Local author who pens fictional Tahoe mysteries set to release 20th book in series
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A page turner, riveting, thrilling, these are just some of the words to describe author Todd Borg’s Lake Tahoe series featuring Owen McKenna and his trusty sidekick, Spot.
A native to Lake Tahoe, Todd Borg’s books center in, and around, the area that he and his wife, painter and sculptor, Kit Night, have called home since 1990. But it was back in Minnesota where Borg began honing his skill as a writer. Like any young boy he wanted to be a rock n’ roll star. He wrote songs in hopes of becoming a singer/songwriter, but when that didn’t pan out, he turned to fiction writing in his 20s.
“I published about 12 or 15 short stories and wrote a bunch more,” Borg said when asked if he had sold anything prior to the Tahoe mysteries. “In the short story market back in the 80s, when I really got going, your only choices were what were called little magazines — slang for literary magazines. And there were literary magazines in all genres. In the 80s I moved into short stories as a way to kind of develop novel writing.”
The idea to write a series of mystery novels came during Borg’s childhood, where he grew up voraciously reading mysteries and thrillers of all kinds, by many authors.
“I was fortunate enough that my friends as a kid were also readers,” Borg said. “It was kind of natural for me to try that approach when I started writing myself. It was one of those early decisions when I came to Tahoe in 1990, I was thinking this would be a great place to set a series.”
With about 20 novels under his belt, Borg admits to not having a very vigorous, organized writing approach. He squeezes in his writing time whenever he can, in between book signings, library talks, book festivals and visiting private book clubs.
“I’ll write an outline, and before I start writing a novel, I’ll have 50 or 60 pages, sort of a prose outline. And as I try to follow it, and all of my so-called good ideas, I realize this isn’t gonna work. And that’s a stupid thought. This character is completely lame. I change continuously, which slows me down.”
Borg said that a book for him takes about 18 months, from conception to the point where he can have it edited three or four times, and he’s rewritten it. Writing a book a year means that every time he comes out with a new one, he’s already six months into the next book.
“When I finally have a draft to show, I give it to my wife,” Borg said. “She has a really good internal sense of how stories work. She manages to find all of the stuff that the 12-year-old boy in me wants to write.”
For those that are fans of mysteries and thrillers will know that most of the main characters have some sort of sidekick. And Owen McKenna’s sidekick is a Harlequin Great Dane named Spot. A Great Dane seemed a natural choice being that Todd and his wife have owned three Danes in the past.
“When I first was dreaming up McKenna, I wanted him to sort of be a regular guy, an ex-cop kind of detective, as opposed to an outlandish, Nero Wolfe-style detective,” Borg said. “Of all of the private investigators in fiction, so many of them had sidekicks. The sidekicks do a lot to reveal the character of the protagonist.”
Borg was fortunate enough to have his first novel be his first break in publishing. His first book Tahoe Deathfall was published Aug. 1, 2001. It came out at a time before Amazon became the big machine that it is, and was highly praised by rave reviews in the journals and newspapers around the country. Once word of mouth spread, Borg said people really began clamoring for more books.
Fans will be happy to know that the 20th Owen McKenna book, Tahoe Moon, will be released Aug. 1.
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