Horst & Enger: Norways Finest Crime Writing Duo discuss all things Blix and Ramm

Described by Tvedestrandpost as one of the years most anticipated releases, Unhinged, the third book in the extremely popular Blix and Ramm series, was finally published in the UK on Wednesday 16th February. Nordic Watchlist were lucky enough to speak to the authors, Thomas Enger & Jorn Lier Horst, about the book itself, the writing process and their plans for the future.

Unhinged – Synopsis

When police investigator Sofia Kovic uncovers a startling connection between several Oslo murder cases, she attempts to contact her closest superior, Alexander Blix before involving anyone else in the department. But before Blix has time to return her call, Kovic is shot and killed in her own home – execution style. And in the apartment above, Blix’s daughter Iselin narrowly escapes becoming the killer’s next victim.

Four days later, Blix and online crime journalist Emma Ramm are locked inside an interrogation room, facing the National Criminal Investigation Service. Blix has shot and killed a man, and Ramm saw it all happen. 

As Iselin’s life hangs in the balance, under-fire Blix no longer knows who he can trust … and he’s not even certain that he’s killed the right man…

Where did the plot inspiration for Unhinged come from?

It’s a funny thing, ‘inspiration’. It’s never an easy thing to explain. It’s not like some magic dust fall on our shoulders and then we go ‘aha, this is what we should do next’. It’s more that we sit down and think about what kinds of ordeals we would like to put our main characters through, and how they should develop. Of course, there needs to be some kind of mystery involved, and that as well needs to be interesting and intricate enough. What we always try to do, is to come up with a story that we, ourselves, find fascinating and interesting. If we think that, chances are the readers will, too.

Do you find it more challenging as authors to switch between time periods as happens in the first half of the book?

It certainly is a challenge, but it’s also fun to try to piece things together that way. A crime mystery is like a puzzle. It consists of so many parts, and one of the first things any crime writer will tell you, is that you need to get the timeline correct. So when you switch back and forth in time you need to keep your tongue centered in your mouth, as we say in Norway. Lots can go wrong. Thankfully, we’re two pair of eyes and minds working on it, meaning that the odds are better for us getting it right.

I’m not sure I can recall a protagonist in a ‘Nordic Noir’ book being put through as much personal turmoil as Blix! Was that a deliberate move on your part to try and do something a bit different?

A key ‘trick’ of pulling the reader in to your story, is to have a main character who is easy to like, and then have bad things happening to him/her. This is the case with most successful crime fiction series. So yes, very much a deliberate choice, but you never quite know where your character is going to take you once you embark upon the journey of actually writing the story.

Without giving anything away, the ending to Unhinged leaves it a little uncertain as to whether we might see a fourth in the series. Are you able to either confirm or deny!?

We are happy to confirm that there will be (at least) two more books in the series.

Blix & Ram

Do you have a favourite of the three that have been released to date, or is that a bit like asking you both to pick a favourite child!?

Death Deserved has a special place in the heart for the both of us, since it was the first one. We’d been talking about writing something together for a long time, and when we finally were able to find time in our calendars, to see how the plot came together, not to mention the reception it has been getting all over the world, has been very rewarding.

A number of our readers have suggested that any of the books in the series to date would translate to the big screen perfectly as either a film or a series. Is there any chance of that happening?

We agree with the readers (insert laughing emoji). There is always a chance of that happening, but it’s not in the cards just yet.

Writing Proces

How does the process differ when writing a book together as opposed to writing solo?

First of all there is a lot more discussion. Lots more emails going back and forth, phone calls, talking about the plot, the characters. It’s less of a lonely process. An element of confidence comes into play as well, because when the two of us both like what we’ve written, there is a good chance we might not be alone liking it. It’s also very interesting to see how a chapter we’ve written individually can take another shape and form once it’s been read and chewed and polished by the other.

Have you found it difficult not being in full solo control of the plot and character development?

 On the contrary, it’s been fun discussing characters and plots with a like minded writer. Because of our different backgrounds we also bring different elements into the story. None of us are control freaks in any way. Our approach has always been: If the other doesn’t like this or that, then let’s find something better. And, knock wood, with almost four novels under our belt now, there hasn’t been a single hot-headed discussion between us.

Thomas, given your past career as a journalist and Jorn, yours as a senior investigating officer, is it a case of you write as Emma and Jorn, you as Blix?

That was the plan when we first started out, but with the first three novels, we’ve been writing on ‘each other’s’ characters all the time. With our fourth installment, however, Jorn is primarily writing Blix, while Thomas is doing the other ones. So it is, and has been, a very dynamic process. But we’re always editing each other’s chapters, adding or removing stuff we feel should be in or out.

Photo Credit: Jarli Jordan

Jørn Lier Horst

What’s next for you? Will we see Wisting returning to UK television?

New seasons of Wisting have been covid-postponed, but now both seasons 2 and 3 are ready. Slightly controlled by the pandemic, each season has become a miniseries of four episodes, based on the books The inner darkness and The Nightman. I have not received broadcast times for the BBC, but have been assured that Wisting will return on British television screens.

Tell us a bit about The Night Man which is due for release in July this year?

The Nightman is an early case for William Wisting, originally published before Dregs (2011), which was the first book in English. The story begins on a foggy morning. During the night, someone has placed a head on a stake in the middle of the town square. Wisting faces the most grotesque murder of his career as a police officer. The whole of Norway is shaken, the media demands quick clarification. Part of the story is based on a true happenings.

Are you hoping to attend any crime fiction festivals/events this year?

As a previous winner of The Petrona Award for best Nordic crime novel (The Katharina Code), I am invited to Crime Fest in Bristol in May. It will be one of the first festivals I attend after sitting at home for a long time.

Photo Credit: Anton Soggu

Thomas Enger

It’s been a little while since Inborn was released. Can we expect a new solo written UK release from you any time soon? If so, can you give us any details?

Last October I released a solo crime fiction novel in Norway called The Book of Gallows. Hopefully it will be translated into English as well

Are you hoping to attend any crime fiction festivals/events this year?

God, yes. After two years of covid, I’d go to all corners of the world, if I could. Meeting readers and colleagues is the best part of the job. I’ll be coming to CrimeFest in May, and hopefully lots more after that.

I suspect not everyone will know this but you’re also becoming quite a successful pianist. Where can people find your music?

Oh, thanks for asking. My music is available wherever you can stream or download it. I have lots of exciting projects in the pipeline. Watch this space.

Photo Credit: Jarli & Jordan

Unhinged was published by Orenda Books and can be purchased via the following linkHERE

Interview by Marc Harries

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