Prolific, critically acclaimed, and immensely popular, Louise Penny is the beloved author behind the mystery novels of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, set in the fictional village of Three Pines, Quebec. Over the past decade, Louise has penned eleven best-selling novels, while accruing a number of prestigious awards, including the Agatha Award for best mystery novel for four consecutive years. Her books have been translated into 23 languages.
Over the past decade, Louise has penned eleven best-selling novels.
Louise’s most recent novel, The Long Way Home, has been recognized as one of the top books of 2014 by a number of publications, including The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, and Kirkus Reviews. Amazon.com named it the Best Book of the 2014.
Drawing upon elements from classic crime novels by authors like Agatha Christie, the Gamache series provides a literary theatre for the exploration of darkness and evil, and the courageous individuals who stand in its way.
“I think I have a vast pool of murder and resentment in me to call on,” Louise jokes, when asked about her impressive creative momentum.
“Honestly, it helps that I’m a little older in life,” she explains. “There’s a line from Auden’s In Memory of W.B Gates, where he writes that ‘Mad Ireland’ hurt him into poetry. I understood that. I had to experience a certain number of things before I had a voice – something to say.”
“The books are murder mysteries very clearly, but that’s really just the catalyst to look at other issues of being human.”
Despite her impressive resume as a novelist, Louise is a relative newcomer to the society of Canadian letters. For 18 years, she was a radio broadcast journalist with the CBC– a rich and demanding career that eventually took its toll.
“I was getting a little burned out,” Louise explains. “As a journalist you tend to cover negative stories and tragedies. I began to hold a worldview that was quite negative. It wasn’t making me feel good about the world I lived in… Or really about myself.”
In 1994, Louise met Michael, who was the head of hematology at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, and one of North America’s leading researchers in childhood cancer. Also an artist with a love for reading and music, Michael encouraged Louise to walk away from the CBC to pursue her longtime dream of writing a book.
“When he first said I love you, that was life changing…earth shattering. It was just fantastic,” Louise describes. “But when he said ‘I will support you’, that was almost as moving a moment for me, because it demanded an action – it was like a social contract and he meant it.”
Following five years of writer’s block, Louise abandoned the project she was working on, and developed the beloved character of Armand Gamache. Inspired by a number of individuals, including the Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, the hero and protagonist of Louise’s novels also mirrors the bravery and kindness of her husband.
“Gamache is a content man; a happy man; a good man. He’s a man who loves and is loved. He’s kind because he understands how precious life is, because he sees death every day. And that’s what Michael’s like,” Louise says.
“Michael had the worst job in the world. Imagine having to try to cure children of cancer and not always doing it. Yet he’s the happiest man because he understands that for these children who don’t get to live, what a betrayal it would be for those of us who do get to live, and don’t live life with joy and happiness and gratitude. He believes that, he lives that, and so does Gamache.”
“No Michael, no books,” writes Louise in the acknowledgements section of How The Light Gets In. “It’s simple and true, and I will be grateful to him through this life and into the next.”