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Author Interview with Sara Onnebo
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Author Interview with Sara Onnebo

interviewed on Apr 4, 2019 Sweden
Sara currently lives with her family on the south coast of Sweden, close to where she grew up.
She loves reading and feels that she has an overactive imagination. Just like many other book lovers, she had dreamt of writing a novel one day but couldn't get the time to do so. But she thought it's now or never. She started making up stories in her mind to keep it occupied when a lot of things were going on in her life. Today, she has published four thrillers in Swedish with a fifth on the way. One of them, "The Daughter", was published in English last year. The second novel, "The Wolf", is currently being translated to English as well. When not working on her books, she creates content for social media, websites, and magazines.
Q. With a PhD in Biochemistry and years of experience in medical research, to writing four novels. How was the transition?
I've always dreamed of writing a novel, but never had the time. When my daughter was born I had a heart failure and was unwell for a long time. I started writing to keep my mind occupied. A few years later I was writing for a living. Not just fiction, my day job is freelance copywriting.
Q. Tell us briefly about all the four thrillers which you have published in Swedish.
My first thriller is a YA novel set in London. My three other thrillers are all part of the Tulisaari Trilogy where The Daughter is the first book.
Q. Tell us about the main protagonists, Annika and Emilia, their characters and life in general.
Annika grew up in Finland (in Tulisaari) and leaves her home town for good after a tragedy occurs there. She starts a new life in Sweden and a few years later she has a daughter, Emilia, who she raises on her own.

Annika is very secretive about why she left Finland and is trying to protect Emilia from the truth. Then, one day, Annika dies suddenly in an accident and Emilia is overcome by grief. As sorrow turns into curiosity, she starts to delve into her mother's mysterious past. The search takes her to the small town of Tulisaari. She soon realizes that the past is catching up on her and that her life is in danger.
Q. "The Daughter" is written as a series of diary entries by Emilia. How did this style of writing the book help you convey the story better?
The diary entries allow the reader to experience everything that happens to Emilia in Tulisaari from her (limited) point of view. At the same time, the reader will have more information about the people Emilia encounters in Tulisaari as the diary chapters are alternating with flashbacks from the perspective of Emilia's mother and her friends and relatives. It just felt like the most natural way to tell the story. I didn't think about it too much before starting the project.
Q. What was the thought process behind creating the fictional town of Tulisaari? Was it self thought or did you draw your inspiration from somewhere?
My husband is from Finland and a few years ago we bought an old beautiful log house close to the tiny village of Tulisaari (which means Fire Island in Finnish). I liked the name and borrowed it for my fictional town. Then I added houses, a school, a church and a town center. It could be any small Finnish town in the Ostrobothnia area.
Q. Why did you set up your story in Finland, while your protagonist is from Sweden?
The area where "The Daughter" takes place is the perfect setting for a psychological thriller. Vast forests, midnight sun, cold and dark winter days and a lot of silence. Although Finland and Sweden are very similar there are some differences between the cultures and languages that I find fascinating. I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of an outsider.
Q. The Tulisaari thriller series is a trilogy. Why did you choose to complete the story in three novels and not add more?
When I had written The Daughter I found that I was not quite done with Tulisaari yet - I had put so much effort into imagining the town and the people living there - and quickly wrote the second part, The Wolf. However, as I was finishing the third part, The Silence, I felt it was time to say goodbye to Tulisaari, at least for now.
Q. Your novel, "The Wolf" is getting translated in English to reach a wider audience. When can the readers expect it to be out?
The end of 2019 or beginning of 2020.
Q. Tell us more about what's inside "The Wolf" and what can the readers expect from this story.
Just like The Daughter, the story takes place both in present time and in the past. The readers will recognize some of the characters, but the story is quite different. The Wolf has an element of the supernatural with a haunted house at the center of the it all.
Q. How are your thrillers different from others in the market?
Unlike most other 'nordic noir' crime fiction I don't write from a police point of view. I like to explore personal relationships rather than the dark side of society.
Q. Do you want to share a few of your favorite lines from any of your books or tell your readers about any memorable or peculiar events inside or related to them?
My favorite scene, and the first one that popped into my head, takes place in a smoke sauna. A smoke sauna is a type of sauna without a chimney. You burn wood in a large stove and the smoke fills the room. When the sauna is hot enough, the fire is allowed to die and the smoke is ventilated out.

