The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of The Swimmer
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Stockholm but I grew up mostly in a small town called Söderköping on the east coast of Sweden. When I was 15 my father got a job working for the United Nations in the Middle East, so we packed our bags and moved to Damascus, Syria and then on to northern Israel for a year. Moving from the sleepy small town where I grew up to the Middle East was transformational in every way. Some of my memories from that time have also found their way into The Swimmer.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I only ever wanted to be a writer. It just took a long time for me to find a story that was mine to tell.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I think I had a strong belief that I would be a writer when I was eighteen. But I was not brave enough to give that a go then, so I became a lawyer instead. Now, twenty years later the strongly held belief of the eighteen-year-old has become reality.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I love music and art. But not as much as I love books. Reading and writing have always been natural parts of my life, so it doesn’t feel like I ever made a choice on art form. Also, I am terrible at drawing and cannot carry a tune, so my options were limited.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
The Swimmer is a spy story that is told in multiple voices and which takes place on several continents and in different time periods. The main plot line involves young careerists in Brussles and Sweden that accidentally come into possession of information that finds them chased through a wintery Europe. In parallel, the book tells the story of an ageing American spy who tries to escape his past but finally has no choice but to confront himself and his own choices head on. I have tried very hard to make the story fast paced and filled with action, while at the same time maintaining a reflective or contemplative tone
in certain parts. I hope that I have succeeded…
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
First of all, I hope that the readers feel entertained and that the story gets their hearts racing. I also hope that it gives an insight to the lives of young, ambitious Europeans in Brussels. If readers leave the book thinking about the larger themes of regret, guilt and redemption that is a huge bonus.
There are too many… But in the spy field, I would have to mention Le Carre for his characters and intelligence.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Getting published in Sweden seemed an almost unachievable goal to begin with… And now that The Swimmer gets published all around the world it feels entirely surreal. My goal is to keep writing and I really, really hope that readers will find my books and like them.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Creativity is great. Discipline is greater.
Joakim, thank you for playing.
by Joakim Zander
A lyrical, cinematic thriller that races between Europe’s halls of power, the CIA headquarters in Virginia, Middle Eastern war zones, and the clifftops of the Swedish archipelago.
Klara Walldeen was orphaned as a child and brought up by her grandparents on a remote Swedish archipelago. She is now a political aide in Brussels – and she has just seen something she shouldn’t: something people will kill to keep hidden.
On the other side of the world, an old spy hides from his past. Once, he was a man of action, so dedicated to the cause that he abandoned his baby daughter to keep his cover. Now the only thing he lives for is swimming in the local pool. Then, on Christmas eve, Klara is thrown into a terrifying chase through Europe. Only the Swimmer can save her. But time is running out…
This is an electrifying thriller from a brilliant new talent. Published in twenty-seven countries and already a bestseller in Sweden, The Swimmer is on the cusp of becoming a global phenomenon.