Blog Tour – Q&A
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Kjell Ola Dahl’s The Ice Swimmer hosted by Orenda Books. Kjell is seen as one of the fathers of Nordic Noir and he has a stellar reputation in the crime genre. I have the great honor of putting some questions to Kjell about his latest novel and his time as a writer. This was a fascinating opportunity and I think I made the most of it. I hope you enjoy the Q&A and please make sure to visit all the other blog posts on this tour for plenty more reviews and information.
28.02.2018 / Orenda Books / Crime Fiction / Paperback / 276pp / 978-1912374076
About Kjell Ola Dahl
One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.
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About The Ice Swimmer
When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand’s stressful life suddenly becomes even more complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and and an untrustworthy boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway’s security services might be involved in the murder. With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frølich, at her side, Lena digs deep into the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort. Dark, complex and nail-bitingly tense, The Ice Swimmer is the latest and most unforgettable instalment in the critically acclaimed Oslo Detective series, by the godfather of Nordic Noir.
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Thank you Kjell for taking some time to answer a few questions about your latest novel The Ice Swimmer. Could you give us your own personal overview of what we should expect in within?
You mean the novel? It a story of a murder that in the beginnings seems like an accident. It is an icy cold morning long below zero and this dead man is floating in the Oslo Harbor dressed in a suit only. Lenas Stigersand, the police officer in charge starts investigating what actually happened. When she does – she also starts a ride on a personal rollercoaster that involves her job, her love life, her personal security and her health.
What was your initial inspiration for your Oslo detectives series?
I have always been a dedicated reader of crime fiction. But in the beginning I was especially inspired by authors like Ec McBain, Sjöwall & Wallhö and other writers of police procedurals. I liked that the protagonists was police officers and the focus was on society. Those books felt like real life stories to me. I could belive those stories because they was about real people in a real world. Then politics and social conditions suddenly became interesting topics in fiction. At the time I started to write the first book in the Oslo detectives series I was interested in business fraud. The backdrop in the first book in the series, Lethal investments, is about how some people with certain knowledge is able to swindle others with less knowledge in the topic. I was also inspired by certain people around me at the time, they gave inspiration to the characters.
How does it feel to be known as one of the fathers of Nordic Noir?
I don’t care much about that. Of course it means that I enjoy respect from fellow writers. If labels like that does something to me, I think it helpes me being confident in what I do. I like to challenge myself when I write, to press borders. I hate the feeling of repeating myself. As soon as i get that feeling I throw the text in the trash bin and start all over.
Can you give us a few details about some of the dynamics and ideas that you explore within your novels?
The Ice swimmer is about Lena. This is the first story in the series with her as a protagonist. I decided to write about her, because I wanted to know her better. She had only had som minor roles in previous novels. Then I wanted The Ice Swimmer to be a winter story. Norway is a country where seasons differ a lot, not only in temperature and the look of the landscape. The different seasons affects people too, in how people behave socially and towards each other. I wanted that to be a part of the story.
I also wanted the story to be defined by time, that is – The story last for ten days, from the 14th of the december to Christmas eve. The timeline gave the story a certain goal in itself. I wanted the feeling of a floating river. I wanted every character in the story and the story itself to move slowly against Christmas.
I also wanted to write about norwegian wealth and implications of welfare which has many sides worth exploring. I decided to focus on The norwegian petroleum funds, which implicated focus on byreaucracy, politics and the press.
And I wanted to write about the lack of phosfate in the world, that is my enviromental focus in this novel. I am concerned about food production in the world today. And the question of fertilizing agricultural products is a question of human life on the planet.
It starts with ideas like that, then I have to start researching, when I do my research the ideas starts to form. I start to write. Some times I have plotted books in beforehand, not with this one, I worked out the story in the process of writing it.
Is there anything particular that you especially enjoy when writing about Gunnarstranda and Frølich?
You mean those two charcaters in particular? I think they fit together very well. I like to sort out the chemistry between them. Both have their own sense of humour, whcich the other one seldom catches. I like that, how they talk past each other and at the same time communicates well.
What sort of challenges did you face when writing The Ice Swimmer?
Many. I mean, first of all there is a female protagonist. I had to do a lot of research to catch this woman. I made interviews with many women. Lena is under hard pressure in this book and I had to know how she reacted, what she would do, not would do, how she would cope with things. The only way to find out was to ask other women, to get a better grip on Lena. But – not all the women I talked to were eager to answer intimate questions. But to me it is very important to feel I know the character well. If not I will have problems to canalize the right energy in the writing process. The second important challenge was to bring the plot down to earth. This story also focus on international business, and funds, I was all the time afraid I would lose the reader’s attention if the story was to complicated. I worked a lot with that, to keep the plot straight and down to earth. There was lot of other challenges too, but I think these two were most important.
Did you always know you were going to become a crime author/writer?
No. I did always know I wanted to write though. I was very young when I found that writing was my thing. Writing and reading. A boy soon realize things like that. We were fifteen to twenty boys in my street playing soccer and pirates and whatever. I was the only one among them that was reading books privately.
Are there any authors that influence your writing on any level, even after multiple books?
Yes. I find two things very inspiring in my work. That is to read other books and to do research. I think reading is the most important thing a writer can do after writing. And as a rule – a writer should not limit his own reading to genres. There is things to learn from most writers, from poets to novelwriters, from debutants to old foxes, there is always new things to learn about schetching characters, writing dialog, staging, using language – any thing. One never gets to old to learn. I feel sorry for writers that state they are to old to learn new things.
How long did it take you to plan and write Faithless and The Ice Swimmer?
Usually it takes from one year to two years to write a book. I am experienced now, and I know that a novel needs time to mature. Editing is a huge part of the process, and it is important that the text can be put away for weeks at a time. I need to establish distance to my work to be capable to work on it with fresh eyes again.
Can you tell us in five words what being an author/writer means to you?
An important part of my life. That was six words. Sorry.
Do you take the time to celebrate finishing your novels?
That is not important to me. May be I am too old fashioned. I see that young writers have release parties and stuff like that. I am different. When I am finished with a book I am really finished with it. I like to hold the new book in my hand, and I like to read a bit here and there, to convince myself it now really is born and has started a life on its own. But I have to move on, work more on other books. And I need time to be away from the book to be able to talk about it. That is why i like the english editions. Some water has filled the ocean since I finished those books, Therefore I am happy to talk about them.
Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the writing?
Yes. I live on a farm and have lots of things to do as soon as I lift my head from the computer screen. That is very healthy. It keeps me grounded and it helps me to think about total differen things.
Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?
Recently I have read most norwegian books. So I must recomend books that are translated to english. I will deeply reccoment The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn. It is a delicious story about mysteries and good food. Crime fiction by Gunnar Staalesen never fails. He is an old fox that still write strong books. I think his latest in thew english marked is Wolves in the dark. And I will recommend The Fireraiser by Torkil Damhaug which is a very good psychological thriller.
Thank you for coming by to check out my question time with Kjell Ola Dahl. He is a crime visionary and it was a great opportunity to celebrate his work and promote his latest novel The Ice Swimmer. Please make sure to stop by all the other posts happening this week as there are plenty of reviews, guest posts and extracts to go around. Thank you to Orenda Books for including me on this tour. Nordic Noir is certainly out of my comfort zone but talking to Kjell was an insightful occasion. I hope you enjoyed it too.