Q&A: M.T. Edvardsson, Author of A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY
It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome M.T. Edvardsson to Crime by the Book today to give us the inside scoop on his first crime novel to come to the United States. A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY hits American bookstores today, June 25th, and what an absolute gem of a crime novel it is. Told in three distinct “parts,” A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY probes the limits of how far an ordinary family would go to protect one of their own. It might be set in Sweden, but what makes this story so impactful is its universality; the themes Edvardsson explores here will feel relevant whether you’re in Scandinavia like the story’s central family, in New York like I am as I write this, or anywhere in between. Edvardsson’s assured and thought-provoking crime novel is a little bit Nordic Noir, a little bit legal thriller, a little bit family drama—and when taken as a whole, it’s one of this summer’s most compelling suspense stories.
I’m thrilled to welcome M.T. Edvardsson to CBTB today to give us an inside scoop on this outstanding new release! In today’s blog post, you will find plot details for a NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY, a selection of early praise the book has already received, a snippet from my review, and, of course, my conversation with the author.
Huge thanks to the team at Celadon Books for facilitating this Q&A, and to M.T. Edvardsson for taking the time to answer my questions! A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is available now at your favorite bookseller.
A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. Edvardsson
Celadon Books | Available June 25th, 2019
About the Book:
M.T. Edvardsson’s A Nearly Normal Family is a gripping legal thriller that forces the reader to consider: How far would you go to protect the ones you love? In this twisted narrative of love and murder, a horrific crime makes a seemingly normal family question everything they thought they knew about their life―and one another.
Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?
Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?
"Edvardsson ably weaves themes of parental guilt and sacrifice into a nuanced family drama."―Kirkus
“An intense legal thriller that successfully plays realistic, gripping emotion against a shocking legal twist.” ―Booklist
"At its core, A Nearly Normal Family asks: How well do you know your loved ones? Or your best friend? Or anyone? Whom can you trust? Edvardsson doesn't give easy answers, and even throws in commentary about the Swedish legal system when it comes to determining guilt or innocence. But the author raises provocative questions, wraps them up in a propulsive thriller and delivers an ultra-satisfying read that's far from ordinary."―Shelf Awareness
"A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is a canny, intensely suspenseful legal thriller. A 18-year-old teenager is accused of murdering a 32-year-old man, provoking a crisis for every person close to her and challenging the commandments of the law as they confront the bonds of love and family life."―Scott Turow, Author of Presumed Innocent and Testimony
“M. T. Edvardsson has written a deceptive and riveting novel. A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY will make you question everything you know about those closest to you.”―Karin Slaughter, Author of 18 international bestsellers
From My Review:
There’s nothing I love more than a buzzy new Scandinavian crime novel—so suffice it to say, M.T. Edvardsson’s US debut A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY has been high on my “most anticipated” list this year. I devoured this thoughtful and thought-provoking story just about a month ago, and have been mulling it over ever since. There’s a lot about this book that’s hard to categorize (and if you’ve been around CBTB for a while, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of categorizing my reads!): is it a legal thriller? A domestic drama? A “whodunnit”? In the end, the answer may not really matter, because what A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is is wholly original and compelling. This slow-burn of a story takes readers into the midst of a family at the exact moment that their blissfully ordinary life is shattered. With the news that their daughter has been arrested for murder, a mother and father must face the unthinkable. How far will they go to protect their child? And what if their child really is guilty? This isn’t a pulse-pounding thriller in the traditional sense - as in, you won’t find shootouts or fight scenes within this book’s pages - but author M.T. Edvardsson ratchets up the tension and emotional investment all the same. Told in a wildly engrossing three-part structure, this domestic suspense-meets-courtroom drama is sure to be one of summer’s buzziest releases. | Read the Full Review
Author Q&A: M.T. Edvardsson
A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY
Crime by the Book: First things first, thank you so much for stopping by Crime by the Book to give us the inside scoop on your outstanding U.S. debut, A Nearly Normal Family. Let’s start at the beginning: what inspired you to write this story?
M.T. Edvardsson: I was lying in bed one night trying to fall asleep. I have two daughters, 3 and 6 years old. And I came to think about the situation in ten years or so when I will lie there in my bed and my daughters won’t be safely asleep in their bedrooms, but out with friends, downtown. And I think every parent can relate to that fear of not knowing when your child is coming home. Then I imagined my future teen daughter coming home way past midnight and me having the feeling that something was wrong. I imagined myself coming downstairs into the laundry room to find that my daughter had tried to wash blood off of her clothes. I asked myself what I would do. And if my daughter was brought in by the police the next morning, accused of murdering a man, what would I say? How would I react? And how far would I go in stretching the truth to protect my daughter? Our family is the closest relation we have, but do we always know everything about our family members?
