Jo Nesbø – Special Delivery

You may – or may not – have heard of Jo Nesbø. He’s a Norwegian thriller writer with a series of noirish contemporary novels featuring Harry Hole, an alcoholic detective, under his belt. Jo’s Random House publicity ninjette contacted me a few days back to ask if I’d like some free copies of his latest Hole book, Nemesis, which is out in translation this week. Free books? Sniffing an interview opportunity, I replied in the affirmative.

So, I’ve got five copies of Nemesis to give away. Just add a comment expressing an interest below and I’ll put you in touch with Random House.

Incidentally, Jo has landed himself a Flash-tastic website. Check it out.


First off, your name ends with a letter – ø – that does not appear in the English alphabet. How does one pronounce your name? Is there an English word that contains this phoneme?

Like the German ö. Or the “o” in Peter Sellers’ pronunciation of “bomb” in the Pink Panther-movie.

How did you get started with writing?

I read. And Read. I basically postponed writing as long as I could, that was until I was 37. Then I started writing like a madman.

‘Nemesis’ is a Norwegian book translated into English. How do you find the translation process? Does it require creative input from the translator and, if so, do these decisions ever depart from the effect you were trying to create from a given paragraph or sentence?

I probably read as much English as I read Norwegian, but I don’t take part in the translation. Because in the end all I can do is trust Don Bartlett. And I do.

The novel ‘Nemesis’ has the concept of memory loss at its heart. In thrillers, this is often linked to questions about identity, and the difficulty of accepting the darker side of a person’s character. How did this become so central to the book?

I think the question whether true evilness exists – whether it’s an antisocial gene, a response to upbringing and culture or something we simply need to survive in certain situations – is a central theme in all my Harry Hole-books, but maybe especially in “Nemesis”.

I’ve not visited Norway, but in bookshops in Iceland, as well as several in continental Europe, I was struck by the greater shelf space given to translations of American and British fiction. Do you find Norwegian bookshops supportive of native authors?

Definitely. Norwegian and – for some reason – Swedish writers dominate the bestseller lists in Norway. Sometimes accompanied by an American writer or two.

One of the aims of this blog is to document the creative process. Can you describe a little of your writing routine?

Not really because there isn’t such a thing as a routine. I write anywhere, anytime. And when I’m supposed to write I often find myself doing other things …

You’re a musician as well as a writer. How does writing differ creatively from your music? Do you find them competing for your attention?

Music for me is more like taking things out of the air, I don’t really have a method. Writing is about dreaming things up, using your imagination and instantly knowing whether you’re onto something. Writing music has taken the back seat to writing fiction now.

Published by

Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

13 thoughts on “Jo Nesbø – Special Delivery”

  1. He’s a major favourite over at Euro Crime. I’ve read two of his previous, Redbreast and Devil’s Star. Criminal that they are published in translation out of alphabetical order as it really ruins some of the impact.
    I have already entered a Euro Crime competition to win a copy of Nemesis and I have a feeling I’ll be successful, so I’ll pass this time – but your winners are I think in for a very absorbing reading experience.

  2. Hmm, bit odd that they’re being published out of sequence.

    I’m just beginning to read Nemesis. Has a pretty good start; we’ll see how it goes.

  3. I’d be interested in a copy of Nemesis. I’ve read some Sewdish thrillers – Sjowall & Wahloo, Henning Mankell, and I’d like to see what the Norwegians have to offer.

  4. [Re-posting Marco’s comment]

    Is it only for the U.K.? I live in Italy.
    Would love to read it,in fact I would already have bought it had I not also entered the Eurocrime competition.
    Strange as it seems,publishing out of order is a common practice-it happens here also,and it happened for one of my favourite Italian authors when he was translated into English.
    I suppose the reason is the desire to start with the “stronger” (or rather,better marketable) books in order to hook the readers,but in the case of ongoing series it’s very annoying.

  5. Yes, it’s a bit strange that the published are being published out of order. I’ll send your address to Random House – hopefully they don’t mind sending something out to Italy.

  6. I had the good fortune to read Jo Nesbo’s book in uncorrected proof format (I have a great connection at a local indi book store) and cannot stop telling people about Nesbo and his writing. I would love to have a free copy of the book but since I’ve already read it, hopefully you will find others to place a comment here, get a free copy and find out how good Jo Nesbo is. I liked the rhythm of his writing, his way of weaving surroundings into his writing without dwelling too much on the scene and his characters. Just a good read that I recommend. As someone who also writes mysteries, I am always looking for authors from whom I can learn. Nesbo is one I will study.

  7. While some time has past since this thread was started. But, I must say that I have read all of Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole books publish in America and hope to read them soon in Norwegian

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