(The following is a very rough and fast translation from Norwegian. This article is a revised edition of the text that can be found on my homepages (http://www.jonewo.net). It has been written especially for students that wants to write about me and my books. The author apologizes sincerely for all lingual mistakes.)
I was born in Oslo in Norway in 1957. After primary school, college and a shsrt university stunt, I studied to be a librarian. I finished this education in 1981 and worked as Chief Librarian until January 1987. I have worked as a consultant, editor, writer, freelancer and publisher since. It demands quite a lot of you when you don’t have a steady job to go to. You need discipline, stubbornness and talent to always be creative and moneymaking. But I could never return to a paid job now. My freedom means too much.
I have been vocalist in a band that never played a concert. Our only achievement was the release of a cassette with two songs. We called ourselves «Nakkeskudd» which in English would be something like «shot in the back». From this you can probably gather that it was a punk rock band. Although I also enjoy rock, blues, soul, jungle, trip-hop and funk in all forms.
Apart from this I like Arnold Schwarzenegger, cool jazz, cheese with caviar, smoked salmon, drum’n’bass, sunglasses, designer-clothes, Oslo in the summer, the atmosphere in old town buildings, books with hip designs, comics, huge encyclopaedias, a fat cigar, big cities, kebab, Oslo in the morning, pomes fritters with a lot of ketchup (which probably sounds horrible to a German!), my mad writing friends, Oslo in the night, my leatherjacket, my life and my truly beloved that is Cathrine.
HOW I STARTED TO WRITE
I was 19 years old in 1976 and had written poems for six months. (Probably not very good poems, though.) That summer I heard a Norwegian poet named Jan Erik Vold reading. And that was so truly truly great! I knew that this was what I wanted to write myself. Accordingly, the first years after this I wrote poems, of which very few have been published. (Thank god!)
In 1983 I started to write short stories. And my first book was published i 1986 – a collection of short stories in the tradition of Hemingway, Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham. In other words, it took about ten years to sharpen my writing ability – to get rid of a lot of young writer sins and to focus more on language and story. My first novel – the third book – was published in 1991.
BOOKS FOR JUVENILES – THE BEGINNING
It all started with a request from an editor in Damm Publishing Company – Kristin Ørjasæter – that tried to persuade me to write an easy reader for juveniles. At the time of my debut it had never occurred to me that I was going to write anything else but adult books. But at the beginning of the nineties I was struggling with an ever increasing problem. I had writers block. I didn’t have any sense of direction anymore. All my words and sentences felt stupid, meaningless, awkward and awfully pompous. Therefore – this opportunity to write on demand – felt like a sort of way out. I thought that I might as well try. My first book for juveniles was published i 1993. And then I wrote one more the next year.
Both of these books was published under another name – Holger Selmas. The name is a pun. Supposedly far away in my family tree I am related to a Swedish author called Selma Lagerløf. And she wrote a book about a character called Nils Holgersson. From this I constructed the name.
All of a sudden I felt that the writing of these two books had opened a new room for me as a writer. I had gotten rid of my writers block. I was ready to rethink my whole literary project. From being a rather exclusive postmodernist in 1986, who was not very concerned about my readers (who after four rather experimental books wasn’t that many), I had gotten myself a total new view and meaning with my writing. I understood that a writer is a person that loves to tell other people a story. And he wants other people to listen to him, read him. From now I found out that my readers had become very important to me. And if my books werent read, it was my fault. Because that meant that I hadn’t written it well enough. This might sound rather obvious to others, but for me it meant a whole new direction.
BOOKS FOR JUVENILES – THE SERIES ABOUT KRISS
With my third easy reader for juveniles I introduced a character called Kriss. He was 15 years, quite a talker and charmer and lived with his brother and his divorced father in Oslo. His mother lived in an other part of town with her new boyfriend. The book was about motorcycles and the fact that sometimes in life you have to do the things that you are most afraid of.
This was the first time I ever used humour in a book. And I really enjoyed that. At the same time Kriss was a character that lived a life of his own in my head. He simply demanded me to write at least one more book about him. Which I did the same year. My first novel for juveniles, with Kriss as the main character was called «Jeg var 16 da jeg skjønte hva en mann må gjøre». Which in english would be something like: «I was 16 when I understood what a man has to do». In fact Kriss became the main character in three consecutive novels.
There are three things that was important for me in writing these books: First of all – these are books I myself would have liked to read when I was young. When I was a juvenile, there weren’t that many realistic books with humor. If I wanted that kind of literature, I had to read adult books. With Kriss I hopefully give my readers a person that they can laugh with (and at), and something that has relevance to their lives.
