Mats Strandberg, an award-winning writer of adult, YA and children’s fiction, was born in the small industrial town of Fagersta, in the middle of the Swedish forest; the place inspired Engelsfors, the setting for the internationally bestselling YA fantasy Engelfors Trilogy (with co-author Sara B. Elfgren). The Circle, Fire and The Key (UK: Cornerstone; US: Overlook Press), are published in 30 countries, and ABBA founder Benny Andersson has turned the first book, The Circle, into a hit movie.
Blood Cruise, his fourth solo novel, is a top ten bestseller across Europe; Mats is currently writing the screenplay (with frequent collaborator Sara Elfgren).
His award-winning journalism won him Columnist of the Year for his regular columns for Aftonbladet, Sweden’s biggest evening newspaper.
KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
I come from a small industrial town in Sweden, but I moved by myself to Stockholm when I was a never-been-kissed 16-year-old. Which was of course way too young, and I had way too much fun. I worked as a journalist and columnist for many years, but now I can write books full-time, which is an incredible luxury. I have a Twin Peaks tattoo (FIRE WALK WITH ME on my arm). I am married, no kids. I love dogs but am allergic to them. I am writing this from La Palma, one of the Canary Islands, where we just got a small house with a big garden. I have orange trees now!
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
Reading, bingewatching TV shows, going to the movies. But most of all just hanging out with friends. At the moment, I miss them all very much, since I am in the middle of an intense work period.
A short inspired by Mats Strandberg’s ‘The Home‘
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
I loved the Enid Blyton books, and Michael Ende’s Neverending Story. I started reading Stephen King when I was 10. I got so scared that I broke out in hives, but I was hooked, and after that I never looked back. I read everything by King, and Dean R Koontz. Also, I must confess, V C Andrews.
KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?
I could never choose one album! But yes, music is incredibly important. I often make playlists on Spotify for my characters, as a way of getting to know them. Also, music and lyrics can provide a shortcut to get you in the mood of writing a certain scene. When I wrote BLOOD CRUISE, I listened to a lot of movie scores, for instance Daft Punk’s score for Tron: Legacy. (Awful movie, amazing music.)
KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?
I would probably say that THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) is my favourite horror/thriller. And THE EXORCIST III is probably the most underrated horror movie of all time. If you want to know more about my taste in movies – including guilty pleasures – you can check out the hashtag #mats31daysofhalloween on Instagram.
KR: What are you reading now?
I just finished THE FACT OF A BODY by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. It’s both a memoir and a true crime story, and it really blew my mind.
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
Obviously Stephen King, since he was my first idol. I love the way he mixes the social realism with the supernatural. But he especially inspires me in the way that his novels are always welcoming the reader, sucking them in – there are no unnecessary hurdles, just open arms. But I have a lot of inspirations. For instance, the BLOOD CRUISE character of Dan Appelgren, an aging Eurovision star forced to work the karaoke bar aboard the ship, was inspired by Frank in Clive Barker’s THE HELLBOUND HEART.
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I try to write some sort of storyline, just to have a vague sort of map of where I’m going. I also try to figure out from the start how I want the story to end. Because, as much as I love horror stories, they often sort of fall apart towards the end. I want to know what goal I am working towards.
KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do tons of research. I really enjoy that part of the job, actually, because it gives you so many ideas. Also, I think when you are writing horror or fantasy, you are asking the reader to suspend so much disbelief that you have to help them along by making the “real” elements as believable as possible. BLOOD CRUISE was a really difficult book to research, because the booze cruise companies are quite secretive – for good reason. Thankfully, I found people who would help me out. I also talked to experts on predators, on human psychology in catastrophic situations, all kinds of stuff.
KR: Describe your usual writing day?
I have an office that I share with other writers and illustrators, which is a huge relief. It sort of creates a barrier between your work self and your private self, to have a job to go to. When I write the first draft, it’s usually just a couple of hours a day in front of the computer, and then a lot of walking and thinking. When I edit, however, I usually lock myself in and focus more or less every waking hour.
KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?
I think it’s always the latest book you’ve written, and at the moment, I am very proud of the YA novel I am doing the final edits on.
Trailer for Mats Strandberg’s ‘The Circle‘
KR: Do you read your book reviews?
Yeah, I do. But I try not to. Even though I’ve been blessed with almost only good reviews, it can still mess with you to read someone’s analysis of your work. I write so much on instinct, and I’m afraid to lose that if I get too conscious of what it looks like from an outside perspective, if you know what I mean. I do however love keeping in touch with readers on social media.
KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?
I would say that you can never plan for success, so you should only write the books you would want to read. Noone else is going to write that particular book. And nothing inspires you more. Also, allow yourself to write badly. Just tell the story. The rest of it will be fixed in editing, anyway. I do at least five drafts of every book.
KR: What scares you?
Donald Trump, and the rise of right-wing extremists across Europe. Nothing is scarier than the real world, and this timeline has jumped the shark for sure.
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
Paperback. Any day.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
BLOOD CRUISE is a 12-hour ride filled with gore, guts and grogs on a booze cruise between Sweden and Finland. There is no way to get off the boat, and no way to call for help from the outside. But in the middle of the blood and booze, there are characters that you will hopefully love, or love to hate. The latest novel in Sweden is called THE HOME, and it’s a possession story with a twist, with a home for the elderly as the setting. I hope it will get released in the UK as well – I guess that depends on how BLOOD CRUISE will do.
KR: Love the covers to both of these. Kendall Reviews will be reviewing Blood Cruise shortly and is looking forward to The Home.
KR: What are you working on now?
The YA novel is called THE END. After that, I am working on a few TV and movie projects, my next horror novel, a horror graphic novel and a children’s book.
KR: Thank you very much Mats.
You can follow Mats on Twitter @matsstrandberg_
You can visit Mats’s official website www.matsstrandberg.com
You can visit Mats’s author page here
You can follow Mats in Instagram here
You can find Mats on Facebook here
On the Baltic Sea, no one can hear you scream.
Tonight, twelve hundred expectant passengers have joined the booze-cruise between Sweden and Finland. The creaking old ship travels this same route, back and forth, every day of the year.
But this trip is going to be different.
In the middle of the night the ferry is suddenly cut off from the outside world. There is nowhere to escape. There is no way to contact the mainland. And no one knows who they can trust.
Welcome aboard the Baltic Charisma.
On a night after the apparent suicide of high school student Elias Malmgren, a blood-red moon fills the night sky. Minoo wakes up outside her house, still in her pajamas, and is drawn by an invisible force to an abandoned theme park on the outskirts of town. Soon five of her classmates—Vanessa, Linnéa, Anna-Karin, Rebecka, and Ida—arrive, compelled by the same force. A mystical being takes over Ida’s body and tells them they are fated to fight an ancient evil that is hunting them. As the weeks pass, each girl discovers she has a unique magical ability. They begin exploring their powers. The six are wildly different and definitely not friends . . . but they are the Chosen Ones.
You can buy a copy of The Circle from Amazon US