Kjell Ola Dahl – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Kjell Ola Dahl to the blog. Kjell is the author of six previous novels to feature Gunnarstranda and Frølich and his latest novel, Faithless, which was translated by Don Bartlett, was published by Orenda Books on 15 April 2017.

Kjell kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Faithless.

In Faithless a crime has been committed. But while the novel is a police procedural, this time I wanted to put some pressure on my characters. In the book Frank Frølich really comes to understand how small the world is – and how this affects both his work and his private life. This is what I wanted to do with my story: to reflect how people’s actions always (more or less) depend on a combination of their personal history and circumstances they cannot fully control. Frølich is a police officer, a man with power and position. He meets a woman as part of his daily work and then learns that she is connected to him through other people, through his own past and also his job. So, when she is killed, he is involved, whether he likes it or not. He has to make some choices about all this, and of course some of them are the wrong ones. Like everyone, his personal history goes with him wherever he goes; in this book he is forced to confront it. 

2. What inspired the book?

I sometimes say that I write crime fiction as an excuse to writing about lots of other things. And this book is no exception: it’s about friendship, about racism; and, importantly, it’s about the abuse of women. In general, everyday life in a modern Western country is my main inspiration – the state of things in our society. And that state of things, unfortunately, is that most of the people who are murdered are women, and the people they are murdered by are men. What’s more, the victim and the offender in most cases are related. 

Something else I like to do in my books is to explore how small coincidences can have fatal consequences. I like to set up various scenarios and see what the possible outcomes are. For example, what if someone wants to get rid of something – something small, just for a short amount of time – but they can’t get it back? 

3. How much research do you have to undertake when writing your novels? Do you plan all of the story or see where the words take you? 

I do lots of research both before and during the writing process. In fact, nowadays, my research could probably be called my planning process. I have planned novels in advance, but I must admit it is a long time since I did that properly. I didn’t plan my very first novels at all. Then, after the third or fourth novel, for a couple of books, I started to write synopses beforehand. But now I don’t; I haven’t planned my latest novels at all. I think this comes from my fascination with jazz music: I want to be free in my work – to change things, and follow a good beat when I feel the rhythm. But, as I say, I do a lot of research; I read a lot, every day, both within and outside my genre. That is because, in many ways, I find reading inspirational. If I read something good I want to write something equally impressive. Reading also gives me ideas about characters, dialogue, environmental settings, concepts, anything really. 

4. Faithless features detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich who have featured in previous novels. What benefits are there to writing recurring characters and can they still surprise you?

They can surprise me, but not very much – remember, I wrote the first book about Police Inspector Gunnarstranda years ago. But I always want to get to know my characters better. This time I wanted to put some pressure on Frølich. He has been very laid back in my previous books, playing the cool guy, and letting things go too easily, so I wanted to stress him out a bit. I also wanted to get to know a female police officer better, and that’s why I put one in a leading role in Faithless. The other thing I wanted to do was to have one of my characters become personally involved in a case. Once I’d made these decisions, I started to play with different ideas for plots. Then I started creating new characters for them and writing their biographies.  

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all? 

I live in a farm situated some 100 kilometers from Oslo. I have a flock of sheep (not very many) and do some lumberjacking. When I am not writing, I read or I do manual labour, which is a very good way of getting away from it all.

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be? 

I hope I will never have such a fate; I would be bored to death! But if this was a torture I couldn’t escape, I would prefer a big, thick, challenging book, like the Collected Fiction of Borges or the Bible. 

7. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

Q: Your protagonist, Mr Gunnarstranda, what is his first name?

A: I don’t know.

About the book:

“Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back … and this time, it’s personal…

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her … and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he begins to look deeper into the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda finds another body, and things take a more sinister turn. With a cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway casting a shadow, and an unsettling number of coincidences clouding the plot, Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again.

Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.”

About the author:

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

About the translator:

Don Bartlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk. He completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbø and Karl Ove Knausgård. He has previously translated The Consorts of Death and Cold Hearts in the Varg Veum series.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    Really, he doesn’t know the first name of Gunnarstranda? I thought it was like an Inspector Morse deliberate mystery thing… Excellent Q&A, like the additional insight the author gives us into his characters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It’s curious that he doesn’t know his name, I quite like it 🙂


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