Interviewed by Brenda Wegener
Crime writer Camilla Lackberg has been a sensation in Sweden for the past seven years, and now her second novel, The Preacher, has been translated and published in the US. The book is set in the small fishing village of Fjällbacka, where the author grew up. Detective Patrik Hedstrom and his girlfriend, Erica Falck, are again in the center of an investigation. Lackberg’s first book, The Ice Princess, was a big seller in the US, and readers have eagerly awaited this second novel. I had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Lackberg about The Preacher.
Q: Many mystery novels in the US and Europe feature detectives who are middle-aged, hard drinking men. Your character Patrick Hedstrom is very different. Were you trying to create a new type of detective?
A: I was getting very sick and tired of the character you’re describing, and I wanted to create something different. A normal guy, who happens to be a police officer. A father, a husband, a family man—the guy next door as a hero.
Q: There is a lot of sexism and misogyny among the male characters in the book. Is that meant to reflect the society of police officers or small-town Sweden today?
A: I have probably exaggerated the stereotypical misogyne man, but I do think misogyny exists to some extent, especially in smaller communities where change takes place more slowly.
Q: Some of your forensic evidence was very detailed. You must have done a lot of research.
A: Ever since I was a child, I have been interested in the darker sides of humanity, and I have read tons and tons about crimes, psychology, and forensics. So I do believe I have quite an in-depth knowledge of forensics, even though I’m not an expert. And the things I don’t know are easily available through the internet, or through asking people who are experts in this field.
Q: Erica was a vital force in the investigation in The Ice Princess and less so in The Preacher. How did you see her role developing in future books?
A: Erica’s role develops quite organically through each book. In every book, my desire is to let Erica play a major part, but sometimes the things that happen in her life make that more difficult. So it’s like a dance—sometimes Patrik takes the lead, and sometimes Erica does.
Q: The alternation of chapters telling the story with chapters concerning the murderer is a very effective way of giving the reader subtle hints about the crime and allowing us to put ourselves in the mind of the murderer. What was your inspiration for this structure?
A: To me, the mind of the murderer is the most interesting—what makes a murderer tick, and how can you, in a plausible way, explain to a reader why someone would commit a murder? To get inside the murderer’s head is the best way, I think. I don’t do it in every book I write, but when it works out, I love that solution of explaining the mind of the killer.
Q: Your less-than-sympathetic characters are all eventually shown to have some humanity. They’re not stereotypes of evil or ignorance. That sets this book apart from some of today’s crime fiction. To what extent were you drawing on people you knew growing up in Fjällbacka versus creating the characters from your imagination?
A: I firmly believe that there are very few people who are all bad. Most people have both bad and good sides of their personality, and I want to showcase that. But my characters come from all over the place. From pure imagination, from family and friends, even from people I observe on the subway.
Brenda Wegener is the Head Librarian at The Center for Fiction
Photo credit: Alma Alexander
Born in 1974, Camilla Läckberg graduated from Gothenburg University of Economics, before moving to Stockholm where she worked for a few years as an economist. However, a course in creative writing triggered a drastic change of career. Her first six novels all became Swedish No. 1 bestsellers. She lives in a suburb of Stockholm.
For more on Camilla Läckberg or to buy The Preacher as an e book, click here.
To buy a hard copy from the Center for Fiction bookstore, click here.