Interview with Thomas Erikson

Hello Thomas Erikson, and congratulations to an awesome first crime novel!

Thank you that makes me feel great! :)

We would love to learn more about you. Who are you?

I am a former banker who got tired of stiffness and rules, and who wanted to try my luck as a consultant in the fields of leadership, behavioral science and coaching. For the past 12 years I run my own company which is focused on that, very refreshing.

I work mostly with executive management groups and I meet fascinating people almost every day. During some periods I travel a lot, and I work all over Europe.

How come you started to write?

Just like many other authors I have old half-finished manuscripts in my desk drawers. Plenty of old (long) papers from school. I have been writing “real” finished things for about 20 years. When we were expecting our first child I had some extra time, and the idea that the time would run out made me finish before he arrived.

I wrote three complete manuscripts during the first half of the 1990s, and then life took another turn for a few years. I have been writing more seriously and purposefully during the last five years.

Why are you writing?

Because it is so much fun! There are few things that are as fun as having an idea in your head, sit down, and build a story from an empty paper (or a white screen if you prefer), and to see the characters take form and come to life. It is indescribable. And if you think that something is fun it is not a problem to get up at 3am and do it.

Why crime novels?

Why not? I only write things I would consider reading myself. And I like crime fiction, thrillers, and horror stories. I want things to happen, it needs to be exciting! It is that simple. The fact that crime fiction is so incredibly popular right now has not stopped me yet. I am too inexperienced to understand how difficult it is to succeed in that genre.

Have you been able to use anything from your ”regular” job in your writing?

Not so much in the writing, I have developed that process on my own. But I have picked up elements of my first novel “The Illusion” from my time as a consultant, e.g. the behavioral science and the colors. What Alex King knows, I know. (Even though I hope I hold back a little more than he does sometimes…)

I have experienced all the situations I show in the novel that are related to his job as a consultant. And since I build my stories on people I always keep an eye open for interesting personalities. All the characters in “The Illusion” are based on real people. Although the detective may not be a detective in reality, he still exists as a person. And people I know have told me that they recognize a few people…

We are curious to find out how you work. Is it imagination, whiteboard scribbles and post-its, or what does it look like in your office?

I am lucky, because I do not need an office. I write everywhere. At the kitchen table, in the couch, on airplanes, trolleys or hotel rooms.

How do I work? Well, a word at a time is the overarching strategy. I had an idea I wanted to try out. It developed little by little, and after a few hundred pages I figured out what the novel was really about. It sounds crazy, but it is true. I agree with Jan Guillou that writing is more about discipline than inspiration. It is better to work those keys and get something down on paper, than to sit there and wait for the flow. I will not let it stop me that I do not know how a machine gun works or if Main Street really runs parallel to Grand Avenue. Not then at least.

When I created my first novel I had no idea how it would end. As an amateur I wrote without a plan, which honestly is pretty obvious (see next question). My only plan is fairly simple – if I can keep myself interested I should be able to keep a reader or two interested. And why be such a control freak? All stories end somewhere…

Practically? All parts of the process are fun. Both the story creation, which is mostly inspiration, and also the editing, which is mostly transpiration. Earlier I had to print the entire manuscript and use the floor in my living room to understand what I was doing, but I do not do that anymore. I use Word, and if I am doing a synopsis in chapter format I put each scene in a PowerPoint document. That makes it easy to move around the chapters, e.g. if I discover that Erik cannot be dead before he has given all his money away to charitable causes.

Criticism is something every author must handle. What is your strategy?

My strategy is simple and pragmatic. In my job as a coach I train people to receive criticism and negative feedback. It means that I also have to handle it myself. I have been evaluated and given feedback in my career for as long as I can remember. It is the only way to become better at what I do. I do not take anything personally, because the people who comment on my novel do not know me anyway.

For example, when (Swedish version of TheCrimeHouse) wrote that “the characters and the environments are a bit stereotypical” it did not bother me at all. It is probably true. And I also received some advice, “something I would like the author to work on in the next novel about Alex King.” Here is something to work with!

I get suspicious when people say that everything is great, because nothing is perfect. At least not a lot of things.

Could you please tell us about your impression from your first book trade show (in Gothenburg, Sweden) from a newly published author’s point of view?

Chaos! Oh my gosh, the sound level was out of this world. It was constantly loud. But it was very exciting and incredibly fun to see all the other authors there; the people who I have read for years and admire. It was only positive!

What do you think about interacting with your readers via social media?

Interacting with readers is so much fun! I receive emails every week from people who are saying positive things about my novel, and they are asking me to hurry up with the sequel. It does not get more inspiring than that.

Social media is a part of our world these days, there is nothing strange about that. I have a website, and you can find me on Facebook and Twitter. I am doing the best I can. It is one part of the full picture. I do not think an author can sit isolated, write the story, and then hope that the “text will speak for itself”. At least not if you want to have readers.

Camilla Läckberg is a skilled marketer, no doubt. She speaks of herself as a brand. Liza Marklund is even smarter. She says that she is not a brand, which is an excellent way to build just that – a brand. Would she have been as successful in 2011? No idea.

You no longer have to break through the noise, it is an alarm! You do not necessarily have to be louder than everyone else, but you have to be there, you need to be heard and seen. As a new writer it is even more important, and I am not sure I am doing everything right. But I am doing my best to show who I am, and what I stand for. Surely I have a line between what is personal and what is private, but it has not been a problem so far.

Everyone who has questions can contact me.

Please tell us – will there be more novels about your problem solver Alex King?

Yes, I have almost finished editing the sequel. I dedicated last summer to write it, and I am pretty pleased with how the story turned out. (It is an excellent example of how it turns out when you do not plan everything in detail. The publisher and I are still struggling with which of the two endings is the best one…)

It is partly an unusual story, but with the same building blocks as before. Alex, Nina, and detective Hellmark are back. We get to know a lot more about Alex King’s background, where he came from and how he became the man he is today. It is still about behaviors and how you interpret people. Alex King manipulates a certain function in society, and the result is actually quite thought-provoking…

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, and good luck with the sequel!

Thank you!


Translator’s note: This interview was done in December 2011.

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