I met Mons Kallentoft yesterday at the Edinburgh International Book festival (EIBF) before his event with Alex Gray. I have to thank him for his time. He was so gracious and such an interesting person (and what a dresser!). Okay, in case you don’t know, Mons Kallentoft is Swedish (who speaks English brilliantly). His debut novel Pesetas was awarded the prestigious Katapultpriset, the Swedish Writers Association’s Award for Best Debut Novel 2000. His second novel Marbella Club further increased his reputation as one of Sweden’s most interesting new writers. Midvinterblod (Midwinter Sacrifice) is his fourth novel and first venture into crime fiction. It was published to great acclaim and quickly became one of the bestselling books in Sweden. His second book about female police inspector Malin Fors, Sommardöden (Summertime Death) was published in May 2008 and was followed by Höstoffer (Autumn Sonata) in May 2009, and Vårlik (Spring Remains) in May 2010. The fifth book about Malin Fors was published in June 2011 and is called Den femte årstiden (The fifth season). Only the first two crime novels have been translated into English, so far.
To the interview …
Q: The American writer Cynthia Ozick said, “If we had to say what writing is, we would describe it essentially as an act of courage.” Do you think it takes courage to write and if so, how much courage did it take you to start writing?
No, it depends on what you write, I think. If you write anything worthwhile it takes some courage because you have to give something of yourself in different ways , em, beyond the level of comfort I would say.
No. I was fourteen years old when I discovered literature and I thought I could do this. I thought it looked easy but then it took me fifteen years to get anything published. So, I was probably too young and too dumb to think in terms of courage or that this could be dangerous to do or what it requires of me as a human being. So, when I started I just wrote. No second thoughts.
Q: If you were offered the chance to travel in a time machine, what time period would you chose to travel to?
Oh? Em? I’m a bit romantic for Pairs in the twenties, with my great literary heros like (Scott) Fitzgerald and all of those writers. It could have been a good time. Let me think. I have no longing for the Roman Empire or Medieval times or anything, no no no. I think the sixties could have been a good time, like the summer of love in San Fransisco, or something, to feel that completely life. Society is not like at all today, no, no not all. It’s a good question, I think.
Oh yeh. I loved school up until the 9th grade, which is when I was around 16 years. Until then I was quite good at school. I was quite studious but I also loved other things like sports. Up until ninth grade school was really easy for me. Then I changed schools and it got much harder – and I became interested in other things, the things teenagers get interested in. The one thing I took with me from school, though, was the effort you put into something, usually relates to what you get out in the end. It was quite an important thing to learn at a young age. I think.
The writer, Walter Mosley, you know him? A great man. He has a character called Easy Roawlins. I like Easy but it’s not him. The character I really, really love is another character called Mouse. Mouse is a small, very dangerous black man who kills and fucks women with the same passion almost every day, more or less. He’s such a great character. He embodies everything the white American is afraid of in the black man and the power he possesses. I love that character.
Q: How do you keep sane as a writer?
I try to lead a quite normal life with my children.. We travel a lot. It’s very much a family life. In the afternoon, after writing stressful, difficult things, I usually go out, you know to a restaurant, drink some wine, have a meal and try and wind down. Relax.
No. I never switch off but I am usually in different thought modes.
Q: Any regrets?
No. Never. Nothing. I have no idea how I would have done things differently. In my experience it takes a long time to write and find your voice and to do something worthwhile. On the way you never know what will happen. I am lucky that success has found me fairly young and my children are small and as a writer I can enjoy a lot of time with them. So, no regrets. No. I will probably have them later – ha ha ha!
Q: What are you most proud?
That I am now leading the life I dreamed of when I was eighteen or twenty. Free in the world, spending time with the people I love and doing the only thing I wanted to do and the only thing I think I am any good at. I am proud that I can love my life the way I want and don’t feel tied to anything. I feel free in the world. I’m lucky to have realised my dreams.
Anywhere behind the scenes. To be able to hear what people say when you are not supposed to be around. In an hotel in an area where there are no customers, for example. To try to imagine what people say is one thing, to be able to really hear them would be great.
As always a thank you to Clicket and EIBF for the ticket to Mons event, which Mons shared with Alex Gray. His protagonist, Superintendent Malin Fors, is a young woman. She is in a troubled relationship and drinks too much and doesn’t spend enough time with her family. He gave an excellent, almost spooky reading from Summer Death. His novels are dark and graphic and in them his victims have a very definite clear “voice”. He said he wants to make them darker and darker, to push himself (and the boundaries) to his limits, to explore evil. He says he will write as much violence in a story as the story requires. It was a very interesting talk.
I’m really looking forward to reading Summer Death.