Henning Mankell

So here I am reading an article in Entertainment Weekly about author Henning Mankell, a man who has had the sort of life we don’t tell our children they can lead if they drop out of high school — a wildly successful and satisfying one.

Yes, at age 16, in Latin class, Mankell decided, “Hey, I’m outta here” and told his dad he was off to live life and become a writer. Now, at age 63, he has had a career that many writers dream about, one that has spanned decades and launched the very popular Kurt Wallander mystery series, of which the final installment, The Troubled Man, is being released.

I don’t know about you, but I devour any article I can find about writers, their process and their roads to publication (more so than articles on how to write), which is probably why I profile debut authors on this blog every Tuesday. And there’s always a little somethin’ somethin’ worth gleaning, and for this article it was this quote:

“I am not that interested in police procedure,” Mankell says. “What really interests me is why things happen. For me, it is a very important challenge to let Wallander stand thinking in a room for 10 pages and make that read [well].”

Virtually any writer, particularly those who rely on plot to move their stories forward (thriller writers, etc.), who has ever tried to make “thinking” exciting knows what Mankell is talking about. For Baby Grand, I had lots of thinking going on, and I was always very aware of not having too much for fear of boring, and losing, the reader.

I am tempted to open the manuscript and see just how many pages I devoted to “thinking” in one gulp. I’m inclined to say it was quite a few. Whether or not I was able to “make that read well” remains to be seen.


8 thoughts on “Henning Mankell

  1. I tend to linger in one moment in time and drag it out with a lot of dialogue or description. When I took a creative writing course the intructor complimented me on that and said I was really good at putting the reader in the moment.

  2. I think, like anything, it’s a matter of balance…a little thinking, a little dialogue, a little action, a little rest, repeat. The deeper you take the thinking, the better. Sometimes I think pretty good and rotten stuff…so should a character in a book.

  3. You know – I used to think of myself as a writer for a long time. I attempted two books, got half way through – and then found myself pursuing other careers. I was much better writing music – short and sweet – you don’t have to go on and on for 200 or so pages. Now I write my own blogs and newsletters – but I never lost the love of reading and writing. Your question on your blog was a great one. I can remember very distinctly when I was reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, I had this unbelievable feeling that the character (while she was thinking) was talking directly to me. I had to step back for a moment because what I felt was so powerful. There were a number of times when I felt that during that book. I underlined them and I circled the paragraphs and jotted my own feelings down about the passages. Sometimes a novel just has to have those intimate moments that speak directly to the reader. Then I don’t feel like it’s a book – I feel like it’s a person talking to me.

    I’ve had many moments like that reading many books – but the one that came to me first was Atwood’s. Check that book out again, if you’ve read it – read it if you haven’t.

    Keep up the great work!


  4. My soon-to-be-published work has much rumination and exposition.

    I recently had an accomplished and published author tell me that the book was like a documentary.

    Well, since the book itself says it’s not a novel, I felt good about having written what appealed to a successful author.

    Of course, even without kudos from another author, the book itself told me how it had to be written.

    My job is to find its readership…

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