Alex Dahl’s debut novel, The Boy at the Door, was published by Head of Zeus on 1 May 2018 in ebook and is published in hardback on 12 July 2018.
Alex kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about The Boy at the Door.
The Boy at the Door tells the story of Cecilia, an affluent mother in a peaceful seaside town in Norway, and how her world comes crashing down when her path crosses with that of Tobias, a little lost boy and Anni, a heroin-addict with a violent boyfriend. The novel is set in Sandefjord, and is a psychological suspense thriller. Its themes center around motherhood, the lies we tell ourselves, social inequality in a supposedly perfect Scandinavian utopia, as well as the many forms of manipulation and domestic abuse.
2. What inspired the book?
I was actually trying to write another novel at the time, but it just wasn’t flowing. I started thinking about how so many of the novels I’d read and enjoyed recently, were about someone missing, and played around with the idea of- what if someone just turned up, out of the blue? I wrote the first chapter that day, and the rest just began to take form as I went along.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I am definitely more of a ‘seeing where the words take you’ kind of writer. I believe in opening your mind to the creative process and allowing it to take you in whichever direction. Quite often, I am really surprised by something that happens in my stories! That being said, as a novel reaches a certain stage, around 30000 words, I do begin to plan. At the end of the first draft, I go back and do structural edits according to this plan.
4. Having been through the publishing process is there anything about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
It is incredible, and humbling, to see how much work and effort from so many people behind the scenes goes into taking a project from manuscript to finished novel. It has also been really interesting to learn more about the business side of the publishing process, particularly with regard to international sales, publicity and marketing. I have an MSc in Business Management and it is very interesting to see familiar disciplines applied to the world of writing and publishing.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
To be honest, I don’t really. This definitely isn’t a 9-5… I am usually either writing, thinking about writing, talking about writing, dreaming about writing, or plotting. I do spend quite a bit of time with my girlfriends. I am also a huge Francophile and love reading about France- everything from blogs to property websites to history. And I love traveling (to France especially!)
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
It would have to be Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It is extraordinary, and completely blew me away.
7. I like to end my Q&As 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?
I have not been asked what I would be doing if I wasn’t writing. I have never really wanted to do anything other than write, but I could see myself running a little B&B in Southern France or perhaps a writing retreat. I like the idea of working from home, being surrounded by words, ideally in France!
About the book
What would you do for the perfect life?
Would you lie? Would you cheat? Would you kill?
Cecilia Wilborg has the perfect life. A handsome husband, two beautiful daughters and a luxurious house in the picture-postcard town of Sandefjord.
But Cecilia also has a dark secret. A secret so damaging it can never be brought to light.
Then Tobias enters her life. He is a small, friendless eight-year-old boy who just wants to find a home. But he threatens to bring Cecilia’s world crashing down.
About the author
Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she wrote The Boy at the Door while living in Sandefjord.