Recently I was lucky enough to read Thomas Enger’s latest novel, Killed. I’m a massive lover of good quality crime fiction and with this one being predicted as a ‘Nordic Noir classic’, I was immediately intrigued. If you’ve seen my full length review here, you’ll know by now how much I truly enjoyed this book. It’s brilliantly written with the perfect balance between prose and plot; Enger truly deserved all of the praise he has been given. When I was granted the opportunity to interview the author for the novels upcoming blog tour I was ecstatic. In today’s post I am finally able to share with you the author’s answers to my questions, and I can only hope it will make you as excited to read the novel as I was!
1. Killed is the fifth and final installment in the Henning Juul series which follows a man who is desperate for answers concerning the murder of his young son. How did the initial idea first present itself to you? Did you always envision this as a series of books?
It’s funny, I have no real recollection of the actual moment when the idea of Henning Juul’s quest popped into my head. It wasn’t a dream or a eureka moment, and it certainly wasn’t a case of Henning Juul being a fully formed character right off the bat, but I instantly knew that the character was a strong one, and that his search for his son’s killer warranted more than one book. At first I wanted to do this as a TV series, a kind of Dexter meets Millennium kind of world, and I actually went to several meetings with a TV network here in Norway about it as well. But it didn’t pan out, and I got rid of the Dexter/Millennium idea and just started to write this as a normal crime fiction book series instead. I think I made the right choice.
2. What was it that first drew you to crime fiction?
I think it was the suspense that crime fiction offers. I was raised by parents who wanted me to read the classics, what some snobbish elitists might call ‘real literature’, but when my thirst for books started to materialise as a teenager, those books never fulfilled me. I distinctly remember picking up a crime fiction novel and finishing it in three days rather than three months. I was hooked after that.
3. I’m a massive fan of crime and thriller novels which have high concept plots, something which I admired in Killed for its intensity and precision. How did you cope with keeping control of such a detailed plot? Do you find that planning your novel is the best way forwards?
I’m a huge fan of tricky plots and painting big pictures. The difficulties I had with Killed … I cannot even begin to tell you how hard that was. Killed is the fifth book in a series where all the books are somehow connected, so I needed to make sure that all the plot elements from the previous four books made sense to the reader (and to myself). It’s hard enough to write one book and make all the bits and pieces fit perfectly together towards the end. Try five … Writing Killed and ending the Henning Juul project was by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
4. Whilst praising the plot, I must also give credit to the phenomenal cast of characters. We are given multiple narratives which are also intertwined inextricably together, yet never become confusing for the reader. Do you find it difficult to write from so many differing perspectives?
Not really. What is most difficult is finding a different voice for each character. Writers tend to give their characters the kind of language and ‘sociolect’ they speak themselves, and to break free from that is very hard. So it’s a huge challenge, but I quite enjoy the process of trying to pin-point exactly what makes every character tick, whether it’s an old woman or a young boy. The process of getting to know your characters is probably one of the things about being a writer I like the most
5. What do you think are the most important aspects of a great crime novel? Do you have any pet hates in the genre?
That’s a tough one. The main thing for me is to have a set of characters you believe in and want to see succeed. You also want those characters to be put to the test somehow, to deal with issues in settings you wouldn’t want to see yourself in. For example, Henning Juul has lost his son in a fire. No one would want to be in that position, and of course you want to see him find those responsible. As for pet hates in the genre, I don’t really have one, but I think the ‘always drunk and deeply flawed, yet brilliant’ detective might have had his day in the sun.
6. I haven’t read the previous novels in the series, but I found this book extremely accessible and now want to go back to start the journey from the beginning. Is the possibility of new readers something you’re quite conscious of when writing?
Oh yes, of course. I always knew that someone might start this series in the middle, or maybe even at the end, like you have now. That was also one of the great challenges about writing Killed, not to make the narrative boring for those who had read the previous books, but also include enough back story for new readers so they can easily understand what’s going on. Me and my editors went a few rounds before we settled on the final version, let me tell you. The thing about the Henning Juul series is that I wanted each book to be able to stand on its own feet, with a separate crime story in each of them that somehow fits the larger picture. As I mention earlier, I thought of this as a TV series to begin with; if you watch a Sherlock Holmes episode you can access each one quite easily, but it makes you want to check out the earlier and later ones afterwards. That was my goal with the Henning Juul books as well.
7. Scandinavian and Nordic crime fiction and TV have been receiving a lot of well-deserved praise here in the UK lately. What would be your own top crime books to recommend to a lover of the genre?
The Snowman (Jo Nesbo) is my all-time favourite Scandicrime novel, but authors like Jorn Lier Horst, Sara Blaedel and Yrsa Sigurdadottir are favourites of mine as well. Oh, and the great Ragnar Jonasson, of course.
8. Like many others, I am a massive fan of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, and I’ve seen quite a lot of reviews comparing your series to this. Do you find these kind of comparisons helpful or do they hinder the writing process?
I’m not a big fan of comparisons. I was compared to Mr Nesbo as well when my first books came out in Norway, and although, of course, I was flattered, I also hated it. I don’t want my potential readers to think that if they pick up one of my books, they will be treated to a Jo Nesbo mystery. They won’t be. And if expectations are not met, people are inevitably disappointed. That’s something you don’t want as an author. I see the point, of course, from a marketing perspective, and it helps the reader get a feel for what kind of landscape or story they might be picking up. But I want people to pick up my novels because it’s a Thomas Enger novel, not a Millennium look-alike.
9. This is sadly the final installment in the Henning Juul series, but can we expect to see more from you in the future?
Oh yes. There’s plenty more to come. I have written two YA novels as well that haven’t been translated into English (yet), and I’m just finishing a book now with another Norwegian author that hopefully will raise some eyebrows here and there when it’s released. So rest assured. I’m just getting started.
10. Lastly, what would be your top tips for any aspiring crime writers?
It’s the same for anyone who wants to be good at something. You have to study the discipline or craft, and just practise. A lot. In other words: Read a lot, and write a lot. There are no short-cuts in this business.
If this Q and A has left you eager to learn more about the book, or to read what other people thought, then please don’t forget to head over to the other blogs who are taking part in the tour (see photo above). There’s some fantastic content being shared this month and its easy to see how enjoyable this book has been across the boards.
To finish I would just like to say a massive thank you to Thomas Enger for answering my questions, Orenda books for sending over a copy of the book, and Anne Carter for organising such a brilliant blog tour!