Interview – Michael Katz Krefeld

We at the CrimeHouse welcome the Danish crime author Michael Katz Krefeld to this interview. Krefelds second book, Pan´s Secret, about the doctor Maja Holm was just released in Sweden Read our review of Pan´s Secret here!


Michael, Can you give our readers some information about, age, where you live, where you are from etc.

I am 44 years old. Born in Gl Holte but raised in Hvidovre which is a suburb to Copenhagen. Hvidovere is also used as a backdrop for my stories. Right now I live in the heart of Copenhagen with my girlfriend Lis, who is a lawyer.


How did you become a writer?

I started directing short films but got more and more interested in writing screenplays. Following that, I was working on a number of Danish television series. Amongst other Emmy Award winner “Nikolaj & Julie”, “The Hotel” and “Nynne”. After about 7-8 years as a screenwriter. I started in parallel to write my first novel, “Før Stormen”. A project that took more than four years to complete.


I read an article you wrote about crime litterature where you where very passionate about the genre. When and how did your interest in crime fiction start? Do you have any crime writer idols?

I have always been interested in plot-driven narratives including crime stories and thrillers. Both on film and in literature. Hitchcook, Orson Wells, Scorsese, Brian De Palma is my cinematic role models. Among Screenplay writers, it is people like Towne (Chinatown) Richard Price, (Sea of Love), Joe Eszterhaz (Basic Instinct). Among (Crime)writers it is especially writers like  Cormac McCarthy, Michael Connelly, Elmore Leonard, and of course James Ellroy.


Your main character is a women and it always intrigue me how people can “become” another sex and have the perspective of the other sex and make it believeble in writing. “I know I would find that a bit difficult) How do you do it?

Through my work on TV series I have written many female characters, so it was not strange for me to choose a female protagonist in my book. I think it offers some unique opportunities to select characters who are as far from your self and therefore challenge one’s thinking. As for female characters, I think that as a male writer I see details that a female writer will not notice due to the fascination of the differences between the sexes. A female writer who writes about men will undoubtedly experience the same.


You also write for Film and Television can you tell us a little about that?

I have directed  7-8 short films and written on a wide variety of television series. It has been very educational for me and given me a proper discipline. I think you can see on my style of writing that I have a very visual /scenic approach and that am much into writing dialog. On the other hand, I am glad to have left the film business for the benefit of writing books. And since I have just signed a contract for my next 3 books, I am in the fortunate position that I can concentrate completely around my bookwriting. A great privilege I have worked a long time to achieve.


What do you consider the biggest differences in writing for film verses books?

Of course there is the whole technique thing. Scripts are blueprints for others to follow. They are kept short and tight with no internal dialog. But the biggest difference for me is that with books I have complete control over the story. With movies and tv you either with others, or for others who must interpret what you write. With the books you are the sole master. That is a great joy.


There has been a lot of talk about the nordique crime novel. People seems to go crazy over any Swedish crime novel in some parts of the world. Is it the same with danish crime litterature? and how would you describe Nordique crime litterature? What exactly is it?

I think that Swedish authors currently have the greatest success. However, we, the Danish writers, are approaching. I sense an increased sale and interest in the country my own books have been published in. It is easier to sell Danish crime films abroad perhaps because of the Swedish success. I think the uniqueness of Nordic crime fiction literature is the social- and sometimes political commitment and theme. Its attempts at realism and perhaps coolness. Maybe Scandinavian cool is the new black?


Can you name 5 danish crime novels/thrillers, 3 danish crime movies and 3 international TV-crime series you think we should read/watch?

A couple of Danish crime fiction writers that are worth reading: Leif Davidsen, Jusi Adler Olsen, Mikkel Birkegaard, Elsebeth Egeholm. All are major international successes, and very different in there approach to writing crime fiction. As for movies, it is difficult to get crime movies financed in Denmark. But check out. “Rembrandt,” “Kongekabalen” and “Kandidaten”. Among International television series: Look for “Forbrydelsen” A Danish series that celebrats great international success. Have just bought the first season of “Homicide” which may be regarded as a classic. The dialogue is phenomenal and the psychological portraits just as good. ”The Wire” has a little bit of the same. And then I can not wait to buy the last season of LOST.


Can you describe a typical working day for you. I want to know where you work (no adress needed of course), if it´s messy or neat, do you use a laptop and sit in a sofa? or by a desk? how long you work, do you need tons of coffe etc.

A typical working day usually starts at 8:30 to 9:00 when I sit in my home office. Unless I go out to do research which may consist of either to visit locations or talk with experts. When I start a book, my office is usually very clean and nice but very soon there will be countless paper stacks and research notes up around me. Halfway through the process I am literally buried in my story. Work tools that I appreciate is my laptop, a Mac Air I can bring everywhere. Then my whiteboard that I can throw ideas up on franticly. And last my camera a Riccoh, which is the world greatest pocket camera.

At the beginning of the writing process, I write 6-8 hours a day but as my deadline approaches the day gets longer. This july I’ve been working 10-12 hours seven days a weeks. So regarding coffee? Coffee is the oil that lubricates the machinery. I am a coffee – junkie!


What do you do on your spare time (except reading or watching movies/TV)?

I have a small classic sailboat which me and my girlfriend loves to sail on the Öresund. In addition to that, Am riding my mountainbike a couple times a week in the forest around Copenhagen.(yes its more steepy than one could imagine) In both cases, I like the close contact with nature and the physical activity involved.


Can you tell us your three top favourite books and top movies. (It doesn´t have to be in the crime genre.)

Wow, only three? Then I’ll pick a couple of classics: “Lawrence of Arabia”. “Taxi Driver”, “Vertigo”. Books which recently have made an impression: “No Country For Old Men”, Cormac McCarthy, “The constant gardener” John LeCarré, “The end of mr. Y”, Scarlett Thomas


I was quite upset with Maja (The main character in your book) and some of her actions but I guess that means that I  care about the character. If not I wouldn´t bother with what she did. Is that something you want your readers to get? A connection to the characters?

I’ve heard before that Maja is sometimes difficult to love. In some ways I understand that – without it has been my deliberate intention of provoking the reader. I will defend her at all times, even when she is difficult. Mostly because I think that aspect of her nature is a part of me. I understand her spite and that she can not let things lie but necessarily must interfere. Katherine Bergman has the same side, perhaps even into a more extreme and violent degree. Especially in my next book where she will be the protagonist you will experience that. Maybe I just like troublesome characters who challenge me and that it takes an effort for me as a writer to understand.


What do you thing significe a bad crime writer and a good crime writer

A bad writer is one who does not take his characters seriously. Who do not know what is at stake. If it is not personal for your protagonist it will not work. I do not like crime novels where the protagonist solves a case without personal consequence. The good writers believe their main character and drama to be found in psychology, not in how many bodies there are on the table.


Will you continue writing about the doctor Maja Holm or change your main charachter?

The dramatic events Maja was exposed to in “Pans Hemmelighed” has been of such a harsh nature that I have decided to give her a break to recover. She will return in a later book. But in the next one Detective Katherine Bergman who appeared in “Pans Hemmelighed” will take over together with a new protagonist Nikolai Storm.


What do you read right now?

I got “All the pretty horses” by Cormac McCarthy, as a birthday present from my girlfriend. Loved “The Road” so am really looking forward to this one.


Thank you Michael!

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