To coincide with my review of The Sandman, I’m pleased to be hosting a Q&A with Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril, the husband and wife team behind Lars Kepler. This post is written with thanks to Abby Endler at AA Knopf.
How did you decide to write together?
Alexandra: “For eight years we lived in 23 square metres.”
Alexander: “… And we wrote at home,”
Alexandra: “And then we lived in 46 square metres when our first two daughters were born within a year of each other,”
Alexander: “… And we wrote at home,”
Alexandra: “We bought a double bed that could be folded down from the wall in the living room,”
Alexander: “… And we wrote in the hall. We cook together, we refurbished our home together, we take care of the children together.”
Alexandra: “We were always the first to read each other’s writings, but never until the manuscript was actually ready, there was no other way.”
Alexander: “Fundamentally it’s very lonely being a writer. You can’t let anyone else into what you are doing until it is finished, otherwise you risk dispersing the magic.”
Alexandra: “But we just couldn’t accept that isolation of writing.”
Why did you become Lars Kepler?
Alexandra: “In 2008 it so happened that we both finished our writing projects at the same time. We decided instead to write something together. We worked on a children’s book but quickly found that it did not work, it was quite impossible for us to agree on anything.”
Alexander: “We just couldn’t get our styles into harmony. Our individual literary voices were too defined. We decided to write a play instead. I had written a great deal of drama, and Alexandra had been an actress for a long period of time. It ought not be too difficult, they thought, but in this they were much mistaken. The collaboration was a disaster. We argued about every possible detail.”
Alexandra: “It’s odd when one respects someone’s writing so much, and yet finds there is no way of collaborating.”
Alexander: “Not being the sort of people who give up easily, we tried again, but give up our individual authorial voices. Together we invented a third author, one who was neither Alexander nor Alexandra, but a person in his own right. Lars Kepler was born.”
Why the name “Lars Kepler” ?
Alexandra: “The name Kepler comes from the German scientist Johannes Kepler, who solved one of his time’s greatest mysteries: it was his calculations of the planets’ orbits that paved the way for Newton’s theses about gravity.
Lars is a homage to the Swedish crime fiction author Stieg Larsson as he inspired us to start writing crime fiction. He breathed new life into the Swedish crime writing tradition in a way that sparked our own creativity.”
Lars Kepler was provided with a life story of his own: he had once been a teacher at upper secondary level, who had become a lonely, retiring person after a personal tragedy he did not wish to talk about. Now he works nights at a homeless hostel and writes in the daytime – crime novels.”
Alexander: “We have always loved thrillers, we grew up in the 70’s with Sjöwall & Wahlöö’s ground-breaking police novels.”
Alexandra: “Suddenly we had broken down the wall of loneliness experienced by almost all authors.”
Alexander: “It was so fantastic writing together, almost as if we had fallen in love again.”
So the key to your creativity was Lars Kepler. What happened after your identity was revealed?
Alexander: We were worried that they would not be able to write together again. We believed that anonymity, protected by the name of Lars Kepler, was a necessary safeguard of the collaboration.”
Alexandra: “We need not have worried. The obstacles had already been torn down. As long as the writer was Lars Kepler, our creativity kept flowing.”
Alexander: “We have come around to thinking that being uncovered was actually good. Our biggest advantage is that we can meet their readers.”
Alexandra: “We can travel about, meet journalists and readers, and take part in book fairs and festivals.”
Many authors who write together split the work into dialogue and prose, or write certain characters. How do you two work together?
Alexandra: “We share everything, from the first idea to the last line. When we finish a book there is not a single sentence in it that we have written alone.”
Alexander: “And we do all our research together, we visit prisons, we read forensic or post-mortem reports, and we talk to doctors and police officers.”
Alexandra: “We act out fighting scenes together and we go to the shooting range together. Authenticity means everything to us.”
The Sandman is available from Amazon.