1.Where did the character Annika Bengtzon come from?
2. In what order should I read your books?
3. How can I contact you?
4. Are there any movies coming out based on your books?
5. What do you love most about writing?
6. Where do you get your inspiration?
7. Who are your favorite authors?
8. Which are your favorite books?
9. Which are your favorite movies?
10. Do you have any hobbies or interests, besides writing?
11. How did you start off writing?
12. How much of Annika Bengtzon is based on you?
13. What is your advice to an aspiring author?
14. How difficult is it to keep your own emotions and opinions off the page?
15. Can you talk about your research a bit? How do you approach a new story?
16. Who are some of your favorite detectives from literature and film and what do you like about them?
17. How do you know as you're developing a crime plot that people won't predict the outcome or the killer before you reveal it yourself?
18. What are the challenges in writing a series?
19. Tell us a bit about your process: when do you write, how much a day, where?
1. Where did the character Annika Bengtzon come from?Don't get spooked now, but I've known her my whole life. As soon as I understood that letters made words, I started writing mystery stories about a girl called Annika. (I don't know what it is about this name: my only doll as a small child was called Annika, my best friend was called Annika, I named my first child Annika...) So she has, in a way, been with me forever. As I've grown older (if not wiser), so has my character. Today, she represents the personality of the two people I intentionally named her after: my daughter (the loveliest living thing on earth) and my favorite boss at my old newspaper, Bengt Bengtzon (the most hard-boiled news freak in history). You see, I wanted my heroine to have a wide range of characteristics. She should be a complete human being, with all the flaws and virtues possible for humans – and not only women. I wanted her to be intelligent and ambitious, almost obnoxious, disobliging towards her colleagues, going too far and too deep – and at the same time loving towards her children, insecure with men, vulnerable and crying too much... It's really not possible for a woman to behave like her and still be around. Women are not allowed to make the kind of mistakes that Annika does. This actually makes somewhat of a incantation: if I keep writing and talking about her long enough, maybe the rest of us will be able to be a little bit more like her...
2. In what order should I read your books?Doesn't matter. Start wherever you like. I didn't even write them in chronological order, I started with the 4th...This has never been a problem anywhere – except for Germany. I've done over a hundred readings all over Germany, and as soon as the audience gets a chance, this is usually the first question they ask: Warum?? Why on earth did you start with the fourth book in the series?!? They seem to like to get their things in a good and orderly fashion over there, one two three four...
3. How can I contact you?Please send an email to email@example.com
4. Are there any movies coming out based on your books?Yes. Two films where made ten years ago by Academy Award nominee Colin Nutley. They became big successes in Sweden (one was on the top 20 of the most successful Swedish films of the decade). After that, I hesitated to sell the rest of the film rights. I liked the first two films a lot, and I wanted the rest of them to be just as good. But finally, after ten years, I met producer Jenny Gilbertsson from the film company Yellow Bird Productions, and for the first time in a very long while I felt that "this could actually work". They are now filming six of my novels, with fantastic actress Malin Crépin as Annika. Yellow Bird has had huge success with the adaptation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series, and the BBC's Wallander series, starring Kenneth Branagh.
5. What do you love most about writing?It's always been a way to keep sane. I would go crazy if I couldn't. Seriously.
6. Where do you get your inspiration?Reality. Mostly from the daily news.
7. Who are your favorite authors?I read a lot, in many different genres. If I have to pick a favorite, it would probably be South African author JM Coetzee. Israeli author Amos Oz is another one. Joyce Carol Oates is very good. From my neighboring countries, I think Sofi Oksanen and Anne Holt are fantastic. My favorite Swede is P.O. Enquist. From the crime genre I have many favorites: Henning Mankell, Karin Slaughter, Patricia Cornwell, Jeffery Deaver, and Kathy Reichs, just to name a few!
8. Which are your favorite books?The best novel I've read in my life is History (La Storia) by Italian author Elsa Morante. It changed my way of looking at life.
9. Which are your favorite movies?I like feel-bad movies, and the biggest feel-bad ever is Todd Solondz' Happiness.
10. Do you have any hobbies or interests, besides writing?I try to play the piano. I'm horrible, but also stubborn.
11. How did you start off writing?As I said earlier, as soon as I started reading. I was raised in the middle of the forest in the very far north in Sweden, just below the Artic circle, and there was absolutely nothing else to do there but read (culturally, that is. If you like to shoot moose's the size of battle ships or fish salmon through the ice, you're in heaven). There was no one my age for miles and miles around, my parents where working in town, so I was basically growing up with my own thoughts and fantasies. I wrote them down, and that kept me sane.
12. How much of Annika Bengtzon is based on you?Some. A lot less then you'd think. But in one way, all my characters are based upon me. I can't write about something I don't know and have never felt. I have to be inside every character when I'm writing through their perspective.
13. What is your advice to an aspiring author?Read a lot, write a lot, and be patient. The book doesn't write itself. You have to sit on your butt for a very long time in order to get it done. I'm afraid there are no short cuts.
14. How difficult is it to keep your own emotions and opinions off the page?Not at all, cause I don't! That's the whole point of being master in your own universe – people act and say and think exactly what you want them to! Writing books is just a way for me to talk about things that I find important.
15. Can you talk about your research a bit? How do you approach a new story?Before I start writing the actual story, I always build a detailed synopsis. (Yes, I do always know how it's gonna end!) This includes quite a bit of research. I visit every place I write about (as long as it's humanly possible). This includes renting private planes, being interrogated and almost arrested, visiting morgues, interviewing lots and lots of people... The text just feels more accurate if I get the vocabulary from, for example, a customs officer, a policewoman or an organic tomato farmer. Once the whole plot is safe and solid, I start to write.
16. Who are some of your favorite detectives from literature and film and what do you like about them?Oh God, I have so many! I like Myron Bolitar, Harlan Coben's sports agent. I love Jeffery Deaver's criminalist Lincoln Rhyme, Karin Slaughter's Special Agent Will Trent...They all have such nuanced characters that intrigue you right from the start.
17. How do you know as you're developing a crime plot that people won't predict the outcome or the killer before you reveal it yourself?A crime story is, really, a novel like every other. It just has some killings in it. As soon as you put a murder in a novel, it takes over. You can't "spice up" a love story with a brutal killing, it instantly turns into a crime story. A murder is the biggest abuse of power known to man. It's not merely the actual act of killing somebody that's punishable by law. It's the DECISION to take somebody's life that's the greatest crime. Instigation has the same culpability as murder. It's also the biggest blasphemy, to take on the role of God and rule over life and death. This is the long answer to your question, but I think readers are after the journey of the novel, and that's everything BUT the solution. That's the whole job.
18. What are the challenges in writing a series?I think the benefits are bigger than the challenges. I know my characters by now, and so do my readers. I like my characters to develop, but that's really not necessary. Some of my favorite heroes and heroines are exactly the same from one book to the next. I know what I'm going to get when I buy the book.
19. Tell us a bit about your process: when do you write, how much a day, where?When I've finished a synopsis, and I start to write the actual story, I unplug my phone. I write very fast and very concentrated, it's almost like running a marathon (which I have never done). I need total silence around me, so that I can hear the voices in my head. I write until 10 pm, twelve hours a day when I'm in the middle of it. I like the evenings best and hate the early mornings...
"It's a good thing that the Annika Bengtzon books are available in English; it saves me the task of learning Swedish—which I'd do in a minute if it were the only way to read these novels."
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