CBTB: A Nearly Normal Family follows an ordinary family in Sweden. Who are the key characters in this story? How would you describe them to someone meeting them for the first time?
M.T.: Adam is a pastor in a congregation in the small town of Lund in Sweden. It has always been important for him to keep up a facade of normality, showing everyone around them that the Sandell family is free from problems. But as his daughter Stella is getting older she turns out to be totally different from what Adam expected her to be. Stella is not the quiet good girl Adam thought she would turn into and this leaves him confused. When does a parent go from being protective to being controlling? When we meet Stella at 18 she is a smart, funny young woman who does and says whatever she wants and as opposed to her parents, she doesn't give a damn what other people think. Her mother Ulrika is a criminal defense lawyer who feels a lot of guilt about neglecting her family for her carrier but also about never really being able to connect closely with her daughter. When Stella faces charges of murder, Ulrika sees the opportunity to make amends with the shortcomings from her past.
CBTB: You’ve done an excellent job making this story feel universal - like it could happen to any family anywhere in the world, not just to Stella and her parents in Sweden. What do you think makes Stella’s story feel so relatable?
M.T.: Being an author is a lot about putting yourself in someone else's place, becoming that character, feeling her feelings and thinking her thoughts. To make it real, it’s also important for the author to put a part of himself in every character. I wanted the reader to think “that could be me.” In addition, the moral dilemma in the book is universal – How far would you go to protect your children? I think everyone can relate to that.
“Being an author is a lot about putting yourself in someone else's place, becoming that character, feeling her feelings and thinking her thoughts. To make it real, it’s also important for the author to put a part of himself in every character. I wanted the reader to think ‘that could be me.’” — M.T. Edvardsson
CBTB: A Nearly Normal Family weaves elements of legal thriller into its story of domestic suspense. Did you do any research into Swedish laws and procedures in order to write the legal elements of this story so convincingly?
M.T.: I am vastly interested in true crime and criminology so I was very well informed about the Swedish legal system. I also have a good friend who works as a lawyer, who helped me a lot.
CBTB: One of my favorite elements of this story is the way you’ve structured it. The story’s three protagonists - Adam, Ulrika, and Stella - each take turns narrating a section of this story. I’m so curious - were any of these voices easier or more challenging to write?
M.T.: To me, Stella's voice was most interesting and fun to work with, since she is a teenager and uses a language somewhat quite different from her parents. But I actually think it was harder to keep Adam's and Ulrika's voices apart, since they are more similar. The absolutely most challenging part was in the rewriting and editing process when I had to jump between the three voices and still manage to keep them distinguished.
CBTB: How did you go about plotting A Nearly Normal Family? Did you write from an outline, or did you let the story develop naturally?
M.T.: I started off with the set up: the father, Adam, finds out that Stella is accused of murder and has to decide whether he should tell the whole truth or hide some things from the police. Then I knew that Stella would narrate part two, but when I began I actually had no idea that the mother Ulrika was going to tell part three (or that she eventually was going to play a crucial role in the plot). I am not one of those well-organized writers with outlines; I rather like to see where the story takes me.
CBTB: When you’re not writing crime fiction, do you also enjoy reading crime fiction? If so, could you share with us a few crime books you have recently read and enjoyed?
M.T.: I read a lot of crime novels and I tend to read many Swedish writers, so I’d love to recommend two of the best Swedish crime novels that are also available in English: The Silver Road by Stina Jackson and After She’s Gone by Camilla Grebe. This spring I have also read and very much enjoyed The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine and Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell.
CBTB: Last but certainly not least, what are you working on next? Can American readers look forward to another one of your novels in the future?
M.T.: I'm writing a new novel in the same genre as A Nearly Normal Family. It's also about a family that is strongly affected by a crime. My great U.S. publisher Celadon Books will publish this novel, hopefully within a year or two.
Many thanks to M.T. Edvardsson for answering my questions, and to the team at Celadon Books for facilitating this Q&A! A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY is available today, June 25th, at your favorite bookseller.
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Celadon Books (June 25, 2019)
Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.