I'm so pleased to be able to share an interview with Danish author Lotte Hammer, one half of the writing duo responsible for the Konrad Simonsen series. Lotte and her brother Søren have received critical acclaim for their series, and today the newest Konrad Simonsen book releases in the US! THE VANISHED has been called "a meticulously crafted police procedural" (Sydney Morning Herald) and "delicately crafted, and supremely atmospheric" (Daily Mail). Read on for my conversation with Lotte Hammer, and learn more about THE VANISHED here.
Crime by the Book: I am just discovering your series for the first time with THE VANISHED. Could you please share a bit of background information about the series?
Lotte Hammer: As you may know we are both middle-aged, and neither of us imagined that we one day would earn our living by writing books. It all started when Søren moved into a flat on the first floor of my house. On the second day he asked if we should should try and write a book together. I thought it was a joke, but he was completely serious. That it had to be crime fiction and a police detective story was obvious; we both love Sjöwall and Wahlöö.
Konrad Simonsen, a police commissioner, is the main character. He is middle-aged like us, and he smokes and eats too much and hates to exercise. At least, this is how he is in the beginning of the series. In The Vanished Konrad Simonsen is recovering from a severe heart attack and trying to lead a healthier life. He works with a group of police officers and early on in the series, he falls in love with one of them called The Countess. She is not at all noble; it’s just her nickname, which nobody knows how she got.
Each of our novels has an overarching theme, which keeps us on track if either of us gets carried away, and we try very hard to vary our books—we would hate to bore ourselves or our readers!—so you will find them all very different. Each of the books can be read and enjoyed separately, but of course the character development that takes place over the entirety of the series is interesting to follow.
CBTB: THE VANISHED begins with a seemingly unsuspicious death: a man is found dead at the bottom of his stairs. However, further inspection of his apartment soon reveals something very odd: his attic is full of large pictures of a girl, plastered across the attic walls. I love that this book takes something ordinary – a death by natural causes – and turns it into something more sinister.
Where did you find inspiration for this plot?
LH: The theme of this book, the third in the series, is the nineteen-sixties, the time of our own youth. We wanted this book to be a bit slower than the previous books; it provides an oppurtunity to get to know Konrad Simonsen and his background a little better. Rather than a book awash with buckets of blood, with a spectacular killing on every page, it’s a subtler exploration of the time period.
CBTB: I’m always fascinated by authors who collaborate to write a book together. How do you plan out your novels? (Do you create an outline together?) Do you work on the same passages together, or do you split up the work? Have you found any unique challenges that arise when working together? Has there ever been a situation where you two disagreed on a plot point? How did you resolve this disagreement?
LH: Before we begin writing we talk for ages, spending a lot of time discussing the plot in detail and creating a very careful and accurate plan for the chapters. Making this precise outline sometimes takes more time than the actual writing process.
When everything is planned out, we start writing. We never write together in the same room, but because we live in the same house, we run up and down the stairs very often. We start with chapter one and slowly work our way through the book. We share our writing of scenes and dialogue, and who writes what depends our personal interests, knowledge, and time.
When we have written some things we get together and exchange feedback. If either of us has gotten stuck, the other takes over.
Of course we often disagree but as we write more and more and more, our disagreements get fewer and less severe. Søren and I have, we think, the great advantage of being siblings. We beat each other up and called each other all the worst names when we were children. Now we have become really good at going for the ball and not for one another. I have met married couples who write together, and I really wonder how they succeed. That would never work for my husband and me; we would for sure end up killing each other.
CBTB: One of my favorite aspects of Scandinavian crime fiction – your work included – is the strong focus on details of police investigations. What kind of research went into portraying a police investigation in your book?
LH: I am incredibly grateful for the internet, which makes much of our research very easy, but we do a lot of research in real life as well. Research is, in my opinion, one of the best things about being a writer. It’s incredible how many different people you meet and how kind and eager people are to help. You get to see and experience things you never imagined. We have a permanent staff of unpaid professionals who are available to answer our awkward questions!
CBTB: When you aren’t writing crime books, do you still like to read crime books? If so, who are some of your favorite authors?
LH: Well, I just love a good crime book and I read a lot of them, but Søren mostly reads classic literature.
As I mentioned above, though, we both love Sjöwall and Wahlöö, who wrote a series of ten police procedurals set in Stockholm, from 1965 – 1975. They began the nordic crime fiction sub genre and are still very worth reading. I also very much like Jo Nesbø and Johan Theorin.
CBTB: If you could recommend one crime book to fans of your series, what book would you recommend?
LH: Whenever I am asked that question I always answer the name of the latest (Konrad Simonsen) book. It’s a funny thing, but when you start writing a new book you kind of forget the old ones. They simply vanish from the memory. However, The Vanished has a special place in my heart, perhaps because we got so close to Konrad Simonsen over the course of writing it.
THE VANISHED is now on sale from Bloomsbury. Book details below!
Imprint: Bloomsbury USA
Series: A Konrad Simonsen Thriller
See more at Bloomsbury.com
A huge thank you to Lotte Hammer for taking the time to answer my questions so thoughtfully, and to the publicity team at Bloomsbury for facilitating this Q&A!