Louise Penny rediscovers the ‘joy’ of writing after her husband’s death

Canadian author Louise Penny has become one of the biggest names in crime fiction in the last decade. She’s found a sweet spot with her Chief Inspector Gamache series, which mixes the intimacy of small-town life (in fictional Three Pines, Quebec) with the horror of murder. In the latest, “Kingdom of the Blind,” 14th in the series, Gamache continues to battle Quebec’s opioid crisis despite his suspension from the police force; meanwhile, he is named an executor of the will of a woman he never knew. Penny joined USA TODAY’s Jocelyn McClurg in New York for a live #BookmarkThis chat on Facebook. Highlights:

Question: I’m sorry to say that “Kingdom of the Blind” just made its debut on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list at No. 2, but that’s only because Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” is No. 1.

Louise Penny: It’s an honor to be behind her. Though I am annoyed (laughs).

Q: Last year “Glass Houses” debuted at No. 1 on our list, a first for you. You’ve really built an audience since “Still Life,” the first book in the Gamache series, was released in 2005. What did it take to get there?

Penny: It’s thrilling to be No. 1. (Building an audience) is just a grind. I think I’ve been very lucky with my publisher, Minotaur Books, who took (on) this middle-aged woman writing a crime novel (set in) the middle of nowhere, Quebec… And (the books are) also somewhat unusual. On the surface they appear to be fairly conventional and traditional, but that is, intentionally, just the most superficial reading. There’s a lot more happening underneath…They’re not really about murder. They’re about duality, the public face and the inner turmoil. The gap between what we’re saying and what we’re really thinking, between the pretty village setting and the violation that happens with these crimes…They’re about goodness, as well.

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