As a full-time executive of one of Minnesota’s largest companies and parent to two small children, on paper, James Tucker doesn’t look like a typical novelist. But this Edina resident’s first novel, Next of Kin, was published last fall as the first in a two-book deal with a series to follow.
Even harder than securing a publishing deal may have been finding time to write the novel. This busy Target executive wrote much of the book on airplanes and at the Edina Library.
“Once my son realized that Thomas the Tank Engine can be on my laptop it became hard to work from home,” says Tucker. “I always say my wife and I haven’t been to a movie since 2012.”
And now Next of Kin is out and another is due in the fall, so Tucker likely won’t see a movie anytime soon.
His debut novel’s plot revolves around a detective on the hunt for a killer in New York. “The first image I had was a house in the wilderness, very remote with no help nearby, where terrible murders take place,” says Tucker. “There’s a killer and a 10-year-old boy stuck in the house. Does he escape? How does he escape?”
Readers will find answers in the book, available widely from Thomas & Mercer. Another novel in the works takes place in Minnesota and Wayzata, something Tucker hopes to publish in coming years.
Though he wrote for the school newspaper and literary journal in high school, Tucker recalls the start of his writing career at Carleton College. “I remember going into my college bookstore one afternoon and taking down Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned and reading a couple of pages and being impressed with his style,” says Tucker. “That was the moment when I thought, ‘I would really like to do this.’”
Tucker maintains his writing schedule with help from workshops like Tin House and at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. “You learn what your blind spots are,” says Tucker. At a conference with the author of The Jane Austen Book Club, Tucker recalls Karen Joy Fowler sharing her advice: “She said that in her writer’s group she wasn’t the best writer but she was the toughest,” he says.
“Despite adversity and people not liking her work, she kept getting better.”
Tucker’s own favorite genres to read are biographies, nonfiction, literary fiction, mysteries and crime, similar to themes layered into his own work.
His book includes subjects like art theft, classical musical and people fighting over inheritance.
“For me, it’s not just about who the killer is, it has to be linked to something bigger, otherwise it doesn’t resonate for me or readers,” explains Tucker. “Otherwise it’s just a puzzle.”
Now that the novel is out, Tucker is ready for his hidden talent to be revealed to friends and neighbors. “It was exciting to know once I signed the contract, the book would come out,” Tucker says. “I knew the secret I kept for a long time would be secret no more.”
Order Tucker's novel through Amazon, Target or his website here.