In Conversation with Jo Nesbo
Ahead of the publication of his new standalone thriller The Kingdom we sat down with Jo to find out all about his latest book.
How would you describe the plot of The Kingdom if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?
Two brothers with a dark family secret meet again at the farm where they grew up. The younger brother have a grand plan that he promises will make everybody in the village rich, while the older brother – who has fallen helplessly in love with his sister-in-law – does his best to hide what really happened years ago.
What inspired your new book?
Life, fiction, dreams and music.
Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us The Kingdom’s protagonists?
Roy is the narrator and older brother that stayed at the farm after his and Carl’s parents died. He is now in his thirties and is running the gas station. He is a down to earth man of few words and no close friends, but he is well liked and respected for the way he is running his business. He is single, has had two long affairs with married women, but the only woman he’s been in love with was his younger brother’s ex-girlfriend.
Carl is a charming, socially clever and smart guy who has returned with his wife Shannon from Canada. He wants to build a hotel in the village. He is received as a savior but nobody knows he is fleeing from a financial scandal.
Shannon is a strong, talented and sensible woman, an architect whose ambition is to build her masterpiece in the dramatic scenery of the highlands in rural Norway.
The Kingdom is a story that delves into family dynamics and the relationship between brothers. Why did you choose to this focus for your new book?
I’m sure having grown up with two brothers has something to do with it. There is this bond of loyalty that is so strong, and in this story that bond is tested to the extreme. So it’s the eternal question: given a moral dilemma, where you have the competing voices of your heart and your brain, what do you chose? What would YOU have chosen if you were one of the three characters?
The Kingdom is a story set in a very small, rural town. How does this small-town setting contribute to the story? Are there differences between writing a crime story set in a city versus a crime story set in a rural community?
When you have a story set in a confined space, where there is a distinct inside and outside universe, it creates a context in which the reader expects you to give them the main variables of the inside universe. The contract, I feel, is that there can be no new, surprising information or characters in the inside universe just entering the scene after the first act.
Unlike your previous novel, Knife, The Kingdom is a standalone crime novel. How does writing a standalone story differ from writing a series installment?
The arc of the story is different. There is no past you can’t change and no future you have to think of. Apart from that I write about the same things: love, murder, loyalty, greed, morality, lust and the fear of dying.
What are you most excited for readers to discover in this book?
Hopefully the landscape and mentality of this Norwegian hillbilly country will be as fascinating for the readers as it has been for me.
This interview was run by Penguin UK. No part of this interview may published without the permission in writing from the publisher.
by Jo Nesbo