An interview with Samuel Bjork
If, like us, you found yourself gripped by I’m Travelling Alone, Samuel Bjork’s bestselling Richard and Judy book club pick, then you’ll be thrilled to learn that The Owl Always Hunts at Night – the second book in the Holger Munch and Mia Kruger series – is dark, twisted, and just as good as the first.
We caught up with Samuel to find out more about his new book and what’s in store for his detective duo.
An interview with Samuel Bjork:
I’m Travelling Alone has been a huge bestseller in many countries – what was it like to sit down and write book two?
It was exciting to be back with the characters, but I felt a lot of pressure. Not just from the outside world, but from myself as well. I knew all eyes would be on this new book, and in the beginning that made me a little anxious. But after a while the story just started to feel very right, and from that point on it was more fun.
What are you most proud of in The Owl Always Hunts at Night?
I’m proud of a lot of things actually; the plot, the way the characters have evolved – especially some of the new ones. For example, I grew particularly fond of one character with mental health problems who is so scared that he wears his bike helmet all the time, even when he sleeps. And we have a new hacker called Skunk in this book, who I think Mia likes more than she wants to admit.
There is a real range of gory details and emotional scenes – how do you feel about capturing that span of emotion?
I don’t mind writing the gruesome parts, because in my books there is not much explicit violence. Everything happens on a psychological level, which I like. But I always get very sad when I write the emotional parts. Every time Mia visits her sister’s grave, or thinks about her death, I always need to take a break afterwards.
Where and when do you write best?
I write best at home at night, when the rest of the world is asleep. To me the normal world always gets in the way of the fictional world, so when I am by myself and no-one bothers me for a long time, I can do my best work.
In I’m Travelling Alone you have a murderer leaving a string of dead girls in their wake. It is a very delicate and serious crime that Holger Munch and Mia Kruger manage to solve. You then needed to find a worthy opponent for book two. Was it difficult to find the right killer for The Owl Always Hunts at Night?
Yes, I found it very difficult. I have much respect for my characters; I want everything to feel real so I worked for a very long time before I finally found a plot and a killer that I could really believe in.
So, how did you come up with the idea for The Owl Always Hunts at Night?
I had eye surgery, so I had to stay on the couch for a while. I watched a lot of documentaries, mostly about weird cults. I saw one about a cult in Australia called The Family, where Julian Assange had actually been a member when he was a child. I was inspired to write a story about people who had experienced childhood in a cult. On the outside The Owl Always Hunts at Night is the story about the murder of a young woman who is found in the forest on a bed of feathers surrounded by candles. On the inside it is a story about children who are not taken care of by their parents.
What do you like most about your protagonists, Holger Munch and Mia Krüger? Do they have anything in common with you?
For me they are almost like real people, and I love spending time with them. I like how nice Holger is to those around him and that he can be relied upon when you need help. With Mia, I like that she is so smart – often seeing things that no-one else can see. I also like that they make mistakes, I think this makes them very human. I think there is a bit of me in both of them, yes. Holger has a light and calm approach to life, Mia is much darker. In my personal life I have experienced both and I think that duality creates a great background for a set of believable characters.
What came first, the plot or the characters?
When I started writing the first book I had no characters, just a plot that I liked, so for me it sort of happened accidentally. My protagonists Holger Munch and Mia Krüger just came to life in a way that made me interested in knowing more about them, and so, luckily for me, did the readers.
How do your readers react towards The Owl Always Hunts at Night’s bigger themes, such as depression, religion, society and criminality?
For me it is not enough just to write a crime ‘whodunit’ story, it has to have a bigger social context for it to be interesting. The readers react very differently, but for the most part they really appreciate the layer of social issues and personal struggles the characters go through.
How long do you plan to carry on the series? Should we expect brighter days for your characters, especially the troubled Mia?
I have plans for six books, and after that I will have to see if the project still feels fresh and alive, but the stories just keep coming to me, and the characters just keep getting more interesting. At this point I don’t see an end to this series. Brighter days will definitely come, at least for Mia Krüger…