Identity and memory have long held a fascination for authors and readers alike — we can’t get enough of characters who have to discover who they are. If we’re lucky, they’re in big trouble — and Swedish author Anders de la Motte’s latest protagonist David Sarac is up to his neck in it.
Anders hit the big time with his hi-tech Game trilogy and his latest thriller MemoRandom is out just in time for Christmas. It’s a gripping thriller in which police officer Sarac wakes up from a car crash and remembers nothing, except the he’s done something unforgivable and that he needs to protect his informant Janus. Natalie Aden is the only person he trust to help him piece the clues together. But others will go to desperate lengths to get to Janus before them…
Anders de la Motte was formerly a police officer and then director of security at one of the world’s largest IT companies. The telly rights to MemoRandom have already been snapped up — by the guy who brought Homeland and 24 to the screen.
So Crime Thriller Fella is thrilled that Anders is gives us the intel on his amnesiac copper, how his own career in law-enforcement has fuelled his books, and how as an author sometimes you’ve just got to kill your darlings…
Tell us about David Sarac…
David Sarac works for the intelligence unit at the Stockholm police. His job is to recruit and handle secret informants within the criminal world, assess the information his sources provide and funnel it into other departments in the police. If you ask him what he does he would say that he is a collector of secrets. Sarac lives for his job and he is very good at it. Bribes, threats or blackmail, anything goes as long as he gets results. His only work-tool is a notebook with encrypted information that he keeps very close to his heart.
Since Sarac’s results are excellent his commanding officers conveniently look the other way and does not question his methods and his star within the police community is on the rise. His prize source is a top-secret informant code named Janus, located somewhere in the top level of the organized crime structure in Stockholm. Janus provides Sarac with extremely useful information and people on both sides of the law are very eager to find out Janus’s identity, either to use him for their own purposes or simply to eliminate him. But Sarac is very careful. He is the only person who knows Janus’s true identity, how to contact and control the reluctant informant who for obvious reasons has everything to lose.
But when Sarac suffers from a stroke in the middle of a high-speed pursuit and violently crashes his car he also loses part of his memory. And suddenly he finds himself being just one of the participators in a chase for his own secrets. A chase with a deadly outcome.
What was the inspiration for MemoRandom?
I wanted to write a dark story revolving around police-officers and criminals but lacked an interesting angle. In 2013 my father suffered from a light amnesia and initially lost a year of his life. The gap closed within a few days, first to months, and then weeks but to this day there is still one day he does not remember. As I watched his frustration in dealing with this fact, as well as the various tools he used to backtrack his steps and decrypt his own brain I got increasingly interested in how the brain processes and stores memories and why we sometimes remember things incorrectly.
From there I started thinking of a policeman losing his memory and what would be the most important and dangerous thing to forget. So I came up with David Sarac and his elusive, top-secret and quite dangerous informant code-named Janus. Sarac’s journey is actually the opposite of the tormented-cop-heading-downhill character as he starts out in a pretty bad shape but gradually recovers.
Why are we so fascinated by characters who suffer from amnesia, or find themselves without an identity?
Everyone lives in their own little universe, our own bubble with environments we recognize, people we know and where we feel reasonably safe and in control. I think the whole idea and horror of one day waking up inside an unfamiliar bubble is something most people can relate to and be fascinated by. To your point, the amnesia theme is quite popular and therefore I’ve tried not to overexploit it. Like my father, Sarac suffers from a partial memory loss. He remembers who he is and where he lives, he has “just” lost about two years of his life. Two very important years filled with crucial information he is no longer privy to.
How has your own experience as a police officer and a director of security at a global IT company fuelled your writing?
When working in law-enforcement and private security you constantly deal with problems, mainly those created by others and that you are supposed to try to solve. Your work is dealing with things that are really not supposed to be happening. I’ve been in that business for almost 20 years and by now I have quite a bank of experience that I draw from. It could be scenarios like the “micro kidnappings” that Natalie Aden is orchestrating, events like the dead man in the snowed-over car found in the middle of Stockholm (true, I was first officer on site) or small details like how police officers (and criminals) talk, methods or equipment they use and so on. Like Sarac I have a vast net of contacts, the difference is my secret sources volunteer their help if I need it.
MemoRandom could be coming to TV as an American series – which actors do you see in you mind’s eye as Sarac and Natalie?
Wow, difficult question. Sarac is a tormented, complicated character, rather than a tough guy. Natalie is both smart and has lots of attitude. I’m open to suggestions. Tom Hardy perhaps, and why not Swedish actor Rebecca Ferguson who starred in the latest Mission Impossible?
What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?
Sometimes you have to take out whole scenes or even characters because they slow the story down and do not add any value. Many hours of research and writing gone in just a couple of clicks… In writing this is called “kill your darlings” and sometimes that is how it feels.
Who are the authors you admire, and why?
I admire many authors for many different reasons. Norwegian author Jo Nesbo is always on the top of my list. He is really great at building intricate plots as well as using the tormented-cop-heading-downhill cliché without making it sound in any way like a cliché.
I also admire the fact that he writes stand-alones in different styles than his regular. This is something I would like to try, as a way to develop as a writer.
Give us some advice about writing…
Get started. 99% of all aspiring writers for various reasons never start, mainly because they think you have to have the perfect story ready in every detail first. This is not the case, your story will develop once you start typing, as will your storytelling skills. Every word you write is a small step towards reaching your goal so get started!
What’s next for you and Sarac?
UltiMatum, the sequel to MemoRandom, was released in Sweden in September and is currently being translated to English by brilliant translator Neil Smith. It was awarded the very prestigious Best Swedish Crime Fiction of the Year Award by the Swedish Crime writers association and I’m off course very happy and proud over this.
Currently I’m in New York promoting MemoRandom which is being released here at the same time as in the UK. MemoRandom has gotten some pretty spectacular pre-reviews here and I’m very eager to hear what both the American and British readers think of it.
I hope you like the book and the characters as much as I do.
MemoRandom is available right now in paperback and as an ebook, published by Harper Collins.