Coffee Shop Novelist II

Apparently, Harlan Coben isn’t the only one who uses a coffee shop as his office. Novelist William Kent Krueger calls the St. Clair Boiler his office and wrote a loving tribute to it in the Washington Examiner (which I discovered on David J. Montgomery’s blog).

It’s 6:30 in the morning. I’m sitting in my car, eyeing the dark
windows of the St. Clair Broiler across the street. There’s almost no
traffic. The sidewalks are empty. A peach glow in the east suggests
that the sun will rise within the hour.

Deep in the Broiler, a
light comes on. It’s located in the kitchen where Juan is firing up the
griddle. A minute later, the red neon flame over the front door
flickers to life. Inside the cafe, there’s movement. Karen – or Lis,
or Sydney, or Carol, depending on the day – flips the main light switch
and unlocks the door. I grab my notebook and pen and head to my office
– booth No. 4.

It’s been this way for twenty years. I write
mysteries for a living, and I write them at the St. Clair Broiler in
St. Paul, Minn.

If he’s on the road, he still finds a coffee shop booth to write in.

I don’t make it to booth No. 4 every day anymore. I’m frequently on
tour or attending conferences. But I don’t desert the process. Wherever
I am – Los Angeles, New York City or Omaha – every morning, I find
myself a little coffee shop, take out my wire-bound notebook and pen,
and bend to the magic.

What he doesn’t say is what kind of deal he’s worked out with the coffee shop owner (or, I should say, what kind of deal he worked out before he was a published novelist). Don’t these coffee shop owners ever get ticked off that authors are occupying a booth all day… a booth that could be turned over perhaps a dozen times for pay customers?

One of these days, I’ll have to share the story of what happened when I was brought in by a movie studio to adapt his terrific novel IRON LAKE as M.O.W/back-door pilot. It’s a true Hollywood story…or, I guess he might consider it more of a Hollywood nightmare. At least this was one nightmare that, so far anyway, hasn’t come true.


20 thoughts on “Coffee Shop Novelist II”

  1. I’ve taken to hitting the Starbucks down the hill from my place several times a week, usually after work. One day, I walked in, looking for one of the big tables they’d placed by the windows. Instead, they had a round table, smaller, not as suited for setting up a laptop. I went up to Kimmie, who appointed herself my personal barrista, and said, “You moved my table.”
    Kimmie’s boss was standing there and said something to the effect of “Sorry about your luck.” Got a free toffee-nut latte, though.

  2. There was a piece on the new free tabloids on 60 Minutes. The Examiner is decidedly conservative as directed by the owner. A quck scan of editorial supports that.

  3. The Examiner is decidedly conservative as directed by the owner. A quck scan of editorial supports that.

    So? There’s nothing wrong or dastardly about that. It doesn’t mean the magazine won’t have interesting articles… like the one William Kent Krueger wrote, or the one on Summer Beach books that David Montogomery has coming up (which I won’t read unless it includes my book!). I read liberal publications and conservative publications and publications with no obvious political leanings at all. Besides… what the heck does that have to do with writing on coffee shops?
    I’m thinking of writing at Cold Stone Creamery.

  4. Well it’s an observation about the new free tabloids in a time of declining readership at big papers, so for a newspaper guy it’s interesting: how they get funding and the platform to publish anything even first-person writer pieces, given the demand for space, advertising and all of that.

  5. You don’t have a summer book, Lee. Otherwise, I probably would put it in there. Does that count?
    I don’t care about the politics of the papers I write for. If the People’s Weekly World paid for book reviews, I’d write ’em.

  6. How about the Weekly World News? You could write about what Elvis, Bigfoot, and space aliens are reading these days.

  7. As probably the only one here who worked as a waitress through college, let me say that writers are fine. They usually tip well, tell good stories if they are feeling chatty and are generally pretty quiet. Much more of a pain in the ass to wait on high school / college students studying. They want more distractions so they bug you more, anyone with real work to accomplish is an easy regular.

  8. Not all publications are created equal, but if the check clears so what? The list at WE is Regnery heavy, but that’s no mystery. Writing reviews, reporting politics and writing editorials are very different animals.

  9. The list at WE is Regnery heavy, but that’s no mystery.
    Let’s see if Mark is right…
    If you check the Examiner’s current book line-up, which stretches back to 3/14, you’ll find:
    A book from Knopf, an editorial about the Pope, a book from Crown Forum, Kent Krueger’s piece on writing, a book from Oxford University Press, a piece on Bono, an article about the TV show Revelations, a book from Viking, Bob Dole’s book, one from Harvard University Press, a piece from Rep. Jim Moran about what he’s reading (he’s my congressman, a Democrat), a book from Pantheon, one from Bay Tree Publishing, former CIA director James Woolsey’s favorite spy books, a piece on comic books, something on Kirstie Alley, “What I’m Reading” from someone I never heard of, a Random House book, and a Doubleday book.
    Crown Forum looks to be a conservative publisher, but nothing else is noticeably right wing.
    Hmmm…I wonder which edition of the paper he’s reading?

  10. Well I used Regnery in a symbolic form, while certainly recognizing who Bono and Jim Moran are. A quick glance and some of the reviews support what I’m saying, but it isn’t in totality. Almost nothing is in real life.
    “Worst review – A fact-free defense of racial spoils
    “The Case for Affirmative Action in University”
    The reviewer is a conservative lawyer who hammered this guy, but if the author doesn’t know who Ted Olsen is he deserves it. Still it’s a FOX-esque skewering based on an ideological premise.
    Woolsey also a democrat but so is Richard perle.
    Others on culture wars and the like.
    Byron York of the National Review claiming new left-wing consiracy and so on.
    Glastris is the editor of The Washington Monthly where Kevin drum blogs from. Certainly liberal on that note.

  11. Look it depends on your premise as literally all the publishers are Regnery. If that’s it then yes I took literary license with the term. None of them are Regnery books. The subject matter supports it though. Just listing major publishers without mention of the book is misleading. We’re talking about viewpoints and those supported by the publisher. The filter.

  12. “James Robbins, AFPC Senior Fellow in National Security Affairs. Dr. Robbins is a Professor of International Relations at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, and a regular columnist for National Review Online.”
    Sure this is an Oxford U. Book and it is skewered as liberal nonsense. That’s the idea.

  13. I notice my local Starbucks claims wireless internet availability. That will be a drawing card if you can surf the web too. I need to be plugged in for research that I don’t have saved into pdf files on the laptop, or haven’t found yet, but I haven’t gone the wireless route.
    I’m not sure if you have to get a separate wireless account or just need a card and that’s universal to any available connection in public like at the universities.

  14. From the article: ” I began rising before dawn and stumbling sleepy-eyed to the Broiler, only a block away. For an hour every morning before I caught the bus to work.”
    I believe he also teaches writing.


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