Jo Nesbo Visits New York City

Norwegian thriller writer Jo Nesbo was in New York on March 15 to promote his latest Harry Hole novel, The Devil's Star (Harper). Nesbo read a selection from the book, in which Harry is on the trail of a serial killer who's terrorizing Oslo over the course of an exceptionally hot summer, and talked some about his writing process — before starting a book, he works on a detailed synopsis of up to 100 pages so that once he starts writing, "the story exists already" and he just has to focus on retelling and "not destroying it."

He addressed the challenges of writing genre fiction and how he works with genre conventions to create a unique character and write compelling stories. Instead of attempting to subvert the stereotypes of the genre, Nesbo said he decided to "embrace the cliches of the hard-boiled detective" and even push them further: Instead of a hard drinker who easily shakes off the effects of a rough night, Harry is "a full-blown alcoholic" to the point where alcohol is "not just a weakness, it's his kryptonite, his Achilles heel."

Nesbo also talked about how his past in the army and his former careers as a journalist, stockbroker and lead singer of very popular Norwegian rock band Di Derre affected his writing. When a member of the audience asked his why he thought there are so many Scandinavian mystery, suspense and thriller writers, considering that those countries have extremely low murder rates, Nesbo credited Scandinavia's peacefulness itself with its denizens' fascination with violence. He explained that people have an innate interest in rebellion and "when there's nothing in society to rebel against, the criminal becomes the last rebel."


-Stephanie Klose, RT Senior Editor

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