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.