The Men Behind Sweden’s top crime writing duo Erik Axl Sund

Erik Axl Sund is the joint pen name for two writers – Jerker Eriksson and Håkan Axlander Sundquist. The Swedish duo are behind the incredibly dark crime thriller The Crow Girl which was released in the UK several years ago, and which Alex M discovered and read over the summer this year.

Alex found the book dark, shocking, and absorbing and decided to look into the talented writers behind it. He had some burning questions for them, so we got in touch to see what they have been up to since the release of The Crow Girl, how they work together to write their joint novels, and whether their new work will be translated and published in English too (come on publisher people you are holding back some awesome work from us)!

It has been a while since The Crow Girl trilogy was released – where do we find the pair of you now and what have you been up to?

Thank you for asking! One of us has moved to the south of Sweden, close to Denmark, and the other of us remains faithful to Stockholm. Being separated, due to the fact that we write together, is not new for us. In the beginning, now over ten years ago, we were working on our own, sending texts to each other and met only on weekends. Now we meet to work every other month or so.

Since the Crowgirl we’ve finished two other novels that have been published in both Sweden and some other countries, but not in the UK, though. The novels are stand-alones even though they take place in the same fictional world as the Crowgirl. Some characters are the same, some new has been introduced.

You have another two books – Glaskroppar (2014) and most recently Dockliv (2019)– which are part of a new trilogy what can you tell us about these?

These two novels are part in a series about melancholia. Black, Grey and White melancholia. We still write about young adults and contemporary problems. The main theme in Glaskroppar – Glassbodies/Bodies of glass – is the fact that suicide among young people are increasing, especially among young girls/women. We try to describe the lack of the will to live. But it’s also about creativity and the will to live forever. It is a double-edged sword.

In Dockliv – Dolls life – the main theme is trafficking, exploration of young people, mainly on the internet, but also IRL. Two young girls with totally different backgrounds meet and realize that they are very similar. One is refugee from Nigeria that has lost almost her entire family during the escape through Europe, ending up in a camp in the north of Sweden. The other girl is raised in a neglected suburb in Stockholm with poor education, drugs and violence always present. You could call it a road movie…

Will there be a chance we might get these in English due to the popularity of The Crow Girl?

As previous mentioned the novels are published in other countries. As far as we know, they have been very popular in Germany. What about the UK? We don’t know. It’s up to our publishing house and nothing we can affect. But of course it would be an honour to once again be published in the British language. We’ll see what’s happening.

Have you ever been approached by anyone about your work being made into a movie or TV Series or even writing a series yourselves? If it ever were who would you love to see in charge behind the camera?

Yes, there have been plenty of plans to adapt the novels to both film and TV, but as today it has only plans. When it comes to who we would see that should transform our text into moving pictures there are a lot of talented persons. The quality of many of the new TV-series are really high so there must be plenty of them that could do a good work with our novels.

You have been consistently shortlisted by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers for your work – it seems that the pairing of you writing novels is a successful concoction – what is your approach to writing as a pair and how do you make it work so well?

The first, and maybe the most important thing, is that we are our best friends since a long time. We share a lot of political values as well as interests, such as football, music and art as well as hanging out for a beer and playing pool late at nights at some shabby bar. We compliment each other and have different skills when it comes to tell a story. We talk a lot, test ideas and disagree and disagree and disagree until we finally come up with a common plan.

We both have a background in the music scene and there is it important to be able to compromise in the creative act. We have adopted that and take turns in who should be the drummer in a chapter and who shall do the lead singing. If both of us want to play a guitar solo it wouldn’t work. If you understand the parable? And I think you do.

But of course has the work changed over time, today it’s a bit harder due to the fact that we now know that we have readers. Real persons that are affected of our texts. In the beginning we just wrote to ourselves. 

Do you have any particular places in Sweden that you like to escape to for inspiration, to write, or simply to get away from everyone?

Before the Corona-pandemic we used to travel abroad some times during the writing process. We’ve rented a flat in Kiev for two weeks of writing. Nice, Lisboa, Barcelona and Mallorca are other places where we have been staying for writing and getting into the bubble. A mental thing when the story is everything. We talk about the characters as they are flesh and blood.

We also have access to a small house outside of Stockholm, in the archipelago, where we can stay and work in loneliness.

What have you been watching, listening to, and reading yourselves recently – any recommendations?

Writer 1: “I mainly watch the news and a lot documentaries of very various topics. In fact it can be about everything, as long as it is nonfictional. When it comes to music it is almost the same. I prefer nonfictional music which means that I am very conservative in the taste of old school punk and new wave. I am also addicted to Podcasts, mainly about football and crimes.”

Writer 2: “Since I moved to the countryside, I have been listening to music more intensively. Everything from roots blues to French DIY synth. There is also time to listen through a band’s entire album catalog. A recommendation is all 30 (or so) studio albums with British band The Fall, there is not a bad record there. As a hillbilly I have also become something of a TV series junkie, some really strong series in my opinion are My Brilliant Friend and I Know This Much Is True. Warm and chilly stuff.”

Finally, what is your tip of the day?

Make love, not war and while doing it keep the distance.

Interview by Alex Minnis

Photo Credits: Sandy Haggart

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