Jussi Adler-Olsen was born in Copenhagen and worked as a magazine editor and publisher before starting to write fiction. Mercy and Disgrace are the first two in currently four novels in the Department Q series. He holds the prestigious Glass Key Award, given annually for a crime novel by a Scandinavian author, and is also winner of the Golden Laurels, Denmark's highest literary accolade.
Author Photo © Bjarke Johansen
Below is a Q & A with this author.
If you were asked to describe Fasandræberne in three words, which would they be?
I really prefer to let the readers describe my books – I am grateful that some of the words they have used are: original – funny – a page turner
In general, where do you get the ideas for your books and the crimes within?
The person who keeps his eyes open gets ideas everywhere. In the newspapers, in other media, amongst people around you, there are ideas everywhere. Maybe it’s only weird reaction patterns or badly made decisions. Everything can be the building block for a good story. But WHEN the story starts to evolve, it is important that the writer asks himself: Why am I writing this book? Ask yourself why this book necessarily has to be written. The themes around the plot arise naturally if you know the answer to that question.
Do you create the characters or the plot first?
The key characters – Carl – Assad and Rose – have each their own story which will unfold during the series. I have a synopsis of each their story which will gradually unfold during the series. So those characters are created at this point. When it comes to each new book it has a plot for itself and the characters specific to each individual book are developed for each book. So in those cases the plot comes first.
What kind of background work do you do?
Research is a very important element when I have thought through the theme of the novel I am working on. The books that mostly take place in Denmark and are about Danish issues have usually taken me 2-4 months to do research on. Books that take place in another country will require more time for research.
Your books are very popular in many countries, over language and cultural bounds. What do you think is the reason for that?
The mixture of political and social topics combined with humour helps a lot. But actually I believe the main reason is my respect for the readers by aiming at tricking their fantasy in not being detailed. That is what I look for when I read books myself and I try to pass that dogma on to my readers.
What kind of writer are you? Very disciplined or relaxed ? Do You have writing rituals?
In general I am quite relaxed but I always start with a synopsis. That has to be just right before I start writing for real. Other than that I do not really have a routine as such. I do not block a certain time each day for writing, it could be any day and any time and it could be just 2 hours or 10 hours. But I do have a few rituals, I have to sit by a clean desk and I always start writing wearing my father’s hat. And then music is very important to me. I have to listen to great music to write well. When my surroundings know I am wearing my headphones, they know I write and leave me alone. Also I make sure always to stop in mid-sentence and at least half a page before I have run out of words. That makes it much easier to start next day.
What is the best part of your work? /What do you like the most in your work?
I always look forward to the parts in my writing when see problems or even when I get stuck. Something in the text may not work or an issue has come up which needs to be though through again, because it doesn’t work. I thrive on that kind of challenge.
What kind of books do you like to read?
First of all I have to say that as long as I have written crime/thrillers I haven’t read other people’s work in this genre. I want to be confident that I have not been inspired by something they have thought of. Now to what I do read - I love absurd literature like Erlend Loe and Peter Bichel. The only books that I have read more than once are those of the great authors such as Steinbeck, Dickens and master such as Hugo and Dumas. But basically I am always curious to learn more - I love to be challenged.
Your favourite book/author?
Anything by John Steinbeck.
If you could pick one fictional character from literature or a character from history and spend a day as him/her, who would you be?
Adam or Eve
August 2014 eBook of the Month. Absolutely fascinating and riveting, this powerful read draws you in from the beginning and doesn't let go. Although partially set during the Second Wold War, this is not in itself a novel about war but rather a psychological suspenseful thriller. 'Alphabet House', a secure mental institute in the heart of Nazi Germany, holds more than the obvious concerns for two escaping RAF pilots. This novel contains two parts set in different time periods, allowing the true depths of horror experienced, to shriek and howl from the pages. It’s difficult to comprehend and impossible to fully understand the mental and physical torture that takes place. Adler-Olsen handles the anguish with great sensitivity, yet tells the tale with a stark, brutal reality. At times uncomfortable and difficult to read, none the less it’s a totally compelling tale of survival, guilt and love. ~ Liz Robinson
Following the international No 1 bestsellers Mercy and Disgrace, Guilt is the fourth heart-stopping Department Q novel from Jussi Adler-Olsen, and a gripping treat for all fans of the Scandinavian crime thriller. 1987. Nete Rosen thought she'd put her traumatic youth behind her. Her caring foster parents and loving husband helped her start again. However, when a man from her past reappears one night, Nete's new life could be shattered. But she won't be drawn back into that nightmare - she won't be a victim again...2010. Detective Carl Morck from Copenhagen's cold case division is looking into the disappearance of Rita Nielsen, an escort agency owner. The investigation reveals that Rita is only one piece of the puzzle. Because this is not a one-off incident - but part of a disturbing pattern which has been hidden from prying eyes for over twenty years... Gripping storytelling . (Guardian). Engrossing . (Sunday Express). As impressive as it is unnerving . (Independent). Jussi Adler-Olsen was born in Copenhagen and worked as a magazine editor and publisher before starting to write fiction. Mercy and Disgrace are the first two in currently four novels in the Department Q series. He holds the prestigious Glass Key Award, given annually for a crime novel by a Scandinavian author, and is also winner of the Golden Laurels, Denmark's highest literary accolade.