Acclaimed St. Louis author recites from first novel on campus

St. Louis author Eric Lundgren read from his novel "The Facades" and answered audience members' questions. His mystery novel was released last fall and has been critcially acclaimed. Photo by Theresa San Luis

St. Louis author Eric Lundgren read the first chapter of his book “The Facades” before an audience at the University Bookstore and took their questions last week.

Lundgren’s novel has been critically acclaimed, receiving favorable reviews from The New Yorker, Salon and Publishers Weekly, among others. It was also a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick.

“The Facades” depicts a legal clerk who seeks to find answers to the mysterious disappearance of his wife, an opera singer. He investigates through tracing her last steps and confronting citizens within his hometown.

Lundgren said he created “an emotional landscape with a protagonist who lost his wife in a town imbued with sadness and strangeness.”

“The Facades” is written in first person, which, according to Lundgren, was the “natural choice” to get “the emotional stuff front and center.”

The “haunting” atmosphere of downtown St. Louis became the novel’s Midwestern town setting.

Lundgren said it took four years to author the book, during which he was “super-methodical,” writing 500 words a day “no matter what.” He would write linearly or in order, then do the “architectural work of joining things together.”

“The danger of an outline is you can’t create a sense of excitement for the reader,” Lundgren said.

Afterward, with the help of an agent, he submitted his roughly 300-page manuscript to “so many places.”

A writer friend in New York knew an editor to Overlook Press, and that publisher took on his book project.

Lundgren said he used to write poetry during high school then became more interested in fiction during college.

“Reading poetry for fiction writers is a great practice,” he said. “Also I find it’s really valuable to practice writing even if it’s an unexpected image [or] even if dialogue comes out.”

The reading was sponsored by Sou’wester, SIUE’s national literary magazine, for which English professor Valerie Vogrin serves as prose editor.

Lundgren’s reading of the first chapter was “terrific,” according to Vogrin.

“It was short and compact enough I think it held people’s interest, but I thought he did a great job with answering questions…” Vogrin said, “He was really able to make interesting and expound [upon] and make people laugh and he’s very likable too.”

Lundgren grew up in Minneapolis, Minn., then studied at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. He received his MFA from the Writing Program at Washington University and was awarded a third-year fellowship. Currently, he works at a 100-year-old public library in St. Louis.

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