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.