The first book was Petrus på ubåtsjakt. The beginning of the book is based on reality, the event that occurred that day on Gräskö when I decided to become an author. The family in the book are mother, father and five children, just like my own family. The story is a mystery and an adventure.
The idea of becoming an author emerged when I was in fifth grade in Trångsviken's elementary school. I had written a short essay that I showed my teacher, Eva. I stood by the teacher's desk while she was reading. When she was done, she looked up at me and said:
− Örjan, you should be an author when you grow up!
Both my parents read a lot. They never had a lot of money, but they bought books sometimes or borrowed from the library. We had 20 kilometers to the library, they had no car and there were no buses in that direction either. Eventually, though, the library placed a box with books in our home that all the people in the village could borrow from.
I also read those books. While my friends practiced sports, I lay on the couch at home and read.
Later I understood it's important to read a lot to be able to write well.
But of course I didn't become a writer when I was 12 years old. It took another 30 years.
After sixth grade, I started the equivalent of high school in Östersund. There, I had a Swedish teacher who didn't understand my essays at all. She dismissed my texts with:
− I don't believe this really happened!
And she failed me.
My grades after almost two years in high school were B in all subjects, except in Swedish and Christianity. In those subjects I failed with a BC.
I've kept my essays from high school and I still think they're pretty well written for a 13-14 year old.
After that, as previously mentioned, it took many years until I started writing. It took a certain incident for me to decide to change the course of my life.
Me, Gunilla and all the five children rented a cottage on the island of Gräskö in the archipelago outside Stockholm one summer. When we arrived to the island, something mysterious happened. Gunilla and I stood and looked out over the ocean and tried to figure out what it was all about. Suddenly, Gunilla said:
− This is the beginning of a thriller!
The second later, I had made up my mind. I would finally start writing!
When we came back from our vacation, I quit my job at the electricity store. But I stayed during the winter. Unfortunately, due to the workload at my job and at my farm, I didn't have time to start writing. Not until my back gave out and the doctor told me to rest for two weeks did I begin writing the manuscript of my first book. I lay in bed, filling notebook after notebook. When I was done with the draft, I eventually edited it and wrote it by machine. Then I sent the manuscript to the publishing house, Rabén och Sjögren. After a few months, the had decided to publish my book. But the editor thought I could eliminate some of the text that was irrelevant to the story. So I deleted one third of the manuscript.
Petrus is the main character in the first novel, and one of the children in my fictional family. Now I decided to write four more books with each of the siblings as the main character. So this time, I choose Eva, in the book Eva, Amadeus och kuriren. It's an adventure story as well, but with horses involved.
The third sibling was Oscar. Now I had written pure adventures and had the idea that while I was writing I would incorporate some of my own opinions on different subjects. Maybe I could even teach my readers something. The book is about ruthless people who steal out of the nests of protected birds of prey. The book's name is Boplundrare. After this book I was a little tired of my fictional family, so the two remaining siblings never became main characters of any books.
Now I wanted to write a novel for adults and had started thinking about the storyline for that. But one morning when I woke up, I found myself imaging a girl leading a pony through the forest. And I felt I had to write about her before anything else. Räddningen is about how Malin saves the pony Amie and vice verse. On top of that, she tries to save the forests in the mountain foothills, the ancient Swedish forests from exploitation.
When I was finished with the book about Malin, I could finally start my novel for adults. A publishing house, LT's förlag, had announced a writing competition for the best novel about the Swedish countryside. And since I had lived on the countryside most of my life, I wrote an entry to the competition. I used my own experience as a farmer and also experience with conflicts with authorities. Nygården, Sweden won second prize in the competition and I became 50 000 kronor richer!
After the success with the novel, I started another novel for grown-ups. Everyone read thrillers nowadays, and why shouldn't I also be able to write one? But when I had started the manuscript, I felt that it didn't measure up. Then I put it away. But after a while, I got the idea to make it into a science fiction for youth readers instead. Efter Oz is about what what the world will look like if we continue to destroy the earth at the rate that we're doing. My grim science fiction got a lot of attention.
When the publishing house, Opal, announced a competition for the best novel for young adults, I wrote a book with the same theme as Efter Oz (After Oz). It was Underverket that I sent to the competition. I got a prize in that competition as well, but not as much money as I got for the novel for adults. Underverket is a story about a young guy who arrives from the burned and poor south to his father's home in the north. It's also a science fiction where I imagined what Europe would look like if global warming and thinning of the ozone layer continue.
One day it said in the Jämtland newspapers that someone had chased a wolf with a snowmobile and killed it. The article revealed that the police was sure a lapplander had comitted the crime. I immediately thought I had to write a book about that. The Wolf track became a story about Linda and her experiences in a mountain village in Jämtland. And about conflicts and trust issues between lapplanders and swedes. It also included a bit about horses. I liked Linda so much that I wrote two more books about her.
Davidsstjärnan (The Star of David) is the second book with the same main characters as in Supervirus. It's also an "easy to read" book. This time Maria's family, who are Jews, is harassed by neo-Nazis. Adam also gets into trouble with the neo-Nazis.
2 is a graphic novel that I have written together with the Indian author Paro Anand. It's illustrated by Garima Gupta and Kaveri Gopalakrishnan. In Paro's part of the book the 16 years old Indian boy Ganga is the narrator. He travels with his classmates to Goa. In my part the Swedish girl Helga is the storyteller. She is also 16 years old. From the moment they meet, they are telling the same story, but from their own different perspectives, about the dramatic events they are involved in. Like when they drown in the sea but are reincarnated as dolphins. The text is in English and my part is translated from Swedish by my daughter Nina Winternheimer. The book is published by Scholastic, India.
I have often visited schools and told the students about my books and my writing. One time I went on a tour with the finnish-swedish author Yvonne Hoffman. In an eight grade class, a boy was surfing the internet during the break. Yvonne looked at the boy and seemed to think about something. Then she suggested to him that the class should write a book together about someone who was so absorbed by an on-line game that him or her disappered into it. When I got home, I wrote that book myself. The Great World Game is my book that has sold most copies so far.
After the success with my first cyber novel, I wrote another one. It was Dream Game. In The Great World Game I critique the violent computer games and in Dream Game I try to point out that money and brand names are not the most important thing on earth.
The third cyber novel, Cyber Terror, adresses amongst other things the way girls and women sometimes are treated in the third world. By now I had started spending my winters in India and the settting for this book is a small village on the west coast of India where I have spent over a year in total.
Most of the setting for I have a dragonfish in my belly is also India. I wanted to write about the Naxalites, a community of poor leasholders who origin from Western Bengalia. The Naxalites got fed up with being treated worse than animals by the rich land owners and took ownership over the land they were cultivating by force. But the book is also about Erika, her search for her missing mom and about bullying in schools.
With Supervirus I broke into a new genre. To write easy to read. That was totally different from what I had written previously. It's difficult to find a balance between easy to read and not spartan. None of my previous books had been hard to read, but in this case I had to carefully weigh every word and sentence before I sent it to the publisher. But it was also a fun challenge!
Some of my books are translated into Danish, Dutch, German and Lithuanian