Second: Through all these pages Kriss experiences all the facets of love. He falls in love with Mette. And she becomes his girlfriend. He experiences jealousy, the fact that other girls also want to be his girlfriend, the fact that other boys flirts with Mette, and so on. In the third novel he looses her love and does a couple of stupid things that he has to live with.
In my books for adults I have all the time written about love. But I understood that this is something that matters to younger people as well, of course. And they need books that deal with these matters both with humour and with seriousness.
Third: The three novel can be read as a chronological story. A story about the transformation of a juvenile towards something more grownup. He is not the same person when the third novel ends. He has learned something. Love has done something to him. Meeting other people in a more intimate way, has made mental changes.
BOOKS FOR JUVENILES – THE SERIES ABOUT ADAM?
Autumn of ’99 I published the first book in a trilogy about Adam Halvorsen who is 16 when the series start and 17 in the third book. All of these books were selected as book-of-the-month in the largest book club for juveniles in Norway.
The books were translated into german, danish, swedish and dutch and have won prizes both in Norway and in The Netherlands.
Altogether its the biggest and most complex project I have worked on. And I think, the best in my whole carrier. Even when I compare it to my adult books. In many ways I consider it to be one big novel that just happened to be broken into three parts because the theme in all these three books is about who we are – and where we are going.
You can read more about this series in item 3 in this english section.
BOOKS FOR JUVENILES – SARA ANTONIA SUSANNE KRUSE
I have written severel novels about boys living in big cities. Perhaps too many. I felt before writing this novel that I had to do something completely different. And how far away from boys in cities could I go? Well, the answer is: A novel about Sara, 15 years old, living on an island.
Sara lives with her father, who runs a hotel. And her little sister, Stine. Her mother left them seven years ago. And Sara decides to find out who her mother is. It becomes a sort of investigation.
It was a difficult book to write. Not because the main character was a female. But because I struggled to find the right way to tell her story. I was inspired by four main-sources in writing it.
First of all the english writer A.S.Byatt. I read a collection of essays that she wrote about historical novels and biographies. And I saw that Saras quest in a way was to find her mothers biography. And in her search she discovers that she really is trying to find out things about herself.
Secondly I was inspired by an interview with the portugese writer Jose Saramago who said that the writers task is not to find the answers. The writers task is to ask the questions. This is what Sara also finds out – that every answer just leads to new questions. And in the end she don’t even get all her questions answered.
(By the way – look at the names Antonia Susan Byatt og Jose Saramago – you will then understand where Sara got her name. Her full name is Sara Antonia Susanne Kruse.)
Thirdly: Her familyname is Kruse. This is because I ask myself: Who is the most famous person who has lived on an island? It’s Robinson Crusoe, of course. (Kruse and Crusoe.) And just like Crusoe Sara has to build her little world with her own hands.
The fourth source of inspiration was magazines. When you read a lot of magazines you will see that they, in a way, are one big (and confusing) bildungsroman. They tell you how to live your life. How to behave. How to do things right. How to get a good life. And they also often have some kind of novel that are broken into smaller parts – with a chapter in each number of the magazine. Sara loves magazines. And that was the reason why I had to tell Saras story like a magazine.
And I think that it worked.
BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
I have also written several books for children. Easy readers all of them. Five dealing with the little monsterboy Otto. And three about the little rat-boy Guggen. In these books I play freely with humour and all wild ideas are welcome. The books have been illustrated by the extremely gifted artist Reidar Kjelsen. A man that loves and shares my absurd sense of humour.
In writing these books I mainly thought about giving the younger boys something that even they could love. Quite a lot of them finds computers and games more fun in this age. But with Otto and Guggen I still manage to get their attention. I have to admit that Roald Dahl was in my thoughts when I wrote the first book. But now they move around in a world of their own.
I have always been an avid reader of crime fiction. I have probably read more than thousand books in the last 25 years. In the years 1991-1994 I wrote eight short stories together with my colleague Robert Wood. All of them published in various magazines.
My novel published in 1992 was kind of a parody/pastiche on a crime-story. It was titled «Dit gatene går når det blir natt». («Where the streets go at night»). It was partly inspired by science fiction and especially by William Gibson. I think it was the first Norwegian cyberpunk-novel. The story is about the computerhacker Solander Krogh that gets access to The Big Computer and discovers that the biggest criminal in the city, Bronsky, once killed Solanders father. Solander decides to get revenge. He walks through the streets towards the centre of the city to kill Bronsky, or get killed himself.
That same year I was asked by the Norwegian book club that only deals with crime and suspense-books if I could be their consultant. That means reading manuscripts and give an advice if it should be published by the club. It demands an eye for excitement and suspense, and for what might attract readers.
But who really made me write a more straight crime-novel, was the editor on Aventura, Alexander Elguren. He asked me to write a crime-novel. I told him «OK, but then I don’t want to write about private investigators. I find that sub genre quite silly. Instead I would like to write a criminal novel. About the criminal underworld i Oslo. Seen from the criminals eye.»
