Interview with Stefan Tegenfalk

Can you please introduce yourself to any readers who may not yet be familiar with you?

I was born in 1965 in Stockholm where I live now. I work with IT product development. Until a few years ago I was as close as you could be to an illiterate when it came to fiction. I was even less interested in writing. But destiny had other plans. Nowadays books are a part of my everyday life even though I still read too little. I’m blaming lack of time, and writing takes up most of my time.

Your crime trilogy brings up the Swedish justice system, science, extremism, terrorism, and homosexuality. I also appreciate that they made me think about existential questions. How did you come up with the idea for your novels?

The idea for the story started with a brief article in the newspaper describing how a grandmother and her grandchildren were killed by a drunk driver, how short the punishment was for the driver, and the fact that drunk driving was a mitigating factor. In the same newspaper it was described how someone else got a much tougher punishment for withholding half a million dollars in taxes. The notable contrast of what a human life is worth became the kernel of the story. The rest just fell into place.

Anger Mode begins with a quote by David H. Ingvar, Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology, and your trilogy is based on a great scientific/existential secret that may change the world as we know it. Where did you get your interest in brain research? And how much research have you done regarding the subject?

I have always been interested in what we call our “consciousness”. The brain makes us who we are, that interprets, decides and solves puzzles. It is so developed and advanced that it even understands its own existence. Yet it is the part of the body that we know the least about, and that harbors so many secrets. I contacted a few brain researchers and found out that we know surprisingly little about this complex creation, even though researchers get a little closer to solving the riddle every day. But there are plenty of different theories, and I borrowed some of them for my novels. But the little jellyfish Turritopsis nutricula actually exists. It is so small but still very sophisticated with its capability of “eternal life”.

How long did it take you to finish each novel and how much of that time was spent on research and how much was writing time?

It took almost exactly a year to finish each novel. I would say that a tenth of the time is pure research. The rest is writing, editing, writing, editing…

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

I typically write a few hours in the evening. During the weekends I usually write in one or two three-hour segments. When I travel I write during any downtime. But I prefer to write at home.

Your main characters Walter Gröhn and Jonna de Brugge are very different. How did you create them?

I wanted two opposites as main characters. I thought it would be interesting to write about their dynamic. Their traits were interestingly enough already in my mind when I started writing. Then I could just finalize their personalities when I got to know them in more detail.

I read on your website that SVT (Swedish Television) has got the right to adapt your novels about Walter Gröhn and Jonna de Brugge into movies. How exciting! What actors would you like to see play the main characters?

It is a difficult question. I don’t really have any favorites. Maybe two unknown actors or somebody that has never played a police before.

You can hardly share anything about your second and third novel without giving away the storyline of your first novel, and you should read them in order since I imagine it may be difficult to keep up otherwise. Was this a conscious choice? Or do you disagree and think that you can read the novels in any order?

No, you should read them in order. I have tried to exclude redundant flashbacks in the second and third novel. The drawback is that it is difficult to jump into the second or final part. At first I was only going to write one novel, but I had to divide it into three parts since almost 1,300 pages would be too long for one novel.

I read that you were not that interested in novels until recently. What made you change your mind? And do you have a favorite crime writer?

I received a writing course as a present. Maybe it was not the best present for someone who was not at all interested in fiction. But as the pages were filled with text my interest grew. At last I was absorbed by the writing. A weird experience. I almost had a déjà vu feeling that I had written books before.

I like John Le Carre, he is an excellent author with a great language and he also has a message in his books. Then “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco is one of my favorite novels. It is a type of medieval crime novel with a lesson in philosophy, but that also make demands on the reader.

I am looking forward to the standalone parts about Walter Gröhn. Can you please tell us a bit about “The Pianotuner” that will be published this fall? Will we recognize anything from the other three novels? How many parts have you planned?

Some characters from the trilogy with return in The Pianotuner. Other than that it is a completely different story that focuses on a fifteen-year-old girl. It is a very sad story. It is so miserable that I have to take a break from the writing now and then. It is also difficult to write from a narrative point of view, since I use two time axes, where one is inverted. Add a complex intrigue to that. The Pianotuner is definitely a challenge to write.

We will see how many novels I will write. The only thing I know is that I won’t write another trilogy. Every part will be standalone.

Thank you and good luck with your future novels!

This interview has been translated from Swedish.

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