What can I say about this new figure in horror? Anders is an intelligent, curious, bizarre yet brilliant writer. His anthology has made more than a ripple in the horror fiction world over in Sweden..he created a tidal wave! Just read on…
EA: Hello & welcome Anders.
AF: A pleasure. This is my blog-debut in English. So be gentle.
EA: I’ll try my best…
AF: No doubt you will.
EA: Tell me about yourself in ten words…
AF: What would you like to know? Personal facts? Hobbies? Favourite colours? I am a rather well preserved middle-aged Swede. The kind that would make Samantha Jones drool.
EA: That’s cheating! Much more than ten words! How about personal facts & hobbies of the man ‘that would make Samantha Jones drool’?
AF: Born in Stockholm, still living there, of dubious background, balding, but still a very charming guy who sucks at writing this kind of personal facts. I wish I could just look very artistic and say “I am not important, my art is.” But I find it very hard to do the dead serious artist act and keep a straight face. Actually, I’m way to cheerful for being someone who excels in brooding horror. Which I do, by the way.
EA: Well, is there anything you would change about yourself or your life? If you had a magic wand…
AF: I really wish I had figured some stuff out earlier. Some stuff I’ve done. What was I thinking? Youth is truly wasted on the young. You turn writer at 45 and think “gee, I should have tried writing earlier”. On the other hand would I have been good then?
EA: What scares you, Anders?
AF: This – in the context of me being a horror writer – is one of the top three silliest questions one can ask me. I’m scared of the usual things: that something will happen to my family; illness; violence, stuff like that. I have a minor problem with heights and that is about it.
EA: But what if we leave the everyday fears behind?
AF: Hmm. I honestly don’t think much about fears at all. The notion that the Old Ones will rise from the sea and wipe us all out once for all is after all pretty whacky. In the end the simple stuff works. Anything that can be connected to sex or death is scary. If it is done well.
EA: Sex & death are interconnected in the psyche after all!
AF: Surely. It has some yin yang aspect going. I’ve heard it easy to get laid at funerals. Because death is all around and the brain goes REPRODUCE!!!
EA: That could lead to some embarrassing & unfortunate encounters…
AF: As long as you make sure your partner have a pulse you should be ok. This of course gives me a great idea for novel about family traditions.
EA: Have you read any particular books that have made you shiver a little?
AF: The last book I read that actually scared me was a non-fiction thing about the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam. It was like the movie Descent but for real. Very scary.
EA: I’ve read about the tunnels, grim history.
AF: When it come to horror real life has a way of outdoing fiction. I think that is part of the point with horror fiction. It distracts us from real horrors like Darfur.
EA: Any favorite authors?
AF: Raymond Chandler, William Gibson, Lou Reed, James Elroy and Patti Smith. To name a few.
EA: If you could only have five books to read for the rest of your days, what would they be? And why?
AF: Aw my god… This is hard. I would bring Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five for sure. I re-read the Necromancer saga from time to time. Bring those. Omnibus version, so they count as one? My two-volume Complete Chandler. Perhaps Elroy’s American Tabloid. On the other hand. What is the point of bringing books I’ve already read?
EA: Song writers as well as fiction writers? Are you heavily influenced by music?
AF: I’d say so. I get beats and feel and textures from music and try to incorporate them in my stories. My next book is named after a line by the Rolling Stones and it works great because we all know what a beautiful, yet sad song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want Is” and that knowledge sets the tone for the whole book.
EA: Have you written anything based on song lyrics before?
AF: There are lines popping up here and there. Patti Smith’s “ Ain’t it strange” reverberates through parts of my first book. One story in You Can Not Live is based on a Suzanne Vega song. In my mind at least. I’ve built part of my new book around two Iggy Pop albums.
EA: Dread Central rate you very highly as an author of horror fiction, quote: ‘Anders Fager is the latest and most interesting example of the strong trend of Swedish horror that started with John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In in 2004, taking the young adult supernatural trend into darker territory. Fager presents a modern, adult and quite violent take on the horror story reminiscent of Stephen King at his darkest, or perhaps a John Ajvide Lindqvist on steroids, inspired by the world of classic horror master H.P. Lovecraft. It is at the same time completely realistic and utterly monstrous.’ How does this level of praise sit with you?
