The interview below was carried out for Crime Time Magazine:
How long have you been writing and what do you think attracted you to crime?
I have been writing since I was 18 years old. And, in fact, I fell into crime literature by coincidence. My first story, Eve’s Eye was never meant to be a crime story. I made the decision half way through the book. Because it turned out to be a success, I continued.
How did you come up with the plot for Don’t Look Back? Do you draw your inspiration from real cases or from your imagination?
I never make a plot. I just start writing, and things happen as I move along. I never get inspired by real crime cases, I work very much in fiction.
You include a quite a lot of facts and technical data. How do you research this aspect of your books?
I do very little research. I might make a phone call, or write a letter. My ideal is to write my books, sitting quite still in my chair, without having to get up and leave the house for information.
How do you write – do you use a word processor or a pen? Do you have an office or can you write anywhere?
I work on a Mac. And I have no office, I work in my own living room, whenever the house is empty, and quite still. However, a writer is always a writer. All day long I’m taking notes in my head.
Norwegian reviewers compare you to the British crime writer Minette Walters. Do you read other detective writers (British or not) and if you do, which ones do you admire?
I do not read much crime fiction. Of course I know Minette Walters, but my favourite is Ruth Rendell. When I read for myself I prefer other kind of books. However, as a young girl, I read a lot of crime stories. Mostly the Swedish couple Sjöwall and Wahlö.
Who or what was the inspiration for your detective, Inspector Sejer? Does he share any character traits with you?
Yes, I think I have some things in common with my inspector. We like the same kind of music and the same kind of whisky. When I wrote about him for the first time, I made him the same kind of hero that I grew up with in the fifties and sixties. The kind and serious type, like Jim Reeves and Dr. Kildare. Decent and good.
In 2000 Don’t Look Back was made into a TV series in Norway. How did you feel about this and was the experience of seeing your work on television positive or negative?
My impression was very positive. The TV version is very true to my story, and the characters look very much like the ones that I see in my head.
You write very vividly about the tiny, rural community in Don’t Look Back. Is this a typical Norwegian village?
Yes. And I live here myself. I know it very well. The TV series was also made at this location. It is a small place with about two thousand people, and it’s easy for me to choose and describe a place that I know so well. I could never write a novel set in a big city, because I don’t know what it would be like.
Can you imagine committing a crime and if you did, what would it be?
Of course I could commit a crime. We all can. It depends on which situations we fall in to. In despair I would steal food if my children were hungry.
What advice would you give to an aspiring crime writer?
Make sure that the reader believes your story. Do not try to be too clever or too smart. Just be devoted to the characters. Do not make extremely clever plots. Because, in real life, they never are.
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Julian Barnes, Rose Tremain, Sebastian Faulks, Karin Slaughter and many more share their personal writing experience with you in our Q&As. Take a look!