I am so very excited to host my first ever author interview! Anders de la Motte is an expert in his field and has transferred this knowledge into written word to create dark, compelling novels of deceit, mystery and corruption. I cannot think of a better author to stretch my legs with interviewing – his answers are superb!
Anders de la Motte (b. 1971) made his debut in 2010 with [geim], which won the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ ‘First Book Award’. He is a former Police Officer and was until recently Director of Security at one of the world’s largest IT companies. He is currently an International Security Consultant. With his blend of fast-paced suspense, humor, and informed commentary on IT and social media, Anders de la Motte represents a distinct new voice in Scandinavian crime fiction: wild, playful and full of references to popular culture, including his literary cousin Philip K. Dick.
Let’s get things started with telling our readers who you are and what you write.
I’m a 44 year old Swedish ex-policeman and ex-director of security with a passion for film and literature. I live with my family in southern Sweden but we love to travel and right now we are spending a couple of months in NYC. I write fast paced crime-fiction with lots of twists and turns in the genre called Scandi-Crime or sometimes Nordic Noir.
How do you find time to write while holding substantial positions like Director of Security and being an International Security Consultant?
I wrote my first trilogy (Game, Buzz and Bubble) while working as a Director of Security for Europe, Middle East and Africa where I used some of my extensive travel time for writing. My first books were, to a large degree, written in lounges, on flights, and in hotel rooms. But as things progressed, I also had to sacrifice a lot of family time (and sleep), and I found the combination increasingly difficult.
In 2012, I quit my job in order to focus on the writing, and I’ve scaled down the consultancy to only a few select clients. It was a hard decision giving up an interesting job with lots of benefits for an uncertain career as a writer, but I haven’t regretted it, not even for a second.
What kind of research did you have to undertake to complete MemoRandom?
I got the original idea with the main character’s memory loss from my dad, who unfortunately was struck by something called a TGA a couple of years ago. A TGA means that the brain temporarily loses power, a bit like when you switch off a computer with the power button. When you then restart it, it takes a while for all the programs to catch up and the same goes for the brain. The memories aren’t gone, but the brain loses the search-path that leads to them. My father initially lost a whole year, then a month, then a week and still today there is one day missing in his life. A day where he had been fully conscious, met and talked with people. The methods he used to backtrack himself and open up his hidden memories, along with his frustration of having people telling him what he did and said when he himself didn’t remember, inspired me to create the basics of the plot.
MemoRandom is a story about David Sarac, a policeman who loses about a year of his life due to a stroke and is forced to investigate himself to find out what he was working with, especially the true identity of his top secret Confidential Informant code-named Janus. But the deeper Sarac digs into the Janus-operation the less he likes what he finds.
I did quite a lot of research on the brain and how memories work, but I also had a lot of help from a friend who is a professional mentalist. He does shows where he manages to influence people into making the choices he wants them to, and a lot of the techniques are similar to the ones used by police-officers in recruiting and handling Confidential Informants. It is all about influencing people to make the choices you want them to, and poor Sarac, who once was a master at this trade, is now finding himself at the other end of the stick.
And as things progress, he’s also in mortal danger.
Do your career choices improve or inspire your plots?
They certainly help, that is for sure. After working 20 years dealing with problems ranging from internal thefts to international terrorism, I’ve built up quite a bank of incidents, characters and locations.
I try to draw on my experience in order to make certain aspects of the stories feel realistic. I also have a vast network of contacts to ask if I need to.
But in all fairness, my greatest tool when writing is my imagination – that’s been developed by reading thousands of books. My mother is a librarian, and I was more or less raised in a library, so I’ve learned the trade by watching others. This is by far my greatest asset as a writer, and I’m very grateful to public libraries. Without them I wouldn’t have become a writer.
Do you have any writing superstitions or habits?
Haha, no superstitions (that I know of.) That is actually the first time I’ve gotten that question, so I’ve thought long and hard about it.
I used to write a lot while traveling, but nowadays I have a small and very cozy office with comfortable vintage furniture (my wife calls it my man-cave). Besides my laptop, desk and chair, the Nespresso machine is my favorite work-tool (it takes about 200 or so cups of espresso to write a book).
I’m normally in my office between 10 AM and 4.30PM Monday to Friday, and I try to write a minimum of 5 book pages every day. Some days that is hard, others it’s very easy.
During that time I also try to stay away from distractions like my phone or social media. Some days that is also very hard… 🙂
Character inspiration! Tell us about your protagonist. Are any of your characters based on real life people?
I try to collect personal traits, language, tics and gimmicks rather than complete personalities, so my characters are normally a mix of several different people I’ve met plus a good portion of my imagination. I do, however, get emails, mainly from old colleagues in the police, claiming to know exactly who some of the characters are based on. 🙂
David Sarac is one of those cops who lives for his job. He has no close family and no hobbies, his job means everything to him and defines who he is.
That type of person is quite common within law-enforcement and I have several friends and acquaintances who are like that. Natalie Aden is very street smart. She is very quick to pick up on other people’s weaknesses and use them to her advantage. I’ve met people like her too, and even arrested a couple. The difference is that Natalie actually has a heart and does not prey on people that are weaker than her.
In my books you will find very few people that are 100% good or 100% bad, mainly because people aren’t really like that. Good people do bad things all the time and vice versa; that’s how life works. That is one of the things I admire about George RR Martin, when one of the characters in Game of Thrones gets too good or too bad, he kills them off since they become too predictable. The really interesting characters to follow are those who have both good and bad sides. I suspect those kind of characters also are a bit easier for the readers/viewers to identify with. And they’re certainly a lot more fun to write about…
What was your favorite chapter (or part) of this novel to write and why?
I really like Natalie’s initial scene, where she executes what appears to be a very clever micro-kidnapping. (In case you don’t know, micro kidnappings are when you hold a victim ransom for only a few hours and claim ransom amounts small enough to be covered by the credit cards of the victim’s family. This way the kidnappers get their money fast, avoiding many of the risk elements connected with kidnappings.) Micro kidnappings are not uncommon in South America, but Natalie takes everything to a whole new level.
I really like Natalie; she’s one of my favorite characters, even though she is a fraudster and a thief.
What’s next? Any future projects you’d like to share with readers?
I’ve just released the second book in the MemoRandom series back in Sweden. The book is titled ”UltiMatum” and picks up about 6 months after the dramatic ending of MemoRandom.
UltiMatum was just awarded “Best Swedish Crime Fiction 2015” by the Swedish crime-writers academy. This is the most prestigious award for a crime-writer in Sweden, and I’m of course very proud of it. UltiMatum will be out in the US next fall.
Right now I’m writing something completely different, a stand-alone book located in the countryside in southern Sweden, where I’m originally from. It’s about a little boy mysteriously going missing in 1980, causing his family to fall apart and change the small community forever. 20 years later a young man shows up, and starts raising a lot of questions into the case and what really happened.
I get to write both about the time and the place where I grew up, and it’s great fun (if you can say that about a murder story…) The book will be called “End of Summer” and will be out in Sweden in the Fall of 2016, so I’m not too far away from completing the first draft.