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In Conversation: Camilla Lackberg
The bestselling Scandi-crime author Camilla Lackberg is back with the eighth book in her Erica Falck and Patrick Hedstrom series, Buried Angels. We caught up with her to find out her inspiration and how she strives to ensure that even her villains are sympathetic.
Who did you grow up reading, and did they influence your writing in any way?
I was introduced to great literature when I was very young. Before I turned ten I had read most of Agatha Christie’s amazing novels and until this day she remains a great inspiration to me.
Buried Angels is the eighth book in your Erica Falck and Patrick Hedstrom series. Apart from the unique cases they are instrumental in solving, Erica and Patrick are depicted as a very ordinary couple – with universal problems of how to juggle childcare and their careers, dealing with in-laws, and going through difficult times in their relationship. Why is it so important to you to portray the domestic side of life in your crime novels?
For me exploring my characters’ relationships and daily lives is a way of giving my novels more depth, another dimension. Personally, I like it when I get to know the characters when I’m reading crime fiction. It makes me feel more engaged with the story when I understand their feelings, sorrows and surroundings.
In the book, you portray a husband and wife struggling with the death of their only child, and how grief can manifest itself in different, sometimes shocking ways. Being a mother yourself, was it difficult trying to imagine how it would feel to lose a child, and the impact that it would have on your life and your relationships?
Honestly, it was very hard to write about it. When you start telling a story like this you have to face all kinds of horrible scenarios and process the darkest of emotions. Losing one of my children would be the worst thing that could ever happen to me. They mean everything and I just cannot imagine my life without them.
Even your less-than-sympathetic characters are all eventually shown to have some humanity. They’re not stereotypes of evil or ignorance. To what extent were you drawing on people you knew growing up in Fjallbacka versus creating the characters from your imagination?
Although I might get some inspiration from people that I have met during my upbringing in Fjällbacka, my characters are totally fictional. Adding more human sides to my less-than-sympathetic characters is very important, as it makes them more realistic. Human beings are complex creatures with both great and less-flattering characteristics.
Another issue you explore in Buried Angels is that of identity – how we become who we are, and the legacy passed down to us through the generations. The idea of the past coming to bear on the present is a recurrent theme within several of your books – what interests you most about this?
I like to study the causes and effects of different scenarios. It’s fascinating to explore how things that happen in the past may play a role in the future.
Your books are translated into 37 languages – do you worry that anything will be lost in translation, and do you work with the translators at all?
Of course it’s always a bit scary when your books are being translated. There are so many cultural references in my novels and I know it’s a challenge to capture the essence of it all.How do you describe the small town of Fjällbacka for someone on the other side of the world without losing minor, but important, details? It’s not an easy task. In the end you have to find great translators whom you trust, and let go of the control (which sometimes is very hard).
Do you adhere to a strict writing schedule – do you write every day?
I go into what I call "writing periods" when I dedicate all of my working hours to writing. I have to have this dedicated time; otherwise I would never be able to focus.
You are a celebrity in Sweden, and spend a lot of time promoting your books at various book fairs and events – how do you cope with being a writer, a mother, and a celebrity?
It’s a puzzle! My life is rich, but other things suffer. Let’s just say I do not have the tidiest home…
Is there a crime novel that you wish that you had written?
Any novel about Poirot or Miss Marple!