AF: It is both amusing and amazing and long live Google translate. To be honest I know I am pretty good, though it is always a bit odd to be praised like this. I have not quite gotten used to it yet and I hope I don’t ever will.
EA: It looks like you’d better start getting used to it… You told me about being invited to Cannes, what happened there?
AF: Svensk Filmindustri (spearheaded by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, that recently made the fourth and very loud Underworld movie) has brought the rights to my first three books and they went down there to sell the idea of a Cults movie. From what I’ve understood thing has gone quite well.
EA: That’s something to be shocked by surely? Finding out that your work will be converted into a movie. How did it all come about?
AF: They called me. Out of the blue. Måns read the book on a plane to LA and was very excited about it. It was just as simple as that. Then an army of lawyers turned up…
EA: It’s certainly something to be excited about! Will you be involved in the process of making the film?
AF: I will not write the script or anything, but they are keeping in touch. And Måns is a great chef.
EA: How would you describe yourself as a writer?
AF: One that writes short sentences. I’m the antithesis to H P Lovecraft.
EA: Very short sentences… I have a feeling that you love sarcasm too? (laughs)
AF: As long at it does not show up in my writing. The voice I use here is not the same as I would use in a story. Horror demands that you are dead serious. The moment you blink “funny!” at reader you are in pastiche-land. Camp Lovecraftiana or Scream III.
EA: So do you ever let anything of yourself, as Anders, bleed into your work?
AF: Of course it does, though it is not intentional. Suddenly I have based the looks of a character on a friend’s looks or this or that anecdote surfaces in a way that makes perfect sense in a story. But “my writer self”? No.
EA: Apart from being a writer & ‘well preserved middle-aged Swede’, what other jobs have you had? Which was the worst?
AF: I worked for a couple of weeks in a sugar processing plant once. Not to go into details, but everything emerging from my body had a sugar coating for weeks afterwards. And you?
EA: Me? I’ve worked in a few fields in my life so far; planting seedlings in a garden centre, call centre work (sorry everyone!), a counsellor for people with epilepsy on how to enjoy life despite their condition, worked in a bank… studied psychology, art & humanities, environmental sciences, literature, learnt sign language for non-verbal children, critiqued for fiction writers, mentored a bit too. Now I’m an editor…& a blogger. More to come though!
AF: I think it is good to have many jobs. It gives you a wide perspective of life and society. Everybody should be forced to work half a year in a really scary nursing home and another half year trying to run ones own business.
EA: True, very true. People would benefit from learning more about the work that others do to keep everything running…
(AF nods in an elegant way. Time stops a both EA & AF tries to find a way back into the interview.)
EA: How long have you been writing fiction for? How did it all start?
AF: I’ve been writing all my life, but four years ago I got this chance to publish a collection of short stories “if I could put one together”. And I did.
EA: Why write? What drives you? Is it just because you have an innate need to get those scary words out of your head, or is it for the adoring fans?
AF: The drive, I don’t know. In a way I do this because I’m good at it and can make a living out of it that is far more enjoyable than most other jobs I can think of. The artistic drive, is a mystery to me. I just write and wish that I could say more deep and pretentious things about it.
EA: So how do feel if you don’t write?
AF: Like I’m avoiding work. I’m very protestant about this.
EA: Work? I thought it was pleasure!
AF: Writing is horribly tedious and lonely. Every goody idea you get leads to weeks of work. Still, the satisfaction when you are done evens things out.
EA: Your anthology Swedish Cults has a distinct feel & approach to it…very Lovecraftian in essence. How would you describe the anthology?
AF: It is on the surface a collection of short stories. But they are sort of entwined in a way that often makes people start the book over as soon as they finish. Because “now they get it”.
EA: Do you think the works of Lovecraft are fully understood & appreciated by the average reader of this generation?
AF: There are so many much more interesting works than Lovecraft’s to understand and appreciate. Lovecraft is an important part of horror’s history and heritage, but you don’t have to enjoy his work. Just as you don’t have to enjoy fifties rock’n roll just because you like modern Death Metal.
EA: How long will the readers be waiting for a translation of Swedish Cults?
