I read an earlier interview where you said in order to write your
first novel (and the next two I assume), you basically got rid of TV and
social media. Aside from marketing your work on SM, did you ever go
back? Is it really possible to live without any facebook friends?
Yes, that is correct but then I got the financial possibility to teach only two days a week instead of five so I'm back on social media, and more active on Facebook, Instagram, different forums regarding writing/reading and so on but that is more or less networking. Lasted only a few weeks on Twitter though. Couldn't stand it at all. My
daughter has a TV on her own so when I really can't miss it I use hers.
Going to watch Mayweather -McGregor fight tonight. If you can live
without Facebook friends? I really think so, I'm obviously good at
making up imaginary ones.
Did Harry Kvist just show up one day inside your head or is he
based upon some historical figure you came across in your research?
He more or less showed up once I, at last, started to actually
do something about my idea of writing profiled, proper nordic noir, a
plan I had had for ten years and never did anything about. Harry's
childhood, revealed in book three SLUGGER, was more or less based on my
grandfather's though. He was paralysed when I was very young and wrote
his memoirs for me as he knew we would never speak. He ended up with
about 100 pages which I got when I turned 18. Not bad for a paralysed
man with two years in school I would say. It's a moving story about the
very poorest of Swedish society back in the early 1900s but except for
that, Harry just sort of turned up.
Your grandfather sounds like a survivor, which makes sense since
Kvist is just that, too. As to the writing of 'proper nordic noir,' is
that something you created or were there some examples of older 'nordic
noir' you wanted to emulate?
No, there were not. We didn't have hardboiled writers like
Chandler or Hammett here. The big thing in Sweden in the 30s or 40s were
what we simply call "the working class writers", autodidact authors that
was usually part of the early socialist movement and were trying to
point out the huge inequalities in Swedish society back then. They are
very down to earth so I'm basically trying to merge these two traditions
together. That is why I have quite a lot of scenes from every day life
and work, it adds to characterization as well.
Definitely! The shoeshine boy Kvist may start training as a boxer
is one scene that stands out as 'everyday life and work' in the very
well realized 1930s streets of Stockholm.
Yup, and that boy will play a huge part in the final
installment. I love planting things like that, sometimes only with a sentence or two, to tie it all together.
Do you outline before you start writing each novel so you have an
idea of the narrative arc of the story or what's your creative process?
Do connections like the shoeshine boy's later importance come to you as
you're writing about him or was it part of a pre-determined plan?
When you are writing sort of old school crime I think you have
to [outline] because the murderer should be introduced early, you should
have your red herrings and a twist, and maybe a twist on that one so I
have the key scenes pretty clear. Then I start mapping out every chapter
with maybe five to ten sentences and take it from there.
For every book there is only one document, I don't use any notebooks or
colored post-its or anything. I keep it all in my head, which is pretty
good for an old pothead. That is what I'm most proud of actually. But I
guess that's why Harry is sort of irrational, have a really bad memory
and keeps on missing out of important details. He's a horrible detective
And yet, almost like Peter Seller's iconic Inspector Clouseau,
employing goon tactics, brute force and a little buffoonery, Kvist
stumbles onto solving the crime, or at least exposing it enough to where
it becomes a serious threat to his immediate survival.
I picture you writing the last 4 or 5 chapters of DOWN FOR THE COUNT in
a sleepless fever dream, a full ashtray of cigarette butts at your side
as well as an uncapped bottle of aquavit.
On the contrary! Half way through DOWN FOR THE COUNT I got
diagnosed with bipolar disorder, got on meds and into therapy, and
things calmed down quite a bit. I can't sit and write for 20 hours
without anything to eat anymore. I had to find new working routines and
take better care of myself so my life has changed quite a bit during
Ah no, Martin! You've completely shattered my perception of you as
this Nordic wild man pouring his darkest fears and deepest secrets onto
the page through the conduit of Harry Kvist. Aren't you worried the
therapy and the meds will unKvist you?
There are rumors all over town that Harry has grown soft, but has he really? Further more: Will he make a come-back in the ring? Is he really becoming impotent? What will happen to Lundin the undertaker and Harrys alcoholic dog and the others? Will he find true love at last? Will he solve the mysterious murder? What really is his background story? And will he finally make it to America to reunite with his long lost daughter? I must admit the third installment SLUGGER was a bit hard to write, tying it all together, but I really think I'm going out guns blazing...
...start your illicit love affair with Harry Kvist here!