Photo: Eva Lindblad
Emelie, welcome to TheCrimeHouse! For our readers who may not know who you are, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Motala, Sweden and now I live outside Norrköping, Sweden, with my family. I have worked as a Project Manager in the advertising business for several years. This year (2013) I published my first novel Marked for Life and thanks to the novel’s great success with over 30,000 sold books in six months I am considered one of Sweden’s most successful self-publishers.
How did your writing career start? And why did you decide to self-publish Marked for Life?
In the Fall of 2011 I reached a point where I wanted to write more than just texts for ads and articles. I found an ad about a weekend class in how to write movie scripts and decided to go. For two days, in Örebro, I learned about characters and turning points. I was so inspired by the class that I wrote two scripts that I sent to different production companies. Shortly thereafter I read an article about Peter Dalle (Swedish actor), where he pointed out how difficult it is to get financing in Sweden. I remember thinking that “if he does not get support for his movies, how will I ever get it?” To break through with a movie script is incredibly difficult if you do not have any documented movie business experience. And every scene that you add to a movie, makes it more expensive to produce.
I went back to the drawing board and changed my plan. I figured I would write a novel. Because in a novel I could add however many scenes I wanted, without making it more expensive. That’s when I made my decision. I would become an author.
When I had finished my first draft I sent the manuscript to the publishers who would be interested in this type of book. After three months, one publisher had not responded, and I had received a few refusals as well as an offer to publish the novel in the Fall of 2014. I mustered some confidence and called the publisher who had not responded. I gently asked if they had had a chance to review my manuscript, but they said no with the explanation that no one was available to do that at the moment. I thanked them, hung up the phone and thought about the answer I had just received. I thought it was strange that one of Sweden’s largest publishers did not have anyone who reviewed manuscripts. So I went back and forth. The chance that they would accept it was microscopic. The risk that they would refuse it was on the other hand very great. I did have an offer, but the Fall of 2014 seemed so far away. An eternity. And I did not want to wait. I wanted my novel to be published now. I decided to give the large publisher some more time to respond, but at the same time I decided to research alternative ways to publish a novel. So I researched everything about self-publishing. I searched the Internet, read blogs, articles, and everything else I could find about the topic. I understood that there are plenty of self-publishers out there, authors who had gotten tired of the large publishers, authors who had received so many refusals that self-publishing was the only way, and then there were authors who had not even tried contacting the large publishers. I discovered a whole new world of entrepreneurs. And I was tempted to choose the same way as they had done.
When another three months had passed I mustered my courage again and called the large publisher. Had they by any chance had time to read my manuscript now? No. Not now either. And they still did not have anyone who reviewed manuscripts. I thanked them and made my decision. I would go my own way. I would become a self-publisher.
Can you please tell us a little bit about how it works to self-publish? Pros? Cons?
To publish your own novel takes a lot of energy, willpower and time. You have to do everything yourself. As a self-publisher you do not only need to write a novel, you also have to run a publishing company and be your own marketing department, PR agent and distributor. It means you have control of all aspects, but it also requires hard work, all the time. But then again, it is incredible to reach success on your own.
Have people been skeptical because the novel is self-published? (I must admit I would have been sceptical, but luckily I did not find out until I had read the novel, and in this case it would have been completely unfounded!)
No, I have not. I decided early on to package the novel as professionally as possible, I did not want it to give away that it had been self-published. But what really matters to readers, regardless of whether you publish it yourself or if it is done by a traditional publisher, is the text’s quality. A well written and edited text is the most important thing.
How long did it take to finish the novel and how much of that time was research and how much was writing time?
I have figured out that it took approximately a year from when I started thinking about writing a novel until it was available in the stores. The writing itself took a little over six months and I did all the research as I was writing.
The main character, Jana Berzelius, has an unusual background to say the least. Can you please tell us a little about her and how you came up with the character?
I had a basic idea—I wanted to create a strong female character that was exciting and a little odd. But it was not until I read an article in Aftonbladet (Swedish newspaper) that the story came together. The topic in the article was child soldiers and I started thinking about what it could look like if there were young soldiers here. In Sweden. Today. So I worked on the theme, changed and fantasized until I was happy with it. I summarized all my thoughts in a synopsis and when I knew all the major events I started writing. From the beginning to the end.
If (or when) Marked for Life is adapted into a movie, what actors would you like to see as the main characters?
I would like to see Angelina Jolie as Jana Berzelius and Michael Vartan as Henrik Levin.
You have a blog, Facebook page, and you are also a frequent user of Instagram and Twitter. How important is it to reach your readers via social media? Pros? Cons?
Social media is unbeatable when it comes to marketing. It is also an invaluable way to reach new readers and interact with your target market. Thanks to social media you get very close to your readers, which is a huge advantage. A disadvantage is that social media requires constant activity. You cannot take a break for a few weeks, you constantly have to keep all accounts updated.
What advice do you have for our readers who are aspiring authors?
First, if you want to write a novel, you have to actually write a novel, i.e. you have to sit down in front the computer and work continuously on it. Set aside an hour a week, two or more depending on what suits you. Second, write a synopsis, a summary of the novel. Decide how you want the story to begin and end, what characters to include, mark the major events and turning points. A well done synopsis works as a guide when you finally start writing. It is simply a perfect tool.
Do you have any writing role models? If so, who? And why?
My role models are Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril who write using the pseudonym Lars Kepler. They are so good at creating suspense. Another role model is Hans Rosenfelt. I admire his ability to write manuscripts for both novels and TV series.
Are you working on a new writing project? (If so, can you please tell us a little bit about it?)
I am writing on the sequel to Marked for Life where Jana Berzelius had to deal with new challenges.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with your current project!
Note: This interview has been translated from Swedish.