AF: Not that long I hope. There are several interested parties, but no one has quite jumped yet. To some part they are put off by the short story concept.
EA: I think it’s a brave thing for a writer to put forward for publication. I’ve been a life-long reader of the short story form, some say it’s a dying art.
AF: I think the short story will return. The pads and smartphones are paving a way for a new kind of reading. What will truly benefit is the hopeless to sell “novella”. 120 pages? Can’t sell that at the bookstore, but it works fine as a PDF.
EA: Many do sell short stories as downloads on Kindle, Nook, etc. Are you a writer & reader who prefers the more physical experience of reading an actual book…made out of paper?
AF: In the end I’m a writer who likes to get paid for his work. The media is less important.
EA: I think you’ve brought fresh blood to the horror genre.
AF: It is very kind of you to say so. I just tried to create something really good without looking around too much at what other people do. If my work feels fresh it is not because of some clever plan of mine.
EA: What are your inspirations? Do you draw from life, works you have read, people who you know or once knew…
AF: I get ideas or moods form all kinds of things. Music very often. Images or scenes that you find intriguing. My new book is very much based on a beautiful last scene.
EA: A book drawn from a last scene? Could you tell me a little more about it?
AF: In the end scene a small house boat drifts along one of the canals of Stockholm. It is ablaze and we all know that something terrible happened on it. In the stern there is this woman dancing a victory dance, waving to the people screaming at her to jump into the water.
EA: Where did you see the scene? Did it make an immediate impression on you?
AF: This is when I look kind of lost and say “it was just there”.
EA: I’ve heard tell that your books have held their own alongside writers such as Max Brooks & Justin Cronin in the Swedish best-seller lists. You must feel proud of that accomplishment?
AF: I think the story is widely exaggerated. The only local talent who can compete with the serial killers are Ajvide Lindkvist and, lately “The Circle”.
EA: Is horror fiction, in it’s true form, popular in Sweden?
AF: Ajvide is doing well, as is the usual international suspects. Right now the Circle is actually competing with the Hunger Games at being the mid-teen must read of the decade.
EA: Swedish Cults is dripping with the themes H P Lovecraft was revered for; Cthulhu, The Elder Gods, even creatures reminiscent of ‘The Mountains of Madness’.
AF: Ah? Where?
EA: The Furies from Borås.
AF: Ah. The girls worship Shub Niggurarh, I’d say.
EA: Were you worried about your collection being viewed negatively by critics or fans of Lovecraft? Is Swedish Cults a dedication to him as a fan of his works yourself?
AF: Rule one when dealing with “cult material” is to get away as far as possible from it. Very few people care about Lovecraft or can stomach his style. But his vision is interesting and has taken on a life of its own. Lovecraft’s vision or whatever you want to call it, liberated from Lovecraft himself will live a long life. And hopefully I’m adding to that.
EA: I think that the themes Lovecraft left us has been brought up to date with the anthology.
AF: That is very kind of you to say. They ought to be kept updated. After all, horror did not die after 1935.
EA: I’ve also have heard that you just finished a new book.
AF: I finished the whole thing in late march, but now the editing is done. I’ve already started on the next one. It will be called “a man of wealth and taste” and be about librarians, drugs and monsters.
EA: Tell us a bit about the book you just finished.
AF: It is novel this time. Or at least a collection of short stories that hangs together enough to work better as a whole than as separate pieces. The book is called “I saw her today at the reception” and will be out in October. More tentacles and gore, but now with love.
AF: Yep. A love story. In the middle of the gore. It will is beautiful and very sad. And ends with said burning boat.
EA: I’m having trouble envisioning tentacles & love in the same book…
AF: That is the trouble with me. I don’t.
EA: You are a fantastically bizarre fellow aren’t you? I mean that in the nicest possible way of course!
AF: I don’t think I’m bizarre at all. But thanks anyway. It has been a pleasure doing this.
Well, there we have Anders Fager, I really enjoyed this interview…even learnt a little Swedish along the way whilst chatting in between questions. I do have to say that after translating some of Swedish Cults, it’s going to make a big mark within the world of horror fiction…it will mark the beginning of a new era in the genre. I can feel it in my bones!