Friday, November 18, 2011

Q & A with Mons Kallentoft (MIDWINTER SACRIFICE)

One of the great things about being a crime fiction reviewer is that I get sent books from authors I might not have otherwise tried - and some end up becoming new favourites. Over the past two and a half years I've 'discovered' many such new-to-me authors, some through my own experimenting (just trying new books from the stores or libraries), and others from publicists who've recommended someone new-to-me, to me.

Recently I received a review copy of MIDWINTER SACRIFICE by Mons Kallentoft, another exceptional writer being noticed now as part of the ever-growing Scandinavian crime wave. Whatever you think of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, one great thing about it is it has opened the wider reading world's eyes to the talented crime writers in Scandinavia (many of whom were already big successes at home and in other non-English speaking nations pre-Larsson mania), and led to more Scandinavian crime fiction being translated into English, for all of us keen crime readers to enjoy.

MIDWINTER SACRIFICE is Kallentoft's fourth novel, but his first foray into crime fiction. It's always fascinating to see published writers, who've written in other styles or genres, turning their hand to crime fiction. Published in Sweden in 2007, it has been a bestseller, and has now been translated into several languages. It introduces Malin Fors, a single mother  and the most talented and ambitious detective on the local police force. Kallentoft has since written four more Malin Fors tales (MIDWINTER SACRIFICE is the first to be translated into English). The books are set in his childhood hometown of Linkoping, Sweden.

I will soon be doing a 9mm interview with Kallentoft, but in the meantime I thought you might enjoy this recent Q&A session his publisher has sent through to me:

Linkoping: how does it fit into your life?
It’s an average Swedish town where I grew up, and where I moved away from as soon as I could. I left at 20, so it is a huge part of me, and writing the stories helped me to reconnect to my childhood and young adulthood.

Would you live there again?
You can’t actually run away from who you are. In one of my earlier books I wrote about it, but it is only possible to go back in my books. These stories are like echoes from that era and I can look back and work out a lot of things and emotions.

Mercy in an author?
Mercy? No. To write you have to be merciless. You can’t turn away when the story gets too dark and scary. You have to keep going. I find the books very emotional to write because I can’t get away with side-stepping the hard bits.

Why is your main character a girl?
I was trying to do something a bit different and I talked with my wife about it. Most detectives are middle-aged and jaded, and we thought a young woman in the middle of her working life would be a good place to start. I do talk about her with my wife when I get stuck on the emotional side of things, but I reckon I know her pretty well by now – and she is definitely NOT my wife! In fact she is more like me – her frustrations with small town life come directly from my own experience.

How many other countries are you published in?
My books are now in 22 languages and I have been to many of the countries involved. I have yet to go to Romania, but I travel a lot – so one day I will!

Your first books?
They were set in Madrid and Brussels – all over the place – and I wrote about what I saw and the people I watched. They weren’t really crime novels, but they touched on the dark side of life. It was when I started to write about Linkoping that crime seemed the right genre for me!

Pesetas was my first novel, and won the Swedish equivalent of your Whitbread Award. For a debut. The book came from the year I spent in Madrid. I also wrote a non-fiction travel and food book, Food Noir, which won a travel award. I’d like to do another one of those as I have a lot of material ready and waiting. I only need the time to do it!

How many books altogether?
Five Malin Fors novels, one travel, and novels set in Stockholm, where I live now, Belgium and Spain. If the house burned down, I’d save one called Fresh, Healthy and Spontaneous (that title is a bit of a mouthful!). It’s about a branding expert and his views on life and family, about how he applies branding strategy to manage all the details of his life. It’s a black black black comedy.

Seasons and the weather and the part they play?
I had the idea that crime novels benefit from easy symbols for the reader to catch hold of. So I have written the seasons into the Malin Fors novels. The cold is an easy way to reach people, on one level it represents the cold inside all mankind … it runs through all the characters too – emotionally and figuratively cold. I also like to give the books the feel of different colours and sounds. Midwinter Sacrifice, for instance, is icy and blue – and it is quite a silent book because the sounds are muted by the winter and snow. My Summer book (ed - "SUMMERTIME DEATH" - pictured right) has much more noise. Using seasons also gives me a tight framework for the stories. Like a Greek drama – it is all very contained!

The translation?
My English translator, Neil Smith, is excellent. He is not the first to try my books, but he is the best. It’s so hard to get it right, and he seems to capture the tone and voices in them.

Mountain or valley?

River or Sea?

Best food?
In the Basque area of northern Spain. It is without doubt the best food in the world.

Favourite book?
The Great Gatsby. It’s perfect in every sense – form, character, plot and creation. I love reading it – every time. And also Cormac McCarthy’s book Blood Meridian.

Favourite film?
That is a really hard one. The French Connection I think. I also love those slow, stylish, mystery thrillers you can just sink into.

Favourite city?
Madrid, Hong Kong, Sydney, Bangkok … Macau because of its sense of the underbelly

Have you read MIDWINTER SACRIFICE, or any other Mons Kallentoft books? If not, do they sound intriguing? What do you think of his Q&A? Comments welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Craig - This is a very interesting profile - thanks! I'm looking forward to your 9mm interview, too.