Q & A with Viveca Sten in August 2011
Foto: Anna-Lena Ahström
Can you tell the story of how you found a publisher for your fiction books and describe your own role in that?
Once I had completed my manuscript I spent months trying to work up the courage to submit it to a publisher. Finally I decided to send my manuscript to three different publishing houses – I actually picked them from books that stood in my book shelf!
When Forum, my Swedish publisher called me in december 2006 to say that they wanted to publish my book I could hardly believe it. I called my husband to share the good news and when he said he would buy a bottle of champagne, to celebrate, I heard myself saying: “But what if they are only kidding?”
Why did you choose to write a series of crime novels?
I have always enjoyed crime novels, maybe it is because I am a lawyer myself. When I decided to write a book of fiction after several non-fiction legal books, it seemd to be the natural thing to do.
Is there a special reason why all your books are set in the Stockholm archipelago?
My family have spent all their summers on the island of Sandhamn - which is where my crime novels take place. We have had a house their for almost a hundred years. When I began writing, I wanted to put my favourite place on earth as the center of my stories.
What do you think of the enormous succes of your books and being a rising star among top female crimewriters? 250.000 copies sold in Sweden alone of your debut I de lugnaste vatten?, more than 1 000 000 copies in circulation so far.
I think that it is wonderful. I had no idea that they would become so successful, but I am absolutely thrilled about it. When the miniseries based on my debut book was shown on Swedish television last year as a Christmas special, it topped the Swedish TV-charts, something which was quite overwhelming.
What do you think of journalists placing you in the same laugue as other female crimewriter Camilla Läckberg?
Camilla is a wonderful writer and one of the most succesfull crime novelists in Europe. I am honored to be compared to her.
Personally, who are your favorite crime writers?
I am asked this question all the time, but I find it impossible to answer. I have many, many favourite books, also authors, films, you name it. How can I compare two authors to each other? Each and every one is unique! But one novel that I like very much is Patient 67, by Dennis Lehane.
Could you tell your readers more about I de lugnaste vatten ?
In this book I describe the essence of the Stockholm Archipelago and the island of Sandhamn where I have spent all my summers since I was a baby.
The body of a dead man is washed ashore on the island and this reveals a chain of events that leads to death and despair in the midst of the idyllic summer paradise.
The main characters are Thomas Andreassson, a detective inspector who has recently divorced following the death of his infant daughter, his first-born. His childhood friend Nora Linde has a summer house on Sandhamn and she assists Thomas in his investigation while struggling with her own marital problems with her doctor husband Henrik, who has little patience with his wife and her own careeer ambitions.
Is it necessary to read your books in order of appearance?
It isn´t necessary, but it does help, as the main characters develop throughout the series.
Dark secrets and heated emotions float to the surface in your books. Suspense, relational problems and archipelago setting, all in a great mixture. Does this have anything to do with your personal life?
In all honesty, most of the intrigue is made up. But since my husband and I have juggled two high-profiled careers and three children for quite a long time, I am no stranger to the mechanics of different priorities and emotions running high.
As all authors, I also have very large ears and I listen intently whenever people share their secrets. I would never abuse anyone´s trust, of course, but I certainly store the information.
How do you combine writing and a career as a laywer while at the same time doing all the things required for a mother of three?
I am, in fact, an excellent administrator! I really am extraordinarily good at organizing things and this is probably the secret behind it all. Although, to be honest, I also have my moments when everything completely falls apart and I wonder if I am totally crazy to try to do all the things that I have on my schedule. My husband works out of Paris for most of the week and until recently I was the head of a department with 35 lawyers in different countries, so I certainly know how to fill my time (laughter).
Also, I truly enjoy writing. I believe that when you really enjoy something, then you find the time to do it. I have friends who will get up at six in the morning to do yoga, or spend time at the stables with their horses.I would never do that, but I can get up att six to write my books!
Who is your favorite character in your books so far, and why?
Hmm, tough question. I have deliberately turned Nora into a completely different person than myself. I am very fond of Thomas, of course, but I think that the one that has really captured my heart is a person who doesn´t turn up until late in the series – Thomas ex-wife Pernilla.
Are you already writing another novel and can you tell us what it will be about?
I have spent this summer at Sandhamn writing the fifth book in the series. It is called “In the heat of the moment”, and it takes place at the height of the Swedish summer – during the festival of Midsummer. It is the longest night of the year when a teenager is found dead on the beach in the wee hours ...