each and every character…and before closing with his speech, he pointed to his head and said, ‘They’re all up here”.
It’s hard not to like a guy like Eskens. Not only does he come with mid-west roots, here in the states, but he also has a non-quit attitude. He was turned down by 150 agents as he went through the publishing process for his first book.
When one of the audience members asked him how he persevered through that first stage of being discovered, he simply stated, ” I didn’t know any different. I wasn’t writing to be discovered. I was writing for me. If I was lucky enough to get published than it was like a bucket list item. Check it off the list. But that’s NOT why I write. So, I write for my own enjoyment, which is why, during the long 150 agent finding process of receiving rejection after rejection, I kept writing. I already had my second book practically finished.”
Go check out one of his books today!