As part of my stop on the blog tour for CURSED by Thomas Enger, I'm thrilled to be sharing a fun "first" for my blog: an interview with the main character of Enger's series, Henning Juul! Henning is one of the most endearing series protagonists I've ever read, and I hope you'll love meeting him in this interview.
CBTB Interviews Henning Juul
Location: Oslo, Norway
Interviewer: Abby Endler, Crime by the Book
Interviewee: Henning Juul, journalist, 123news
The wind whipped against my back as I ducked into the cafe where I’d agreed to meet my interview subject: Henning Juul, a journalist whose reputation preceded him. His name had been tied to some attention-grabbing cases lately, from the exoneration of ex-enforcer Tore Pulli to his sister’s recent scandal. I couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous, interviewing someone who’s made a career of being on the other side of the interview table. Thankfully, I didn’t have long to dwell on my nerves—Henning was already there, seated at a table in the corner of the cafe. His back was to me, but I could see him absentmindedly playing with a Zippo lighter from where I stood.
Taking a deep breath, I approached his table. He turned, and I couldn’t help but find my eyes drawn to the dramatic scars etched across his face. I cleared my throat and forced my gaze to meet his. His eyes were even more arresting than his scars: dark and clear, tinged with a sorrow that I was sure never left them. With the things he’s seen, who could blame him?
“Henning, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day.” I took the seat across from him at the small cafe table and pulled my notebook from my bag. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’d love to jump right in. I’m writing a piece about the controversy surrounding the Hellberg family, and the disappearance of Hedda Hellberg in particular. From all my research, you were involved as the story was breaking, and I’d love to get your perspective on it. But before we discuss those particulars, I wondered if you could share a bit about your career for our readers. I know we’re all curious to know a bit more about the man behind the byline.”
Henning seemed to be sizing me up, deciding just how much he wanted to share. He sighed, and set the lighter down on the table.
“Don’t you want to record this?” He nodded at my notebook.
“I’ll be fine taking notes, I think.” I was a bit taken aback; that’s how he wanted to start our conversation? “I can use my iPhone, if you prefer…” Henning shook his head. “No, you need a tape recorder. The real kind, not just your phone.”
I sighed inwardly. Was he always this set in his own ways, or did he just really not want to talk to me? I plowed ahead, determined to get this interview. “Next time, I’ll certainly remember that. Now, if we could get back to your career, I’d love to learn more about it.”
Henning took a pause, gathering his thoughts. “As you know, I’ve been with 123news for a few years now. The company name’s a bit silly, but it’s a good place to work. They give me the freedom to pursue the stories I want. Of course, it took a bit for me to prove myself, but I’ve broken a few crucial stories for them now. Earned a bit of independence. And they were good to me, while I was…” he paused. “Unable to work.”
“Unable to work? Might I ask why?” I couldn’t help it. Curiosity got the better of me. Henning’s eyes darkened, and he picked up the lighter again. His hands were surprisingly delicate. He flicked the lighter on with fingers that were lean and long. I found myself wondering if he was a musician. Pianist, maybe? His voice brought me back to our conversation.
“My son died, a few years back.” The words sounded like sandpaper against his throat. “There was a fire… my son, Jonas, he was killed. That’s where these” - he gestured to his face - “came from. As if I didn’t have enough reason to remember that night…” he trailed off. His grief was palpable, and I struggled to change the subject. I could tell how uncomfortable I’d made him, asking such an intrusive question.
“I’m so sorry for your loss. Um… Perhaps we could get back to the Hellberg case. Could you tell me a bit about your involvement in it? It’s been a sensational story. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to help break it.”
“The Hellberg case wasn’t even supposed to be mine. I stumbled upon it, really.” Henning paused, and for a moment I was afraid he’d shut down again. I glanced up from my notebook, and caught him looking out the window, his mind somewhere else. Then he began to speak again. His voice was quieter now, more earnest.
“Since my son’s death, much of my work has been devoted to chasing down the truth about that night. The fire… I’ve never believed it was an accident. I’ve been tracking down anyone who might know who started that fire, and why they did it. What they wanted to punish me for.” He cleared his throat, seeming to catch himself sharing too much with me, a perfect stranger. “To make a long story short, a lead of mine ended up intersecting with the Hellberg case. Nora Klemetsen, my… my ex-wife, she was pursuing the Hellberg story before I was. It might be best if you talk to her about this, you know. She’s a journalist herself, works for Aftenposten. She was friends with Hedda, the young woman who went missing.”
Henning took a sip of his coffee. “The story became so much more than either of us anticipated. It all started when Hedda disappeared - her husband contacted Nora, hoping she would use her platform at Aftenposten to spread the word about Hedda’s disappearance. From there… well, it really became quite complicated. The implications of the case have been significant, as you’re no doubt aware. I don’t think anyone expected Nora to learn what she did about that family. And it got quite dangerous there, at the end. We almost lost…”
Henning’s phone rang, interrupting him mid-thought. He checked the display, and I could see him start as he recognized the number. “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to take this. I hate to cut this short, but…”
“Of course, by all means. It was a pleasure meeting you, Henning. Thank you for your time.” But the words were hardly out of my mouth before he was pocketing his lighter, draining his coffee cup, and answering the call. He nodded at me, and I heard him answer. “This is Henning.”
And just like that, he was out the door.
It's no secret that I absolutely adore the character of Henning, and I loved bringing his character to life in this little post! Big thanks to Thomas Enger for looking over this post to make sure I represented Henning accurately, and to Karen of Orenda Books for letting me run with this idea. And last but not least, a big thank-you to Rachel Emms of the fantastic blog Chillers, Killers, and Thrillers for inspiring me to write this with her interview with a character from DEEP DOWN DEAD by Steph Broadribb! I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Remember to check out my other CURSED coverage: