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Putting Authors in the Picture #16: Johana Gustawsson

Liz Robinson

By Liz Robinson on 4th December 2019

Johana Gustawsson is a complete delight, her energy in person sparkles, and gosh do her words on the page pack a punch. I first met her at an Orenda book launch for another author, slightly embarrassing for me as I initially mistook her for the author we were there to celebrate! Johana's books are incredibly dark, fierce, and powerful. Her striking debut Block 46 was the start of the Roy and Castells series, and we chose it as a LoveReading Book of the Year in 2017. Translated from French, Block 46 won awards in France, and deservedly so. She followed with Keeper and Blood Song, both just as clever, thought-provoking and enthralling as her first. 

Johana excels in placing an intricate plot in different countries and different time frames. She tackles hugely provocative subjects with the most eloquent pen and if you haven’t yet explored this series, I can highly recommend it. 

I love Johana’s photos, and particularly adore the reading corner in her office, how comfy does that chair look, and to be surrounded by all those books is my idea of heaven!

The book that made you first wanted to become an author:

“Murder on the Orient Express” by the Queen of crime. I read that when I was 8 or 9 and I was blown away by it. I thought: I want to write something as clever and brilliant as this!

Favourite book cover to date:

This is a gift my parents bought me when I was writing “Keeper”, my second Roy & Castells novel. My father, who shares my love for Poirot, told me: “I brought you back the best moustache in the world”. 

Favourite reading spot: 

This lovely reading corner is located in my office. When I was pregnant with the twins, I even used to write there. I love nestling in in the armchair and fade away between the pages.

The bookshelf you return to again and again:

This bookshelf is located on the right-hand side of my desk. On the lower shelf, I keep the books linked to the novel I’m currently writing (my research) and then, on the other shelves, dictionaries and crime-related books.

A booky photo that makes you smile:

This is a very fond memory from Iceland Noir festival last year, in Reykjavik. Jacky, our very own Dr Noir, is a woman I admire greatly. She is someone who warms my heart as soon as I see her, by her smile, her passion and her generosity. 

A location that has inspired you:

The beach of Falkenberg, close to my mother-in-law’s house. When I first set a foot on that beach, back in 2005, two months after meeting my Viking-husband, I knew this would be the location of my novels. It really was love at first sight.

An object that has inspired you:

This is the pen my parents and sister offered me when I signed my first publishing contract back in May 2015. Every time I see this pen, I remember my family’s emotion and joy, so it inspires me in the sense that it gives me a kick in the butt when I’m stalling!

The photo that best sums up your author journey:

My three boys. They changed my writer’s journey: I wouldn’t write what I write and the way I write it, if I wouldn’t be their mother. They continuously shape my author path.

Your most memorable book event:

It was in March 2016, at the famous festival Quai du Polar in Lyon, France. My book had been out for just a few months and it was the first time I was meeting readers at a festival. I remember how shocked I was to see that people were queuing to see me! I cried quite a few times over this wonderful weekend. Meeting readers really is the most wonderful thing.

The photo that best sums up your love for the written word:

These are all the Agatha Christie novels I bought at a second-hand bookshop in Aubagne, France, the city where I grew up, from the age of 7 until I left home for Paris, when I was 23. This bookshop still exists and the owner hasn’t changed: how fantastic is that?!

Your most beloved and well-read book:

This is a jewel of a book. It’s most stunningly written and leaves me in awe every time I read again some passages. I read it for the first time when I was a teenager, so it has been a never-ending love story: twenty-five years already!

Your favourite reading or writing beverage:

I will sound very British now, and maybe the soon-to-be eleven years that I have spent in London shaped my answer, but: tea is my favourite reading and writing drink. An English breakfast tea, with milk and sugar. Heaven!

Keep up to date with Johana:


Facebook: @johana.gustawsson

Twitter: @JoGustawsson

Instagram: johanagustawsson

If you enjoyed this why not check out our other 'Putting Authors/Illustrators in the Picture' Features?

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