The Killer Sermon, debut novel by Kevin Kluesner
Author Interview + Book & Author Info + Author Pet Corner
The Killer Sermon
An aging priest in rural Wisconsin gives an impassioned Christmas homily condemning abortion as murder and exhorting his parishioners to stop it.
A former mayor responds by starting a hunger strike in city hall, and the editor of the local weekly newspaper begins running a counter at the top of each edition that estimates the number of abortions performed since Roe v Wade.
A third member of the congregation takes a more lethal approach and begins to target reproductive rights physicians for murder.
Cole Huebsch is a pro-life leaning Milwaukee FBI agent. Michele Fields is a pro-choice leaning reporter. They need to set aside their differences to catch the killer before the country is torn apart.
The Killer Sermon is a fast moving thriller that reminds us that our words matter, and that regardless of how big our differences on divisive issues, we can still find respect, and maybe more…
To purchase The Killer Sermon, click on any of the following links: Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Amazon (paperback) & Amazon (ebook),
Interview with the author of The Killer Sermon, Kevin Kluesner
The Killer Sermon has abortion as a central component. What drew you to writing a thriller with that specific issue at its heart?
When I started this novel, I never thought about the ramifications of writing a thriller with abortion violence as a driver. The characters and the story drew me to it, not the issue.
I thought naively that thrillers all start out with despicable acts of violence being committed or planned, and then we follow along as the good guy(s) work to thwart the evil doers. But this book had been niggling at the back of my mind for twenty years or more. During that whole time, the abortion issue has been percolating on the front burner of our social consciousness. Sometimes it boils over, and sometimes it simmers, but it’s always hot to the touch.
After I completed the novel and had a chance to reflect, I’m proud that I tackled this. I did my best to have my characters articulate their own stances on this issue. I changed their words and voices after early readers challenged the respective positions. I never had an agenda with this book and never thought for a moment someone would read it and change their opinion from pro-life to pro-choice or vice versa. If I have a message, it’s that our words matter.
If we are forceful and articulate, our words can move people, occasionally in directions and at a velocity we never anticipated. My story also reminds readers that no matter how much we disagree on the divisive topics of the day, we still need to respect each other.
I think novelists in general and thriller writers in particular should feel that we can have a voice when it comes to issues of national and international importance. I pitched my stories as “societal thrillers.” Imagine if John Grisham had never written A Time to Kill or Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird. What if they thought, race is just too divisive a topic for a novel right now? I’ll tell you what I think… I think the world would be smaller and uglier because of it.
“Mississippi river water still flows through my veins.”
Tell us about FBI agent Cole Huebsch:
I drew from my own background a bit when creating Cole. Like me, he grew up in a small rural town on the west side of Wisconsin. He wrestled and earned two degrees from Marquette University in Milwaukee. The difference is he’s smarter, tougher, better looking, more gifted athletically, and an inch taller. I plan to live vicariously through him as this series unfolds.
You live in Wisconsin and set your thriller in rural parts of the state. Describe the locations for us, how does that geography play out in the book?
Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, plays a key role. I was born there and lived there until heading off to college.
It’s a close-knit river town with a population of six thousand. It’s beautiful, nestled between the Mississippi River and towering bluffs. It’s the county seat and located an hour upriver of Dubuque, Iowa, and an hour downriver of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Both of those cities have populations of less than sixty thousand.
Prairie is kind of isolated geographically and geologically. And I love it. I’ve lived in the Milwaukee area the past thirty-plus years and would never leave, but Mississippi river water still flows through my veins.
“If you don’t have thick skin or can’t develop it, then self-publish. I hear it’s easier these days than in the past.”
What was your road to publication like for your debut?
I worked so hard to research and target my queries to agents and publishers and, like all but a few debut authors before me, I faced the crickets, the form letters, the close calls, and the false starts.
If you don’t have thick skin or can’t develop it, then self-publish. I hear it’s easier these days than in the past.
The abortion violence in my novel added to the degree of difficulty. A number of people I queried said that they liked my writing and storytelling but couldn’t represent or publish a book in which physicians were targeted for murder. I felt a bit of redemption when Level Best Books ultimately offered me a three-book deal. The owners and operators of LBB are three strong, smart women who took the time to read more than the synopsis and give my book life.
I can’t thank Shawn Reilly Simmons, Verena Rose, and Harriette Sackler enough. They’re known in the industry as the Dames of Detection, and they’ve been active in the mystery industry for more than twenty years.
What are you reading these days?
I just finished A Dead Man’s Eyes by Lori Duffy Foster, and before that Ally Shields’ Awakening the Fire. I’m halfway through This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf; I had a hard time rolling out of bed this morning, because it was so hard to put down last night. I need an Elvis Cole fix from Robert Crais so bad I’ve got the shakes. And I don’t think I can wait another month for Gregg Hurwitz’s Dark Horse. Giddyup, Evan Smoak!
What are you working on now?
The 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee was canceled due to the pandemic. In Cole Huebsch’s universe the convention is on. And when a U.S. Senator from the great state of Wisconsin is shot the morning after his stirring convention address, Cole is under pressure to solve the attempted murder quickly. Big pharma and the health insurance industry are in the crosshairs in this novel!
“Believe in yourself and your stories and never stop working.”
Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:
I saw a TED talk a while back given by Angela Duckworth, where she made a convincing case that grit was a better determinant of success across many fields than talent or intelligence. I think grit is the single greatest determinant of whether someone will succeed as a writer. We have so many chances to get discouraged and quit during the long writing process. I would hate to know the number of novels that have been started and abandoned.
How many writers quit looking for an agent or publisher after their tenth, twentieth, or fiftieth rejection? How many authors quit polishing their work because they can’t bear to look at it anymore? And how many writers are so exhausted by the time their book comes out that they have no energy to promote it?
Believe in yourself and your stories and never stop working.
Author Pet Corner
Moose was one of my early readers and my biggest cheerleader.
He makes a cameo appearance in The Killer Sermon.
Our family lost him a year ago, and I dedicate this blog to him.
Love you, buddy!
Kevin Kluesner holds both a BA in journalism and an MBA from Marquette University.
He’s worked as the outdoor writer for a daily newspaper, taught marketing and management classes at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and served as an administrator of an urban safety net hospital.
The Killer Sermon is his debut novel in the FBI agent Cole Huebsch series set in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Kevin might be the only person to claim membership in both the American College of Healthcare Executives and the International Thriller Writers.
He lives in New Berlin, Wisconsin, with his wife Janet.
To learn more about Kevin, click on his name, photo, or either of the following links: Facebook & LinkedIn
Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite bookstores and on-line retailers.
For more information on All We Buried, click on the link here to visit the home page.
Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020