We always have a smoke sauna when we visit my husband's family. The sauna is situated a short distance from the house and in winter we have to use candle light to be able to see anything at all. It is a lovely experience, but one time when we sat there in the dark (the candles had gone out) with the residual smoke stinging my eyes and lungs, I though to myself that it would be absolutely terrifying to get locked in. That was how The Daughter and the other books in the Tulisaari Trilogy came about. It all started in the sauna!
Q. What other books are you currently writing and what stage are they at?
I'm working on my fifth thriller at the moment. It is set on a remote island in the archipelago of Helsinki.
Q. What genres apart from thrillers would you like to write?
I always thought I would be writing feel-good or romance novels. I'm not sure why they come out as thrillers.
Q. You have traveled the world spending fifteen years in France, Australia, England and Spain. How did travel influence your writing and life?
My travels and years abroad is my inspiration. Travelling is hugely educational and you learn something from every person you meet and place you visit. I've been fortunate enough to have worked with colleagues from all corners of the world. We are all the same, but it is the small cultural difference and language barriers that make it so interesting and satisfying to get to know a new city, culture or country.

Feeling slightly out of place is something I'm very familiar with and I enjoy placing my main characters in an environment they are not accustomed to. I'm always curious about what they will do when they are taken out of their comfort zone.
Q. How did your writing journey begin?
I've been making up stories and writing them down for as long as I can remember. Creative writing is very therapeutic and it's great exercise for your brain!
Q. What is your writing process, a typical writing day routine?
I probably spend more time thinking about my writing than actually writing. I 'write in my head' when I'm driving, cleaning, shopping or doing other everyday tasks. By the time I sit down in front of my computer I already have a pretty good idea what I want to write and then I just go with it. Often the characters take me in unexpected directions. I also go walking or running almost every day. That's usually when I solve problems with the plot.
Q. What book marketing techniques have been the most effective for you?
Social media
Q. What do you think makes a book sell, or makes a reader buy it?
A great book cover! I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I do, so others must too. I'm very pleased with the cover for The Daughter. I think the designer did a great job with it! I also think recommendations from friends and other readers are important.
Q. What’s the most moving or affecting thing a reader has said to you?
My books are fast paced and easy to read. I write purely to entertain. I often hear from readers that hadn't picked up a book for years but after reading my thrillers they rediscovered their joy for reading again. That is a nice thing to be told as an author.
Q. What are your favourite three books, and why?
I've read so many great books, I can't pick just three!
Q. Which all authors have influenced your writing the most?
There are so many talented female thriller writers at the moment, such as Gillian Flynn, Lisa Jewell, Paula Hawkins, Clare Mackintosh, and B.A Paris to just mention a few. I also love historical fiction, especially anything by Philippa Gregory. J. K. Rowling is of course another great role model for any writer.
Q. What all interests you apart from writing?
When I'm not working I spend time with my family. I have two children, a boy and a girl. I'm also a yoga enthusiast and a keen photographer.
Q. At QwertyThoughts.com, we are trying to bring authors and readers under the same roof, to connect, discuss and socialize over books. What's your take on this?
I think this is a great platform for bringing authors and readers together. There is nothing better than interacting with readers and other authors, virtually or in person. They are generally a very supporting bunch of people.
Q. What message do you want to share with budding writers?
It's true what everyone is saying: you must read a lot and write a lot if you want to be a writer.

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Comments (2)

  • Hey Sara, It's so inspiring to read about you and how you began writing ! Thanks for sharing this

    4 . 1 Reply
  • I like reading books about the paranormal, be it fiction or real. I look forward to read yours!

    3 . Reply
Cover Pic
Swedish suspense author
About the author
I have exchanged my science career for one which allows me to make up stories for a living, both as a writer of novels and in my “real” job as a freelance writer, photographer and sometimes translator. I have published four mystery/suspense novels in Swedish with a fifth on the way. The Daughter is my first novel in English. I'm an enthusiastic world-traveler, and have previously lived in France, Australia, England and Spain, but have now settled down (for the moment at least) on the south...more