- Which book (or other media) would you say is your largest influence?
It’s impossible to mention just one book or film. My favourite plot structures—the premises of
novels and movies which inspire me—revolve around high-tech corporate conflicts and conspiracies,
medical horror and suspense, and overambitious mad scientist protagonists. Examples of favourite
books are Coma (Robin Cook, 1977), Watchers (Dean Koontz, 1987) and The Island of Dr. Moreau (H.
G. Wells, 1896). My favourite films are The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986), Hollow Man (Paul
Verhoeven, 2000) and Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982).
- What part of the book was the most difficult to write?
The interaction and the balance between two extremely different twin sisters—a supermodel and a
waitress—how they are forced to cooperate in spite of disliking each other’s company. Their father
is a cutting-edge molecular biologist, a key character caught up in a conspiracy.
- What was the seed of the book, or the very first thing that came to you as you started the writing process?
To me, there are first things rather than the first thing. Always plural. A multitude of things arriving at the same time. Like chemical components in a reaction flask, fragments of story ideas—the molecules of fictional intrigue—interact and form something new. Current examples: 1) What if nobody can be held responsible for unexpected deaths in connection with a clinical trial? (influenced by a true case); 2) What if the boundary between inner and outer reality is shifted as a side effect of neurologic medication? 3) Fiction today is reality tomorrow: quantum physics is revolutionising biochemistry—chemists have traditionally ignored quantum mechanics but it turns out this special physics has a massive effect on chemical and physico-chemical processes in living organisms.
- Did the book change a lot through different drafts? How so?
It didn’t change a lot. The perfectionist in me tend to write detailed, meticulous drafts from the start. The biggest change: a character was edited out because the book was getting too long.
- If you had to pick any aspect of the book to change, what would it be?
A tricky question. Now, as I see it, if I picked an aspect of the book to change, I would undermine the version which has been presented to readers. I wouldn’t do that and there’s nothing I want to change. I’m happy with the published version.
- How much of yourself do you find in the protagonist? Was any of it intentional?
The protagonist is a female fashion model. Her inquisitiveness is the single most important and unpremeditated character trait I see in myself. However, I believe there’s more of myself in one of the scientist characters. From extensive firsthand experience as a scientist in various laboratories and high-tech research facilities, I know scientists better than I know any other kind of people. I know how they talk, think, behave, interact and plot their lives. I’m familiar with their instincts, worries, fears, desires and priorities.
- Did you discover anything new/unexpected while doing research?
Nothing special springs to mind regarding Disorder. May I elaborate on this? To me, this question and its potential answers are multifaceted. First, it depends on how we define research. Life itself is a journey of discovery. I can base a novel on something I’ve read without having actively researched it. Reading articles from scientific journals is part of my lifestyle. Then, at some later point, I may decide to use something I’ve read somewhere as a plot device for a book. Another two near-future thrillers I already know I want to write are fuelled by my direct experience of the arena of colloid and interface chemistry. As for a new or unexpected discovery in connection with active research, a situation did show up in relation to the book I’m currently writing, Species, a novel which in part deals with the fast-moving field of paleoanthropology.
- If this is your first experience writing in this genre, what drew you to write the book specifically this way? (If not, what makes this genre one you like to write in?)
I write in the genre I enjoy reading the most, that is, the thriller genre. Actually, the genre picked me; not the other way around. Certain stories force themselves on me. This feeling, this opinion, that the subject chooses the author, isn’t unique.
- Did you ever find yourself burning out on the book? How did you get through that?
Not burning out. I’ve established a habit of keeping my writing momentum going. The all-important breaks to recharge my batteries include taking long walks and watching movies.
- What do you most hope readers will take away from this book?
That nothing is impossible. There are routes which lead everywhere and, if we have enough willpower, we’ll always find sufficient means. Every scientific fact today was once denounced by authorities, religions and the elite. The resistance to innovation has often been violent. Engineers and scientists have risked imprisonment or the death penalty. Every formulation or design was seen as foolish. Every discovery was an offense to traditionalists. Every creative idea was a breach of law and firm proof of dysfunctional reasoning. History shows many examples of ascertained impossibilities which sooner or later turned out to be possibilities or plain truths. And new thinkers have always struggled against headwinds in their fight against established knowledge.
- Was this book easier or more difficult to write than others you’ve written?
Neither easier nor more difficult. I tend not to differentiate between degrees of difficulty with reference to my books. Every novel is unique and has its own set of challenges. Writing a book is hard work, irrespective of the author’s talent, regardless of his or her experience.
- Is this a book that could be easily adapted to other media (movie, podcast, etc.)? How much do you think an adaptation might change it?
I believe any book can be turned into a film. How much an adaptation might change Disorder or any other book depends on the director and the screenwriter. It’s important to remember that filmmakers have the right to artistic freedom. They can be faithful to the source material but they don’t have to be. Either way is fine with me.
- Has writing this book changed your worldview at all?
Not at all. I write for entertainment.
- How much do you think your life impacted how the book turned out?
In line with what I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my direct experience of the world of science and the inner workings of a big-city hospital have a profound influence on Disorder and my forthcoming thrillers.
- Is there a certain place/time of day that most inspires you to write?
Inspiration plays no part. I write when I have the time to write. I work full-time at the hospital and have to schedule my writing around those hours: evenings, weekends, and during my annual leave from the hospital. My best place to write is at home and I must be alone in my workroom. Door closed. Desk facing not a window but a blank wall (learnt it from Ingmar Bergman). I also cover the window to shut out the world outside (learnt it from … I think it was Isaac Asimov). Phone turned off. No music. Silence. I can’t write in public places.
- Do you have a writing routine? How well do you follow it?
A writing routine is crucial, taking into account I work forty hours a week at the hospital. Instead of writing a certain number or words, pages or hours a day, I set production targets: 15,000 words of finished text (not a first draft) a month. I follow it quite well but the monthly goal isn’t set in stone. Consistency is more important. I complete a novel in about six or seven months. Another three months to polish the text. Then, and only then, I send the manuscript to my editor.
- Do you think any books (or other media) have been bad influences on your writing?
No. I read the way I watch movies—for pleasure. And I know what I like. I tend to stay away from things I don’t like.
- If you could pick any book to write differently (yours or another’s) which would it be?
Not until I’m satisfied with a manuscript, I send it to my fantastic editor in London. But let me say the following: An opportunity arose to republish my early novel Mr. Maniac in an expanded and repackaged version, featuring new material. Mr. Maniac was the best book I could write in 2016/17 and there’s nothing I regret about that release back then. That said, I appreciate the forthcoming expanded version of the story, retitled Schizoid. Schizoid is scheduled for publication in late 2019.
- What writers do you look up to most, either for their writing or as human beings?
In no particular order: Robin Cook, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, John Saul. I read many authors, primarily in the thriller and suspense field, but those four are my favourites.
- Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Much like mastering surgery or playing the piano, it takes years of practice to become a good writer. You must reorganise your life. Work hard. And, be yourself. That way, your style of writing will be uniquely your own.