An award-winning crime writer’s advice for aspiring authors.

by |July 25, 2017

Christoffer Carlsson was born in 1986 and raised in Halmstad, on the west coast of Sweden. He has a PhD in criminology, and is a university lecturer in the subject. He began writing at a very young age and has, since his debut at twenty-three, written five novels in the crime genre. In 2013, he became the youngest author ever to have won the award for Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year, which he was awarded for the first book in the celebrated Leo Junker series, The Invisible Man from Salem.

October is the Coldest Month is his first book for young adults. It won the 2016 Best Crime Novel of the Year for Young Readers from the Swedish Crime Writers Academy.

Christoffer now answers the Booktopia Book Guru’s 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 and raised on the eastern outskirts of Halmstad, in a little place called Tofta. It’s all farms, fields, forests, and the Tofta Lake. My father was a car mechanic, my mother working the graveyard shift at the local Police’s LKC (which was sort of a Swedish equivalent of 911). No school there, as you may have guessed, so I went to a small school in Snöstorp about 7km west, a higher working-class/middle-class suburbia.

October is the Coldest Month by Christoffer Carlsson

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Good question. At twelve, I had started writing, so I think that I either wanted to be like Henning Mankell, or drive racing cars really fast. I was a serious Michael Schumacher fan. At eighteen, I didn’t really want to be anything. I just wanted to be left alone, haha! At thirty, now that is, I want to be as good a father as possible. I guess that’s all I can say.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That you could fully escape your own history.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen, and The Abominable Man by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book?

I’m not really sure that I chose it. It was the only thing that I was good at, basically. A camera was too expensive, I couldn’t really dance, paint or play music, so … I realized, however, that writing was something else. Plus, you didn’t need much equipment to start. I stole notepads and pencils from school.

6. Please tell us about your latest book, October is the Coldest Month.

Oh, you know … Girl meets boy, basically. Except there’s been a murder, and Girl has to solve it to save her brother. Along the way, she gets threatened, hit in the head with her own rifle, and thinks a lot about sex.

October is the Coldest Month by Christoffer Carlsson

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

Well, that depends on who the reader is. If she’s an adult, I hope she remembers how the world feels when you’re young. The beauty, the banality, the horror, the mystery of being young. If the reader is young, on the other hand, I hope that the book has been a good travel partner for part of the ride. I wanted the book to feel like a friend, you know? Someone you could turn to whenever you needed it. That’s why we made it so small, so that you could always carry it with you. I wanted it to fit in the reader’s pocket.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Oh that’s a tough one. There’s so many fantastic people. But I admire P O Enquist, the Swedish writer. His prose is always thoughtful, clever, has a fantastic style, great psychological and dramaturgical skill, and – at well beyond the age of 80 – he is still writing.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Blackwater by Kerstin Ekman is the best Swedish crime novel ever written. The goal should always be to write something better than Blackwater.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write. Don’t read about writing, don’t write about writing, don’t think about writing – write.

Don’t write about what you know. That’s boring. Write about something you wish to understand, or learn. Doing so gives your work a sense of urgency, and the reader will feel it.

Work your characters like galley slaves.

Don’t try and outsmart the reader. She’s probably smarter than you, anyway.

If you’re writing crime, don’t keep too many secrets from the reader. Instead, make characters keep secrets from each other.

Don’t take the easy way out. Ever. Writing good fiction is often about never taking the easy way out.

Thank you for playing, Christoffer!

Thank you for having me.

October is the Coldest Monthby Christoffer Carlsson

October is the Coldest Month

by Christoffer Carlsson

Vega Gillberg is 16 years old when the police come knocking on the door looking for her older brother, Jakob. Vega hasn't heard from him in days, but she has to find him before the police do. Jakob was involved in a terrible crime. What no one knows is that Vega was there, too.

In the rural Swedish community where the Gillbergs live, life is tough, the people are even tougher, and old feuds never die. As Vega sets out to find her brother, she must survive a series of threatening encounters in a deadly landscape. As if that wasn't enough, she's dealing with the longing she feels for a boy that she has sworn to forget, and the mixed-up feelings she has for her brother's best friend...

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About the Contributor

Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.

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