Interview by Carl Marsh - September 2014
you are a very popular and respected writer from Sweden. Can you tell me a bit about the novels you have written, as at present they are not in the English language? And also about your website, which is also very popular?
My first two novels, Midwinter Darkness (Midvintermörker) and Midsummer's Dawn (Midsommargryning), are high adrenaline military techno-thrillers, think Clancy/Bond’s Red Storm Rising or maybe Coyle’s Team Yankee, about a Swedish-Russian conflict over the island Gotland in the Baltic Sea. The books are based on heavy research. I’ve had the help of military fact-checkers and have visited quite a few regiments. I even tested equipment and weapons myself. Some of the elements in the books have unfortunately taken place in Crimea since. My third novel, Starry Skies (Stjärnklart), is the first in a new series, where something is destroying electronics, bringing civilization to its knees. I’m running Sweden’s most visited independent blog in serious subjects like finance and politics, where I also dabble in some military and survivalism issues.
What message would you like to say to your fans about why they should read more?
The day you stop reading, you stop enlarging your mind. Reading is such an intimate experience and you develop in a more profound way than doing almost anything else. In today’s society and mass culture, reading is a long-term endeavour worth holding on to.
What is the best book you have ever read, and why is that?
Ian M Banks's science fiction masterpiece The Player of Games. As all of Banks’s books it is masterful, imaginative, somewhat grotesque, unpredictable and exciting. And on top of that - a twist at the end, more like you would expect from a short story.
Are you reading anything at the moment?
I’m always reading something, and my backlog of books is huge. The books currently residing on my bedside are Stockholm Downfall (Stockholms undergång), a collection of short stories from the horror writer’s collective Fear (Fruktan), Mattias Leivinger’s fantasy psychologist battle Freudland, Harry Turtledove’s Supervolcano: All Fall Down, Paul McEuen’s Spiral and Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. But I might finish del Toro’s and Hogan’s The Night Eternal first, but that one's residing in my library. There is only so much room on my bedside table.
What made you become a writer, was it always your dream?
I wrote a blog post about a conflict over Gotland, and got great response from that, so I thought ”there’s a story there, lets do this properly”. And I did. And here I am 50,000 sold books later. However my school teacher in ninth grade said that I was going to be a writer and did read one of my early short stories for the entire faculty, and my mother insisted that I would become a writer one day. It bugs me a bit that I proved them right.
With your latest book, what is it all about?
Starry skies (Stjärnklart) has been out for almost three weeks, and follows several main characters as society descends into chaos as electronics, vehicles and electricity stop working. You follow an ordinary suburban family, a survivalist, a systems developer, a bad cop, a Special Forces operator and some more people and their intertwined fates. The novel takes place mostly in Sweden, although Afghanistan and Stansted Airport passes by. Inspiration is from Niven/Pournelle classics like Lucifer´s Hammer or Justin Cronin’s recent novels, but without the vampires. The book has been very well received so far, and based on reader feedback I’ve scared the shit out of a lot of people, who now all have gone and bought water filters and are hoarding canned food. The book has topped the charts at most Swedish online retailers for days or weeks in some cases so far, and also been the #1 selling Swedish E-book at Apple iBooks.
The next 12 months, what do they hold for you?
I’m writing on the first of two sequels for Starry skies, which will be published next year. We have an election week in Sweden, at the time I’m writing this, so the blog is kind of hectic too. Then there will be some lectures and booksignings. In two weeks it's the Gothenburg Book Fair, which is very nice as I get to meet other writers, who mostly don’t live where I do. OK, I live on a small homestead on the top of a mountain at the end of the road in the middle of the dark Swedish forest outside Gothenburg, where I grow my own vegetables and raise my own meat, but not even in the city there are that many writers. Most are from Stockholm, and it will be great to meet again.
What has been your most memorable experience so far as a writer, your best achievement/etc?
Starry skies is by far my biggest achivement, but unboxing my first book was an experience I will never forget. However, every book is an achievement in its own way. Meeting fans for the first time, or really any time, is a memorable experience. One amazing experience was part of the research for Midsummer's Dawn, when I got an exclusive visit to a Swedish SWAT-unit and tested their equipment, watched their own movies from training and real operations and such.
Any regrets along the way?
Looking back, I could have done my debut novel less technical. Some people are bugged by the correct use of military terminology down to accurate radio military signal discipline, which might get a bit repetititve. But on the other hand, if you look at a map of Gotland, you can follow it strike by strike. Hopefully the military parts of Starry skies are more comprehensible for the less military interested readers.
I always end on a literary note, so using your imagination as if you were to write it in a book, so, if you could be an animal, what would it be and why? (This allows your fans access to your imagination if in print)
A cat, obviously. Fierce, yet relaxed, and very independent. Always lands on its feet, no matter how bruised they are. Except when they don’t.