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An Interview with Erik Axl Sund

Erik Axl Sund is the pen name of Swedish author duo Jerker Eriksson and Håkan Axlander Sundquist.

The Crow Girl, their first novel to be translated into English, is a dark and addictive novel which quickly became a critically acclaimed Scandi-crime sensation internationally – which is why we’re so thrilled that it’s Waterstones thriller of the month this October!

Never before have we come across such a fascinating writing duo! In this interview, Jerker and Håkan tell us about their writing process, their inspiration and their favourite books. Read on to find out more…

An Interview with Erik Axl Sund

Why did you decide to write books?

Together we have made music – we’ve been on tour in many Eastern European countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, Poland – as well as art and movies. Writing books seemed like a natural step for us to take, a new way to express ourselves. A few years ago, our lives changed dramatically – and at the same time and almost in the same way. We felt that this was the perfect time to turn our ideas into a reality.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Especially from reality. Our own lives and experiences, but even the daily news flow. Literature is, of course, another source of inspiration. Writing is a way to contain and to neutralize our inner demons. Basically, our writing is based on our reciprocal inspiration.

Who are your favourite authors?

We both like Heinrich Böll, John Steinbeck, Pär Lagerkvist and Kurt Vonnegut. Jan Guillou and Leif G W Persson are a big source of inspiration for Håkan, while Jerker periodically returns to Barbro Lindgren to be reminded of how it was to be a child.

What are your favourite books?

Håkan: Slaughterhouse 5, by Kurt Vonnegut and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway. Jerker: The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov and Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

What are the challenges of writing together?

Staying friends. We fight sometimes, even physically (this happens more and more seldom). Another challenge is to synchronize our two brains and to agree on a single idea. We have learned to trust each other’s instincts, which was very difficult at the beginning. Finding a common language has also been a big challenge, initially. We are autodidacts, we have never gone to a writing school, and had to experiment our way.

How do you write together?

We start from a plot, then we write separately and send the chapters to each other. Jerker writes in blue font, while Håkan in red. We rework what we have written – Jerker normally fills in Håkan’s texts, while Håkan removes and rearranges Jerker’s. Håkan writes too little about too much, while Jerker too much about too little. Together, we approve the final text and make it black. At this point, the text has been changed and rearranged so much that we don’t know who has written what anymore. The writer is then Erik Axl Sund.

Where do you write?

Before we used to write at home, nowadays in our own writing studio, which is also an art gallery. When we need to start or finish a novel, we usually rent an apartment abroad and close ourselves off from the world for a couple of weeks. As an example, Crow Girl, our first novel, was finished in Southern France. We have also written in Kiev, Barcelona, Lisbon and Malta.

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