I’m here at my home in Dubai, and I just finished “Le verità sepolte” (original title The Life We Bury) by Allen Eskens. A story set in Minnesota, a place I love, where I spent two summer seasons working at the Concordia Language Villages, thanks to my friend and colleague Roberto, who gave me chance to discover this project. That’s why I’m getting this small digression from the usual topics about Dubai and UAE. I always had my own idea you never choose a book; it’s the book itself choosing you.. and it’s very funny how this book and state of Minnesota found me in the UAE..
The story is about Joe Talbert, a junior at the University of Minnesota, who receives a class assignment to write a biography of someone who has lived an interesting life. Being short of time for a different choice, he decides to go to a nursing home close by his home, where he meets Carl Iverson, a man dying of cancer who has been medically paroled after spending thirty years in prison for the rape and the murder of a fourteen-year-old girl. Carl agrees to tell Joe his story, and Joe sets out to unravel the tapestry of the thirty-year-old murder. Joe is in trouble about considering “interesting” the life of a murderer.. but he’s going to change his mind.
At the end of the book, a note by Allen Eskens, inviting people to share on the social network comments and feedback about the story. So. I decided to contact him and Allen was so kind to take some time to speak with me about his debut novel.
Nico de Corato: Hi Allen, first of all thanks for your time. I had chance to work in Minnesota and visit some beautiful places over there. Tell us something about the location of your novel and Minnesota you daily live.
Allen Eskens: The Life We Bury takes place in my adopted home State of Minnesota, which is a wonderful place to set a novel. Minnesota is known for having a diverse, intelligent population, a topography that can take one from the hills of an enormous forest to the heart of a major city in just a few hours, and weather powerful enough that it can take on the role of a character in a story. For example, in The Life We Bury, I used a blizzard as both an obstacle to be overcome and a protector of my protagonist, Joe Talbert.
NdC: What’s your feeling about your debut novel?
AE: I’m living the life that every debut author dreams about. The Life We Bury has been well received and was nominated for seven different awards including the Edgar Award for Best Debut Novel. It’s been on the USA Today Bestsellers list for twelve weeks. It’s being translated into ten different languages and we sold the movie rights and are hopeful that it will someday be a movie. But what continues to amaze me are the emails I receive from readers. I am humbled whenever a reader takes the time to write to me to let me know that they enjoyed my book. I am honored to have people like Nico de Corato ask me to do an interview. To know that my book is finding its way to Italy and Dubai and around the world continues to amaze me.
NdC: What’s the origin of the story?
AE: The Life We Bury is the story of a college student who gets pulled into a thirty-year-old murder when he interviews a dying man for a class assignment. When I was in college, I did that assignment for a journalism class, although I didn’t meet a convicted murderer like Joe did. The second part of the story is about my protagonist wanting to run away from home and leave his autistic brother behind. When I started the novel, I knew that Joe was running away from home to go to college, but I didn’t know what he was running from. I found my inspiration when I attended the play The Glass Menagerie (by Tennessee Williams). I decided to start my novel where the play ended, with the main character leaving behind a handicapped sibling. With that inspiration, I created the character of the autistic brother, Jeremy.
NdC: Can you talk about your next project?
AE: My second novel, the Guise of Another, came out in October and I just finished my third novel The Heavens May Fall, which will be out in America on October 4 of this year. The next three novels, starting with The Guise of Another, follow a three-book arc for Max Rupert, a secondary character from The Life We Bury. I am creating a community of characters from the Life We Bury and telling some of their stories before I come back to Joe Talbert for the sequel to The Life We Bury.
NdC: Any idea about setting one of the next project in Dubai and UAE..? Have you ever been there?
AE: I have never been to that part of the world, but I would love to get there someday. I have three more books in my head that are itching to be written and unfortunately, none of them have a link to Dubai. After I finish those books, however, maybe I’ll find a connection. It would give me an excuse to visit your beautiful city.
To learn more about Allen and his upcoming works visit his website at www.AllenEskens.com