Translated by DON BARTLETT
‘Staalesen continually reminds us why he is one of the finest of Nordic novelists’ Barry Forshaw, Financial Times
PI Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office from a woman who introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a nineteen-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn’t leave an address. She doesn’t answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously. Veum’s investigation uncovers a series of carefully covered-up crimes and pent-up hatreds, and the trail leads to a gang of extreme bikers and to a shadowy group, whose dark actions are hidden by the anonymity of the Internet. And then things get personal… Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Big Sister reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.
‘Chilling and perilous…’ The Sunday Times
‘Chandler with a Nordic twist’ Wall Street Journal
‘There is something dark and haunting about this novel that will test every sinew of your emotions’ Last Word Book Review
Many thanks to Anne Cater for arranging the following interview…..
Interview with Gunnar Staalesen…..
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
My name is Gunnar Staalesen. I was born in Bergen, Norway, almost 71 years ago, and I have been a writer since I was 17. My first book, a novel, was published when I was 22. I am best known as the writer of a detective series about the Bergen PI Varg Veum, but I have written many plays and a huge trilogy about Bergen, Europe and the world in the 20th century. I have just finished my 19th book in the series about Varg Veum, to be published in Norway in September – and in the UK next year! My 18th Varg Veum novel, Big Sister, is my latest title to be published in UK – by Orenda Books and the formidable Karen Sullivan.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I get my ideas from reading at least four newspapers every day, following the news on the radio or TV, listening to stories people tell me, and reading other writers’ books, watching films, going to the theatre … The ideas come from all these places.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Well, I guess some people might think they can recognise some of the characters in my books, but only, I think, because of the ways they look or behave. My characters come from my own head, and are only very loosely based on people I have met.
How do you pick your characters’ names?
I research place names in Norway, such as those of old farms, which are often the origins of many family names we use in our country. Then I find a first name that matches the family name and that is not too difficult to remember. I often change the names of my characters several times during the writing process.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I start with an idea – a sketch. Then I write down a short synopsis and perhaps a list of who might be the central characters in the book. After that I start writing, more or less from chapter one and then move chronologically through the book. After the first version, my editor reads the script and gives me his or her comments, and then I rewrite the entire book once more. After that there are perhaps further comments, but nothing that means rewriting the script a third time. I take somewhere between six and nine months to write a new book.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Well, I have many more than five, so it’s difficult to pick my favourites. In terms of crime fiction, I will choose Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Margaret Millar and the writing couple Sjöwall & Wahlöö.
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I would like to have a good chat with the married couple Ross Macdonald and Margaret Millar; I guess we would discuss how to create a good plot. I actually met Margaret Millar once, in the late 1980s when she came as a tourist to Norway, but we did not have time to get into the details of writing crime fiction.
Were you a big reader as a child?
When did you start to write?
I started to write for fun when I was around 12, but began working seriously, with the ambition of becoming a real writer, from the age of 17.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
Out of the question, I believe. What is done is done. What is written is written.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Hamlet is not a book, but I would have loved to have written it. The same for the most of the works of the writers mentioned above.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
I would go to the closest bar and share a couple of gimlets with Philip Marlowe. Coffee would come afterwards.
Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I have an herb garden at my cottage north of Bergen.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished my new book, Utenfor er hundene. The UK title will be Wolves at the Door.
Tell us about your last release?
Big Sister is an important novel in the Varg Veum series. Veum family secrets are uncovered, and Varg is seriously challenged when a half-sister he hasn’t previously met comes to his office and tells him who she is and why she is there.
Do you have a new release due?
As mentioned just above.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
I take my wife out for a good meal. There have been many of them over the years, as I have published more than 30 books in all – closer to 40, in fact.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
Follow my website, www.vargveum.no. Most of it is in Norwegian though. The best way to keep in touch with a writer is to read his books, I believe.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
No thanks. I keep my secrets for myself.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Gunnar 🙂
Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over five million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim, and a further series is being filmed now. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour) and the Petrona Award, and been shortlisted for the CWA Dagger, lives in Bergen with his wife.
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