This week the Scandinavian thriller The Sandman by Lars Kepler is released. My review for this chilly and disturbing novel is available here. The first book by Lars Kepler I read was The Hypnotist and assumed it was written by one person but I was wrong. Lars Kepler is the work of the duo, Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril, and Alexander Ahndoril, and their story and way of producing their novels are different to the ways I have read about but it works so well. Together they have produced six internationally best sellers in the Joona Linna and Saga Bauer the series. As part of The Sandman blog tour, I am pleased to introduce you to the minds behind Lars Kepler.
Introducing Lars Kepler
How did you decide to write together?
Alexandra: “For eight years we lived in 23 square metres.”
Alexander: “… And we wrote at home,”
Alexandra: “And then we lived in 46 square metres when our first two daughters were born within a year of each other,”
Alexander: “… And we wrote at home,”
Alexandra: “We bought a double bed that could be folded down from the wall in the living room,”
Alexander: “… And we wrote in the hall. We cook together, we refurbished our home together, we take care of the children together.”
Alexandra: “We were always the first to read each other’s writings, but never until the manuscript was actually ready, there was no other way.”
Alexander: “Fundamentally it’s very lonely being a writer. You can’t let anyone else into what you are doing until it is finished, otherwise you risk dispersing the magic.”
Alexandra: “But we just couldn’t accept that isolation of writing.”
Why did you become Lars Kepler?
Alexandra: “In 2008 it so happened that we both finished our writing projects at the same time. We decided instead to write something together. We worked on a children’s book but quickly found that it did not work, it was quite impossible for us to agree on anything.”
Alexander: “We just couldn’t get our styles into harmony. Our individual literary voices were too defined. We decided to write a play instead. I had written a great deal of drama, and Alexandra had been an actress for a long period of time. It ought not be too difficult, they thought, but in this they were much mistaken. The collaboration was a disaster. We argued about every possible detail.”
Alexandra: “It’s odd when one respects someone’s writing so much, and yet finds there is no way of collaborating.”
Alexander: “Not being the sort of people who give up easily, we tried again, but give up our individual authorial voices. Together we invented a third author, one who was neither Alexander nor Alexandra, but a person in his own right. Lars Kepler was born.”
Why the name “Lars Kepler” ?
Alexandra: “The name Kepler comes from the German scientist Johannes Kepler, who solved one of his time’s greatest mysteries: it was his calculations of the planets’ orbits that paved the way for Newton’s theses about gravity.
Lars is a homage to the Swedish crime fiction author Stieg Larsson as he inspired us to start writing crime fiction. He breathed new life into the Swedish crime writing tradition in a way that sparked our own creativity.”
Lars Kepler was provided with a life story of his own: he had once been a teacher at upper secondary level, who had become a lonely, retiring person after a personal tragedy he did not wish to talk about. Now he works nights at a homeless hostel and writes in the daytime – crime novels.”
Alexander: “We have always loved thrillers, we grew up in the 70’s with Sjöwall & Wahlöö’s ground-breaking police novels.”
Alexandra: “Suddenly we had broken down the wall of loneliness experienced by almost all authors.”
Alexander: “It was so fantastic writing together, almost as if we had fallen in love again.”
So the key to your creativity was Lars Kepler. What happened after your identity was revealed?
Alexander: We were worried that they would not be able to write together again. We believed that anonymity, protected by the name of Lars Kepler, was a necessary safeguard of the collaboration.”
Alexandra: “We need not have worried. The obstacles had already been torn down. As long as the writer was Lars Kepler, our creativity kept flowing.”
Alexander: “We have come around to thinking that being uncovered was actually good. Our biggest advantage is that we can meet their readers.”
Alexandra: “We can travel about, meet journalists and readers, and take part in book fairs and festivals.”
Many authors who write together split the work into dialogue and prose, or write certain characters. How do you two work together?
Alexandra: “We share everything, from the first idea to the last line. When we finish a book there is not a single sentence in it that we have written alone.”
Alexander: “And we do all our research together, we visit prisons, we read forensic or post-mortem reports, and we talk to doctors and police officers.”
Alexandra: “We act out fighting scenes together and we go to the shooting range together. Authenticity means everything to us.”
More about Joona Linna and Saga Bauer
I find the protagonists of these books powerful, complex and unforgettable.
ALEXANDRA COELHO AHNDORIL
Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril was born in 1966, and grew up on the south coast of Sweden. In the early 90s, Alexandra moved to Stockholm to pursue a career in acting though she eventually became an author.
In 2003, she published her critically acclaimed debut novel Stjärneborg (Stjerneborg) about the life of astronomer Tycho Brahe which received the Katapult Prize, Birgitta och Katarina (Birgitta and Katarina, 2006) about the life of Saint Birgitta of Sweden, and Mäster (2009), about the radical socialist August Palm.
In addition to her work as an author, Alexandra has also been a literary critic for two of Sweden’s largest newspapers, Göteborgs-Posten and Dagens Nyheter.
Alexander was born in 1967 and grew up twelve miles north of Stockholm. Alexander studied philosophy, religion, and film at university. His first novel was picked up when he was nineteen.
Before he began writing as Lars Kepler, he had already penned twenty theatre plays, one opera libretto, nine novels including Regissören (The Director, 2006) a novel about Ingmar Bergman. Regissören was nominated for several awards, including the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and has been translated into 11 languages.
Thank you, Knopf for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour and good luck to Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril, and Alexander Ahndoril with their new release.
I love the idea of creating a third person to write a novel with other people. Who would you like to work with if you had the opportunity or do you prefer to work alone?