In the fall of 2014, Louise Penny visited Kobo’s home office in Toronto and was interviewed by editor and book enthusiast Jennifer Knoch for a special Kobo in Conversation video.
Introduced by Kobo’s Director of Communications, Tracy Nesdoly, Knoch interviews Penny in front of a live audience about her writing, followed by a Q&A from the audience. In the discussion, Knoch and Penny discuss:
- The difference between murder in a large city and murder in a the country in an idyllic small town setting like Three Pines
- How Louise had written the original Three Pines novel thinking of it as a stand-alone novel that she wanted to write mostly for herself
- How, when the book was originally written as an exploration of the world being dark (it was written post-9/11) and then modified to encompass a more warm and pleasant setting where the depth of friendship and the connections between people was more prominent – where the cast of characters would be people she would like to have as friends
- How the inspiration for the first Three Pines novels was inspired from a few specific lines from the poet WH Auden
- How it takes a whole lot more courage to be kind than it does to be cruel to others; and how the majority of characters of Three Pines are filled with so much compassion
- Good people who might have done bad things and bad people who are also capable of doing good things
- How Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is a balanced and complex character with flaws and strengths and yet is an incredible human being
- How Penny tries to hint at and provide information in order to let the reader imagine, creating a rich reading experience
- How Penny’s first draft can be akin to a “huge pile of merde” – and the cutting and tweaking and polishing that happen in the next drafts and how she does 5 or 6 drafts before anyone else (ie, her editor) sees the manuscript
- Penny’s belief that there isn’t a single “right way” to approach writing – how different writers will find different approaches that work for them
The dial-up connections in Three Pines are very much based on where Penny lives (where she only has a dial-up connection), and Penny’s expression that it sounds, when you are connecting, that the internet is in pain.
- How the more high tech we become, the more we yearn for intimacy, and how that ties into the fictional setting of Three Pines quite wonderfully
- The interesting news Penny rec’d from her agent when, upon selling the first book to a publisher, she had also sold the second and third books
- How she was inspired to show the “critic” who had been writing the follow-up books the door and to let the Creative Spirit inside her write the first draft; and how important that was to free her up (and how that second book ended up winning the Agatha Award in 2013
- The importance of giving yourself permission to make mistakes in that first draft
- How Penny writes “Fair Play” mysteries in which the reader realizes, at the end, that all the clues were there for them to solve it.
- How she knows, before she begins writing, who did it, how the person died as well as the overall theme of the book
After the interview, Kobo Writing Life Director Mark Lefebvre comments on a few of the things Penny mentioned and then talks about a new feature on Kobo Writing Life which allows authors the ability to enter the Volume Number for a Series into the system for their books.
Lefebvre explains the critical importance that clean metadata plays in assisting readers with finding the right book and how Kobo intends on using this clean data to assist with the automatic curation of series books for customers who adore them.
ECW Press, where Jennifer Knoch is an associate editor
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