Life-changing crime with Stefan Ahnhem


Life-changing crime with Stefan Ahnhem

Stefan Ahnhem will be visiting the UK next week so we asked him to talk to us about how his life has changed since he began writing crime.

I started writing the first chapter of my first book in 2009, not sure that I would be able to finish it, let alone allow someone to read it. Would the characters ring true? Would I be able to write something that felt fresh and daring with a surprise ending that was at the same time completely logical? The mere thought of sending it to publishing houses made my stomach drop. Four years and 600 pages later I finally reached the end.

My wife was the first one to read Victim Without a Face and I couldn't have dreamt of a better reaction. We were visiting my mother at time time, and sleeping in the guest room in separate beds. It was late and while I was already asleep, my wife - in the other bed - was reading my book on her iPad. At one point the suspense became a bit too much for her and she crept into my bed for a hug. Then she realised that I was the one who had written all the atrocities... and that was when she got really scared! Her reaction gave me the confidence to send the book out to professionals, and shortly afterwards, I had an agent who started selling it around the world.

Since then my life has been turned upside down. I sold a lot of copies in Sweden and Europe, and won a prize from Specsavers CrimeTime. I have been incredibly busy, travelling to meet readers and booksellers while at the same time writing two new books starring my detective Fabian Risk. I've been invited to meet the Finnish president and I've been on stage alongside some of my favourite Swedish authors. To be honest I'm still walking on clouds.

And then the time came to bring my book to the UK, which is a completely different ball game. As the sad events of the referendum have shown, the UK is a bit different from the rest of the world. You drive on the wrong side of the road and use the wrong measurements. You have a rug in the bathroom, and use a door handle to flush the toilet. You eat pudding. So much pudding! But above all you are the masters of crime fiction. No other country even comes close.

Ever since I was young I've been reading and watching British crime. Everything from Sherlock Holmes to Prime Suspect has kept me spellbound for years. Being published in the UK is like mastering Guitar Hero on Medium and then skipping straight to Expert. It's not just overwhelming; it's almost impossible. There aer so many fantastic writers out there. How can my books survive? But if I were to put my faith in statistics I wouldn't have become an author in the first place.

So instead I simply have faith. I imagine how I will be invited to crime festivals to meet my readers, that I will shake hands with Paula Hawkins, trying to act all normal although I'm having the time of my life. I think about how I will learn to drive on the wrong side of the road, and eat lots and lots of pudding. And then I come back down to earth again. I really don't think I'll ever learn to like pudding.

Stefan Ahnhem will be appearing at the #HoZFest Crime Panel with J.S. Monroe and C.J. Box at Waterstones Piccadilly on Wednesday 17th May

The Ninth Grave is available in hardback and ebook