An exclusive Authorlink interview with Kristina Ohlsson,
By Doris Booth
On a cold winter’s day, a preschool teacher is shot to death in front of parent and children at the Jewish Congregation in Stockholm. Just a few hours later, two Jewish boys go missing on their way to tennis practice, and an unexpected blizzard destroys any trace of the perpetrator.
In this Authorlink written interview, Kristina talks of the ease of writing her latest book and of her fascination with the Jewish people. She admits having sat at her desk and cried when she finished her latest book. As writers, Kristina feels “we must get better at following our heart, devoting ourselves to things that give, rather than take energy. The energy she creates is evident in THE CHOSEN.
Her protagonist, Fredrika Bergman, an investigative analyst, and police superintendent Alex Recht begin a hunt for a ruthless, cunning killer. As they struggle to pin down a lead, someone or something called the Paper Boy–a mysterious Israeli legend about a nighttime killer– keeps popping up in the police investigation. But who was the Paper Boy? And how could he have resurfaced in Stockholm? It’s up to Fredrika to track down the elusive murderer before he claims his next victim.
Kristina is already receiving praise from reviewers. Booklist said, “Expect Ohlsson to join Nesbø on most readers’ can’t-miss lists.” Jo Nesbø is a Norwegian writer who has sold more than 3 million copies of his novels in Norway, and his work has been translated into over 40 languages, selling 23 million copies.
A CONVERSATION WITH THE AUTHOR
AUTHORLINK: THE CHOSEN opens on a cold winter’s day in a small Jewish community in Stockholm. Tell us what happens on that day.
OHLSSON: A pre-school teacher is shot to death by a sniper in front of children and parents. Later the same day, two Jewish boys are kidnapped on their way to tennis practice.
AUTHORLINK: What roles do Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht play in the novel. Who are some of the other key characters?
OHLSSON: Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht are the main characters of the story. This is the fifth novel that I’ve written about them. Fredrika is a civilian within the police, an investigative analyst. Alex, on the other hand, is a senior police detective with decades of police work behind him. Together they form a quite dynamic and interesting team.
AUTHORLINK: The story revolves around a mysterious Israeli legend about a nighttime killer called the Paper Boy. Is that myth real or imagined?
OHLSSON: The legend about The Paper Boy is pure fiction, a product of my own imagination.
AUTHORLINK: What inspired you to write about this Jewish community?
|“. . . it’s natural for any writer to set the story in a context that I know well enough to make it seem real. . .”
OHLSSON: I have several Jewish friends, and I have also studied, as well as traveled extensively, in Israel. The book is not political, but I think it’s natural for any writer to set the story in a context that I know well enough to make it seem real and vivid to the reader.
AUTHORLINK: In your acknowledgments, you say you sat at your desk and cried when you finished THE CHOSEN. Why?
OHLSSON: Because it was the ultimate writing experience, and I just knew that it was one of a kind. I wrote parts of the book in Jerusalem, sitting outside under the dark night sky because it was too hot to work during the days. A magic time of my life.
AUTHORLINK: You are good at keeping us hooked at the beginning and end of each short chapter or section. Where did you learn to write in such an engaging style? Have you taken any classes in suspenseful writing?
OHLSSON: No, I haven’t taken any courses. And I really can’t say where I’ve learned to write the way I do. It’s just something I have in me. I read lots of books, and I tend to favor the ones that are fast paced and filled with cliffhangers.
AUTHORLINK: You are a political scientist who previously worked for the Swedish Security Service and as a Counter-Terrorism Officer in Europe. How much of your own real-life experiences lie in this book?
OHLSSON: Very little.Basically, all of my previous work positions (I’ve been a full-time writer since January 2012) heavily relied on classified information, so I have strived to place my stories as far away from my work as possible. A case like the one in THE CHOSENhe, for example, would never have been dealt with by neither the Swedish Security Service (where I worked for five years) or the OSCE in Vienna.
AUTHORLINK: The book is highly organized and thought out. Is this something you learned in your counter-terrorism work?
|“My work as counter-terrorism officer in Vienna was not that well organized, ha ha.”
OHLSSON: Interesting question. I think I will answer no. My work as counter-terrorism officer in Vienna was not that well organized, ha ha.
AUTHORLINK: THE CHOSEN is divided into sections, some of which you call fragments and conclusions. What purposes do these sections serve in the book’s development?
OHLSSON: The purpose is simply to maintain the right pace and energy in the text, so the reader will stay focused and interested until the last page.
AUTHORLINK: Why did you leave the security field? You are now a full-time writer living in Stockholm. How does that feel? In your acknowledgments, you say we must get better at following our hearts, at devoting ourselves to things that give, rather than take, energy.
OHLSSON: I’ve been a full-time writer for almost five years now. Considering how well my books were doing – both in Sweden and abroad – and how much time I had to spend on managing my authorship at the same time as I was writing new novels, I had to make a choice. It was a very easy one.Writing was so much more rewarding than working.
AUTHORLINK: Had you ever dreamed you would be published, and compared to the wildly popular Swedish novelist Nesbo?
|“I never dared to dream about being published and having the success I’ve had.”
OHLSSON:I never dared to dream about being published and having the success I’ve had. Nesbo is actually a Norwegian writer, but a great source of inspiration for me.
AUTHORLINK: THE CHOSEN is your fifth thriller, including the bestselling UNWANTED. What can we expect from you next?
OHLSSON: Well, in Sweden three more novels have been published. One horror novel and two crime novels in a new series about a character called Martin Benner. Also, I have got six children’s books (age 9-12) published.
AUTHORLINK: Kristina, is it easier to get published in Europe than in the USA? Do you have any advice for writers trying to break into the tough publishing world?
OHLSSON: I can’t compare the European market to the American one, I know too little about how things work in the US. My main advice is always to read as much as you can and to write as much as you can. There is no way around it – you have to practice to stand a chance to find out if you are a good writer.
|About the Author||
Kristina Ohlsson is a political scientist and has previously worked for the Swedish Security Service and as a Counter-Terrorism Officer at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCE). She also used to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Swedish National Defence, where she was a junior expert on the Middle East conflict and the foreign policy of the European Union. She now lives in Stockholm, where she works full-time as a writer.
In addition to the bestseller, UNWANTED, she also is the author of SILENCED, THE DISAPPEARED, and HOSTAGE.
THE CHOSEN was published in the USA by Emily Bestler Books/Washington Square Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.