Gregg Olsen has learned a lot about life in his career as a New York Times bestselling author. Idaho miners bared their souls to him for his book the “The Deep Dark.” He interviewed the controversial teacher Mary K. Letourneau for his true crime tale “If Loving You is Wrong.”However, even Olsen was surprised at the voracity of today’s young readers after writing his first book for them last year.
“An adult reads a book, enjoys it and is done with it. I feel that young adult audiences want to play along longer. They just seem more excited,” says Olsen, 54.
After reading a book they like young people often want to learn more about the characters and what happens next, he says, “and add their take, whether it’s a video, drawing or a blog.”
Olsen is in the area this week talking about his books. Tuesday he’ll be at the Whitman County Library in Colfax for a noon discussion. He’ll speak at the Columbia County Library in Dayton at 6:30 that night. He’ll also speak at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lewiston Community Center in Lewiston.
Olsen is touring on the release last week of his newest book, the young adult thriller “Betrayal.” He also will be talking about all the books in his long career.
A Northwest native who lives in Olalla, Wash., many of Olsen’s stories are inspired by regional events and people. His 2010 true crime book “A Twisted Faith: A Minister’s Obsession and the Murder That Destroyed a Church,” is about the suspicious death of a minister’s shy wife in Bremerton, Wash. His young adult fiction books “Envy” and “Betrayal” are set in Port Gamble, Wash., also known as “Empty Coffin,” due to an old town legend. The series stars twin sisters facing dark issues from today’s headlines, like cyberbullying.
Olsen, who has adult twin daughters, says he’d never thought about writing for young readers until a publisher suggested he try it.
“I found out I loved it more than anything I had ever done,” Olsen says. “All the books I’ve done are quite serious. … This, even though there is mystery and crime, there is a lighter touch.”
Writing for a younger audience doesn’t change the way he writes, he says. He writes as he would for adults. For a contemporary audience, you can’t play dumb, he says. Today’s youth have grown up watching shows like CSI.
“They’re so much more aware of what goes on at a crime scene.”
While he’s writing another book in The Empty Coffin series he continues to write for adults. He’s working on a book about the Susan Powell case which began with Powell’s Utah disappearance and ended with her husband Josh Powell killing himself and their two children by setting fire to his Graham, Wash., home. Olsen has followed the case from the beginning. Susan Powell is from Puyallup, Wash.
“I never write a book unless the case is solved. This story had a horrific ending, the worst ending anyone could ever imagine. Is it a book? I decided it was,” Olsen says. “The book is really the last word.”
Olsen last visited the area in 2007 when “The Deep Dark” was selected for the Everybody Reads program at local libraries. The book tells the story of those who survived, and the 91 men who died, in the 1972 Kellogg mine disaster. It was named Idaho’s top book of the year. While Olsen has been featured on countless national TV programs, he says the Everybody Reads program was a true highlight of his career.
“I met so many great people,” he says.
“It’s terrible to say it’s fun to talk about crime but people are interested in it and I’m excited to hear what they want to know,” he says about his return.
What: Author Gregg Olsen
When and Where:
-Noon Tuesday, Whitman County Library, Colfax
-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Columbia County Library, Dayton
-7 p.m. Thursday, Lewiston Community Center
More information or lunch reservations for Tuesday’s event in Colfax can be made by calling (509) 397-4366. Lunch is $7. People are also welcome to bring their own.