While there, I caught up with several past 9mm interviewees, and also met many new authors, some of whom I interviewed for 9mm. Unfortunately, due to a combination of work pressures, job changes, laptop difficulties and replacements, travel, and migration for work in the time since, many of those recordings were waylaid and not yet transcribed and published here on Crime Watch. I apologise. The good news is I have now dug through the archives and my old laptop, and managed to salvage some great interviews with a variety of very cool authors. So over the coming weeks, along with new interviews I'm conducting, I will also be publishing some of those Harrogate tapes. The 'lost 9mm interviews', if you will.
To kickstart the extravaganza, I am very pleased to finally publish my interview with Swedish crime sensation Liza Marklund. As well as being a heck of a good crime writer, Marklund was an absolute delight to interview, intelligent and funny, joking and laughing often as we chatted about crime fiction and other things. Marklund is the #1 internationally bestselling author of the Annika Bengtzon series of crime thrillers, which have scooped awards, been translated into many languages, and sold millions of copies globally. A former investigative journalist and TV editor who delved deeply into tough issues like political corruption, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS, Marklund incorporates some of those larger social issues into the texture of her terrific and exciting storylines. She also works as a UNICEF ambassador, and runs a publishing company.
Wonder Woman? Perhaps. But a very down-to-earth and charming superstar. And for now, and in our 77th instalment in the series, here is Liza Marklund staring down the barrel of 9mm.
9MM: An interview with Liza Marklund
I really like Will Trent, Karin Slaughter’s dyslexic, well-dressed FBI Agent. That’s my hero, I mean he is just so odd. The way he solves the crimes by having different coloured Post-It notes, it’s fantastic. Such an extremely odd hero, and so likeable, abused as an orphan, but he’s such a good man. He’s such a contradiction. I love him, I would marry him instantly!
What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
THE GHOST AT BLACKWOOD HALL by Carolyn Keene, a Nancy Drew book. It opened up a whole new world to me, I didn’t even know this was possible. I felt I was in River Heights, I wanted to move to River Heights. I was disappointed there wasn’t a River Heights. I wanted to be Kitty – she’s called Kitty Drew, for some unknown reason [in Sweden]. And she drove a blue sports car, and I drive a blue sports car, and I think it’s because of Nancy.
Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I’d written a novel beforehand that was published by one of the most prestigious publishing houses in Sweden, a literary novel. And I’d had short stories and poems published from when I was seven or eight. I was so embarrassed to go to school the next day. I wrote love stories, short stories, and essays as a teenager, and was paid for them, so I’ve always been writing.
Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I knit. Scarves, sweaters – I’m into sweaters right now, my whole family are like “Oh God, not another sweater”. And I play the piano – I actually play Stairway to Heaven on the piano, but mostly classical.
What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I think they should do three things when they go to Stockholm. They should take a boat out to the archipelago – we’ve got tens of thousands of islands out there. But it is cold. They should bring a sweater – if you don’t have a sweater, I can knit them one (laughing), just pick any one. They should go through the old town, the medieval part of Stockholm. That’s an amazing experience, it’s been there for 1,000 years. I have my office there, it’s just my favourite part of Sweden. If they need a sweater they can just come around and knock on my door, I’m in the penthouse. I love it. They should stroll through old town, and they should do some shopping. We have the best designers.
Daniel Day-Lewis (chuckling)... he’s my favourite actor.
Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
It’s called NEW VOICES SAY THE SAME THINGS. It took me 25 years to write. It’s a non-fiction book, it’s essays, my most controversial journalism, things I got sued about. It’s also about terrorism, corruption, politics. It’s also my most embarrassing moments, my most famous mistakes, and also the really really private stuff, waking up in the wrong bed... so that’s my favourite.
What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I’ve never celebrated anything when it comes to publicity or sales or publishing. I went to a friend of mine because I wanted to have control over the process. So what I do feel when I saw the book I think the cover looks good, the promotion looks good, and I think ‘they could have done this, they could have put it up there’, so I kind of go there [into a store] and evaluate ‘how does this work?’, and we’ve founded a publishing house, I’m the co-owner of that, and we’re the third-largest in Sweden, so I’m in complete control [smiling]. I feel content that I see my book, that it’s working. And if it’s not working, I get determined to change it. I’ve never, ever celebrated. That’s the boring truth. I feel content.
What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
Doing research for my novel that takes place on the border between Kenya and Somalia, and I know Kenya quite well – I have a company in Nairobi, but I hadn’t been up there. So I took a plane up there, you can’t drive unless you have an armed escort. So we took a plane up there and we were arrested. The police chief said we were the first private plane ever to land there. Yeah, ‘the Swedish terrorists are coming!’, and he asked what we were doing there. After trying to be cute, I told him that I was an author, I make fiction, but I need to see what my characters see, and have to smell the earth. And this big black man looked at me like I was completely insane, and then said “For your own protection I will give you two soldiers”, and so I had these two guys following me around after that. And that was quite cool. And then the next year – and I work for UNICEF, the year after the drought hit, and I ended up there, with the same guys, and that was the weirdest thing, because at the time I never thought I was going to come back! My research takes me to funny places.
Thank you very much Liza. We appreciate you taking the time to chat to Crime Watch.
You can read more about Liza Marklund and her books here:
- My Crime Watch post about Red Wolf
- Author website
- "An Unstoppable force in Swedish Crime Fiction" - interview with Scan Magazine
- YouTube video interview with Marklund by Transworld
Have you read any of the Annika Bengtzon books? What are your thoughts on Marklund's work, in general and as part of the Schwedenkrimi phenomena? Comments appreciated.