Lars Kepler, author of The Nightmare and the Hypnotist, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |May 29, 2012

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Lars Kepler

author of The Nightmare and The Hypnotist

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Lars Kepler is a pseudonym for Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril.

Alexander: I was born and raised in Stockholm, débuted as a literary writer when I was twenty years old and have now written nine novels, more than twenty plays for the theatre and one libretto for the opera.

Alexandra: I was born in the south of Sweden, I used to be an actress and then my interest in writing took over. I worked as a critic, wrote a dissertation on a modernist poet and wrote three historical novels.

We met in 1992 and now we have three children and one pseudonym. Since Lars Kepler was born in 2009 we have had the pleasure of writing crime fiction and only crime fiction.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Alexandra: actress, actress, writer.

Alexander: An explorer of wild animals (Amazonas and Australia were my specialties), a writer and a writer … because I really love to explore new worlds.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Alexandra: I was totally sure that I would be an actress and remain acting all my life.

Alexander: That money and possessions didn’t matter (I always gave away my belongings to friends and acquaintances). Now, with three children, I know it’s a bit more complicated.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Alexandra: I was strongly affected by the painting “The Kiss of Judas” by Caravaggio. And I listened a lot to Bob Dylan in my youth. For a book, it’s got to be The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.

Alexander: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The Cello Suites by Bach (so wonderful). “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” – I was only twelve when I happened to see it and I had a lot of nightmares after that (maybe that’s why I prefer thrillers and can’t stand cruel horror and splatter).

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Alexandra: It is simply a need, it makes me feel alive and satisfied.

Alexander: It suits my temperament very well, I have done it my whole adult life and it’s still a joyride (even more nowadays), it’s like being inside and yet controlling a universe at the same time.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

With The Nightmare we wanted to write a really fast-paced thriller. For us it is important to find a core in our stories that attracts us, makes our hearts beat faster, a mystery that we need to know more about.

The Nightmare begins with two strange deaths that do not appear to have any connection. The General Director of a Swedish weapons committee is found hanged in his apartment. The room is unfurnished. There is nothing to climb on. That same night, the body of a woman is discovered on an abandoned boat in the Stockholm archipelago. The autopsy reveals that her lungs are filled with brackish water yet she has drowned on a boat that is still afloat. Our protagonist Detective Inspector Joona Linna is the only one who can connect the deaths. The Nightmare is about highly dangerous contracts that you should not sign, contracts that cannot be broken even by death. Those who want to break the contract must reap their worst nightmare.

Click here to order The Nightmare from Booktopia,
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7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

The feeling of having experienced something exciting, and hopefully they also have something to think about, concerning the human nature and the societies that we create.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Alexandra: My husband. His talent, discipline and will to learn more about everything.

Alexander: Ha ha, well … my wife, of course, because of her capability to bring words to life.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Only to be the best crime fiction writer ever.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

There’s no way to write except to keep on writing. Be true to your own fears. Think big and don’t ever give up.

Alexander and Alexandra, thank you for playing.

Click here to order The Nightmare from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Here’s what the publisher has to say about The Nightmare:

On a summer night the dead body of a woman is found on board an abandoned pleasure boat drifting around in the Stockholm archipelago. Her lungs are filled with brackish water, but there are no traces of this water on her clothes or other parts of her body.

Detective Inspector Joona Linna takes up the case. Forensics state that it was a simple drowning, that she must have been pulled aboard the boat, which explains the lack of brackish water. But Joona knows better and suspects something much more sinister.

The next day a man is found dead in his state apartment in Stockholm. The man is hanging in a noose from the lamp-hook in the ceiling. How did it happen? The room has a high ceiling with no furniture, absolutely nothing to climb on. Nevertheless Linna is convinced that it is suicide. Of course he is right. The man has committed suicide, but this fact doesn’t close the case. It is only a prelude to a dizzyingly intense and dangerous course of events.

There are certain agreements which cannot be broken off, not even if you are dead…

About the Author

Lars Kepler is the pseudonym of Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril & Alexander Ahndoril, both critically-acclaimed writers under their own names. Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril’s first novel Stjarneborg (Castle of Stars) has been translated in several languages while Alexander Ahndoril’s novel, The Director, about Ingmar Bergman, was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. They live in Sweden. The Nightmare is the second in a series featuring Detective Inspector Joona Linna. The first novel in the series, The Hypnotist, has sold over half a million copies in Sweden and has been a bestseller wherever it has been published to date.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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