He accepted and we used some weeks to discuss plot and story in the novel that was to be titled «Torpedo». Then quite some time was spent doing research.
I wanted to call it a criminal novel for a reason. A crime-novel is about a crime that has happened and the hero struggles to find out who-has-done-it. But «Torpedo» is about a money enforcer (In Norway we call them «Torpedoes») that is caught between to rivalling gangs of organized criminals – Russians and people from the former Yugoslavia. There is no mystery to be solved. It’s a book about manhunt, power and quite a lot of money.
I wanted to write a novel that was realistic and true. It was to deal with actual Norwegian reality in the very near future. It tries to describe an ever increasing problem – mafia from the former eastern Europe that moves to western democracies. At the same time it’s about the life of a Norwegian money enforcer, Alex Hoel.
It is impossible to write a story like this without talking to people who knows the various milieus. I spent some time interviewing Norwegian money enforcers, gamblers, people who know the prostitution business, murderers and petty criminals that were willing to tell me how they acted, felt, thought. I told them the story of the novel and they could give me advice as to how they would have reacted in similar situations. They were also willing to tell me how the Norwegian underworld looked like. I must strongly stress that this was no attempt from my side to make heroes out of criminals. But merely to make my story true-to-life.
I also wanted to write a text that was so full of details that it would add to the story’s realism. Therefore I spent some time to also study clothes, perfume-brands, facts about eastern mafia, car-models, mobiles and so on. In addition to books, articles and interviews I also used internet extensively.
Most critics liked the novel. And I think this has to do with the fact that I didn’t exaggerate. This is reality in Oslo today. None of the persons or stories are based upon things that actually has happened. Its a work of fiction though. But it could have happened. Most critics agreed on this and felt that I described a reality and a growing problem for the police and the courts.
Book number two «Hevn» («Revenge») was published in 1997. My editor had at that time started his own publishing company and I followed him there. The book starts with a mysterious man that escapes from a Swedish courtroom in Stockholm. He disappears, but after a month resurfaces in Oslo where he starts to execute members of Norwegian MC-clubs. Alex Hoel, has at this time started a bar in the centre of Oslo. He gets caught up in the action. Whether he likes it or not.
The third book, «Gissel» («Hostage») deals with a group of neo-nazis that calls themselves «Freemen» (after American model). They arm themselves and means business. Their first official action is to get themselves a hostage just to get media coverage. But the hostage is Alex Hoels friend, Jamil Rahman. This means that Alex Hoel once more must engage himself in action.
I have been fascinated by William Shakespeare. Not so much his written work, as of the person himself. That was the reason why I wrote a novel about him. The norwegian title would in english be something like: «The Shakespeare brothers. Or: Will the real William please stand up!»
I was fascinated by the fact that we know almost nothing about the worlds most famous author. The few facts we have can be summed up on one page. The rest I just guessing, myths, gossip and wild theories. In fact, we can not even prove that the man from Stratford called William Shakespeare wrote the plays and the poems. We are almost sure that he did. But there are no hard evidence left after 400 years.
This made it an interesting subject for a novel. Because when so little is known, the writer will have a lot of freedom to tell the story any way he wants to. And in this novel I have four different persons who have quite different impressions and relationships with William.
The novel was a play with myths and stories. And it took me quite a lot of research to find all the material I needed to write it. Having collected one and a half metre of books and pamphlets I recently started to write a biography of Shakespeare. It is written for juveniles and will be published I 2003.
Together with my colleague, Robert Wood, I wrote articles and books about personal computers, cd-roms and the internet for various magazines and newspapers from 1991 to 1997. We tried to describe how new technology affects the common man. This is because we ourselves were just ordinary computer-users and knew the problems. We knew perfectly well that words and explanations almost always were too technical for the common consumer. At the same time we understood that it is crucial to master computers and not be afraid of new technology. People who masters a pc will find that it is a very useful appliance in all kinds of fields. At the same time internet will be the most important way of communication with people and to gather information. When my book about efficient information-searching on the net, was published in 1996, it was to help people to use internet in a better way.
In 1994 Wood and I wrote a book for juveniles about using modems and BBS’es. In 1995 we produced the first literary, Norwegian cd-rom. We scanned in all the books of the Norwegian author, Dag Solstad, and presented them digitally. Just to show that you don’t necessary need paper to present literature.
For a couple of years Wood and I also had our own publishing company (called «Imago Solis») that specialized in computer/internet-books. Imago Solis was terminated in 1999.
The same year my book for juveniles about how they can meet other people on the internet was published. It was titled «Forelska på nettet! Eller bare litt pratesjuk?» («In love on the net! Or do you just want to talk with someone?»).