Skip to main content

Stefan Ahnhem Guest Post - Victim Without a Face Blog Tour

Where do you get all your ideas from?

I’ve been a published author for nearly two years now, and I have probably been asked this question over a hundred times. Despite this, I haven’t been able to come up with a good answer – though God knows I’ve tried.

Maybe the question is the problem? It somehow assumes that an author simply sits down and waits for an idea to strike, and suddenly,like some kind of divine inspiration, it does. It also assumes that ‘ideas’ are in a special place, inaccessible to non-authors, and that in order to find them you just need a good map. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Writing is not about waiting for the perfect idea. It’s about writing and rewriting. And it’s about how each idea creates the next.

When I started to write Victim Without a Face the first idea I had was that I wanted to write a novel. That might not sound like an idea, but it was for me. I had been writing screenplays for so many years and was desperate for a new challenge.

A screenplay is supposed to be less than a hundred pages. In fact in some of my contracts – I think it was the Wallander series – the episodes had to be exactly 89,52 minutes long. So my second idea was that my novel should be at least five hundred pages long.

My next idea – the decision to write a crime story – felt natural since I had been working in that genre for so long that I knew its conventions inside out. I wanted it to take place in a city where neither Kurt Wallander nor Lisbeth Salander had ever set foot, so Helsingborg, where I grew up, felt like a good choice. The town is situated in the south of Sweden on the west coast and is so close to Denmark that you can almost see it,even when it’s foggy.

Because Helsingborg is unknown for most people, I decided to have my main character, Fabian Risk, move back to his hometown. That way he could experience the city with new eyes while at the same time being familiar with it.

At this point, I still had no idea what would actually happen in my story. But, by this point, it had naturally become a homecoming story. So it felt right that Risk’s past should come back to haunt him, and bring some of his memories back to life. Since my third idea was that this would be a crime story, it was only logical that those memories were horrible. I hit upon the solution of having a murder victim who attended my hero’sold elementary school. Then, in order to make the story longer (remember my second idea of writing five hundred pages), I had my killer leave behind a clue: an old class photo, with the victim’s face crossed out, implying there would be more victims from that same class.

And so it went on from there. One decision led to the next, and I almost always chose the most logical solution. After I had written several chapters, I became aware of what the story was about, and - even more importantly - what it wasn’t about. Only then did I go back and rewrite previous chapters to fit the story that was emerging.

So where did I get my ideas from? Well, you tell me.

Stefan Ahnhem

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Roald Dahl Books

“The success of a short story is simple, it must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The reader must never want to put it down.” – Roald Dahl


Roald Dahl was a huge part of my childhood reading. My sister and I had most of his books, from his single stories, picture and rhyming books and even a short story anthology. There was something magic about his way of storytelling that was the perfect mix of entertainment and genuinely engaging storyline. And of course who could forget the iconic illustrations by Quentin Blake!
One winning formula that I loved with a lot of his stories was the wily nature of the hero of the tale who would use cunning and brains in quite a humorous way to overcome their situation. For example in George’s Marvellous Medicine, my favourite part was always when George mixes his most foulest mixture of medicine to administer to his awful grandmother. And in Fantastic Mr Fox when he pulls of his amazing heist is another classic moment. 
There is usually quite a cl…

Goosebumps by R.L. Stine

Halloween is fast approaching. Pumpkins are appearing in shops, costumes are on sale and everyone bookish is discussing their favourite scary reads. With an abundance of skulls and spiders, ghosts and ghouls everywhere, it got me thinking about my own experiences of Halloween and relevant reads. 
Nothing to me, reminds me of Halloween in book terms than the Goosebumps books by American author R.L. Stine. They were a huge part of my literary childhood; my sister and I loved the spine tingling tales and collected many of the books. We had stand alone novels, the 3-in-1 collection books, Goosebumps 2000 series, and even a hardback Goosebumps book that wailed when you opened the cover! 
Since the release of the first novel, Welcome to Dead House in July 1992, the books gained immense popularity and commercial success worldwide. As of 2008, the series sold over 350 million books worldwide in 35 languages and has been listed on many bestseller lists, including the New York Times Best Selle…

The Salt Marsh - Prologue

It's my spot on The Salt Marsh blog tour today so below is the prologue from the novel by Clare Carson. Enjoy!
Monday 1 May 1978
Jim did his vanishing act the day of the spring fair. Sam was sitting in her room reading, the last of the apple blossom drifting past her window, Jim and the dog downstairs, her mother Liz and her sisters visiting the new baby of one of Liz’s old friends. Liz often went out on the days that Jim was at home. Her mother’s departure had been preceded by an argument. Sam had half heard Liz shouting, Jim shouting back, but hadn’t taken much notice because she had her head stuck in a book and, anyway, they always argued these days. Liz laughed, and that did catch Sam’s attention because there was something manic about the cackle. She clocked Liz yelling, ‘So if I want to know where you are, I’m supposed to call the fucking Home Secretary, am I?’ The front door crunched. Sam was glad to hide in her room, curled up on her beanbag with her book. As she read, s…