Fiction, interview, Novel

BBC interview with suspense novelist Johan Fundin (BBC Radio Sheffield)

Electronic document version of suspense author Johan Fundin’s interview at BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation), conducted a few days ahead of the live radio show (the Rony Robinson Show – BBC Radio Sheffield). There were both similarities and differences between the e-mail version and the live radio version.

1. Describe yourself in three words.

Determined. Focused. Meticulous.
(Clarification: Determined as in purposeful. Focused as in concentrated. Meticulous as in scrupulous.)

2. Where else have you lived other than South Yorkshire?

In six other towns and cities in three different countries: Kungsör, Karlsborg, Uppsala and Stockholm in Sweden; Paris in France; Leeds in the UK. Kungsör was the town of my childhood. The town is too small to have a college, so I went to college in a nearby town, commuting daily by bus. I moved out of my parental home at the age of eighteen to do my national service in the Swedish Army. This was at the tail end of the Cold War and it showed in the military training we received: the targets we were shooting at with automatic firearms and anti-tank rifles were all models of Eastern Bloc/Soviet Union military targets. The Cold War paranoia and my experience from growing up in a time when Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain have an influence on one of my forthcoming novels. As a nineteen-year-old I moved to the city of Uppsala to study chemistry and physics at the internationally recognised Uppsala University. I specialised later in spectroscopy and condensed matter physics and completed my PhD at twenty-seven. What followed was several years as a fixed-term contract scientist at various laboratories and high-tech research facilities in three European countries, or four countries, if we count the week I spent at the synchrotron radiation facility DESY in Hamburg, Germany.

3. Tell us about somebody you love, or have loved.

I love my cat, Tilly, who, technically, isn’t really my cat, at least not completely mine. She’s actually my ex-girlfriend’s cat, but we like to think of the cat as partly mine. Tilly inspired the fictitious cat in my novel Mr. Maniac, and she’s inspiring at least another two fictitious cats, in my next two novels, respectively.

4. Tell us about the day of your life you’ll never forget.

There are many days of my life I’ll never forget but let me pick one of those days: I was nine years old and had decided to learn the names and positions of most of the constellations in the northern celestial hemisphere and the names and positions of the most conspicuous stars in each constellation. On one of my unforgettable days, I got to the constellation Orion, and was struck by how impressive it was. Indeed, Orion is one of the most stunning constellations in the night sky. Orion’s brightest stars, Betelgeuse, Rigel and Bellatrix; I dreamt about studying all three at a closer distance, hundreds of lightyears from Earth, as a space traveller in a faster-than-light spacecraft.

5. The person who/experience which has changed you or inspired you most.

The persons who have inspired me most, and in different ways, are my favourite writers and filmmakers, for example, John Saul, Dean Koontz, Robin Cook, Stephen King, David Cronenberg and James Cameron.

6. What are the things that make you most happy?

Having goals to look forward to. And the thrill of creative effort.

7. What are the things that make you really angry?

Unfairness and injustice in the world.

8. If you could only ever listen to one song again what would it be?

[My first choice:] “Dream Warriors” by the metal band Dokken. The song was written for the film A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. To me, the song title becomes a metaphor for the novelist. The fiction writer is a dream warrior. He finds himself on a mental battlefield, surrounded by his dreams and nightmares. He fights his way across the wide, open space, using his only weapon, the pen or the keyboard. [For technical reasons, the BBC radio station played instead my second choice of song:] “I See You” performed by singer Leona Lewis, the theme from Avatar, one of my favourite films. Indeed, James Cameron is one of my favourite filmmakers. Recurring themes in Cameron’s films, such as the conflicts between technology and humanity, the dangers of corporate greed, strong female characters, and a romance subplot, are my own favourite themes, which I keep exploring in my novels.

9. If you were writing your life story, which would be the hardest bit to write?

It’s always a challenge to explain something to somebody who doesn’t share your perspective. The hardest bit to write would be to explain to a non-artist the scientist-turned-novelist aspect of myself. My inspiration to take that seemingly daring leap came from writers and film directors who had made extreme career changes similar to my own. Michael Crichton, best known as the author of Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, had a medical degree from Harvard. Science fiction horror filmmaker David Cronenberg studied biochemistry at the University of Toronto. James Cameron, director of Titanic, Aliens and The Terminator, was once a physics student at Fullerton College, California. Adventure novelist James Rollins has a background as a veterinary surgeon. Michael Haneke, one of the most respected European film directors, studied psychology at the University of Vienna. Norman Mailer was once a student of aeronautical engineering. Kurt Vonnegut majored in chemistry. A medical school graduate from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Robin Cook could have worked as an ophthalmology surgeon but he was more interested in writing. And so on.

10. Tell us something you’d still like to achieve.

A sustained career as a novelist. Writing a couple of books is hard work but it isn’t the end station. I keep my eyes focused on the long road ahead.