William Kent Kruger Photo: From Reader's Digest
RD: Native American culture is a strong theme in your Cork O’Connor novels. What do you find most interesting or inspiring about it?
WKK: I admire tremendously the courage of the Ojibwe. In the face of great hardship, they have endured. They have not lost their language, their traditions, or their sense of humour. I have a number of acquaintances within the Ojibwe community and they are amazingly generous with their time and their knowledge.
RD: And how did the main character come by his name?
WKK: Before I knew anything else about the books, I knew the protagonist would be named Cork. I imagined a character so resilient that no matter how far life pushed him down, he would always bob back to the surface.
RD: Did you have to do a great deal of research for this book?
WKK: I wouldn’t say a lot. At its heart, Thunder Bay is a love story and that’s something I’ve been researching all my life.
RD: You moved around a lot in your childhood. Why was that, and what is your clearest memory of those times?
WKK: For a long time, my father worked for a large oil company and was often transferred. Rather than thinking of these moves as disruption or hardship, my family always saw them as adventure. What I remember most is our eager anticipation of a new place.
RD: You met your wife Diane quite early in life and are still happily married to her thirty years later. How did you know she was ‘the one’?
WKK: I don’t think anyone ever ‘knows’. And love changes across thirty years. Like a garden gone wild, it grows dense and tangled and spreads far beyond its proper borders. If you’re lucky—and I am—the tendrils of love invade every nook and cranny of your life and one day you realise that the beautiful wild garden has swallowed you up.
RD: You were expelled as a student for taking a stand against what you saw as the university’s complicity in producing weapons for the Vietnam War. Are you still politically active?
WKK: These days I’m more spiritual in my approach to the turmoil of the world. I pray. I volunteer. On occasion, I still march. More and more, however, I simply tend my garden.
RD: Before becoming a writer, which job did you enjoy least?
WKK: When I was a young man, I spent some time logging timber in the Rockies. One day, as I ate lunch alongside my brother, we stared across a mountainside we’d helped clear of trees. It was a devastating sight. We quit then and there and walked twenty miles down off that mountain. It was one of the best days of my life.
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