Jo Nesbo was born in 1960 in Oslo, Norway. After graduating from the Norwegian School of Economics, he worked as a freelance journalist and as a stockbroker. His first crime novel featuring Harry Hole was published in Norway in 1997 and was an instant hit, winning the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel (an accolade shared with Peter Høeg, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson). After the success of his first novel, Nesbo devoted his time to writing and to his other passion: music. He also is the lead singer and songwriter for the popular Norwegian rock band 'di Derre'.
The Harry Hole novels have been a huge success, hitting bestseller lists across Europe and selling over 9 million copies worldwide. In 2010 The Snowman took the UK by storm and spent more than three months on the Sunday TimesThe Leopard was an instant hit, going straight to no. 1 in the Sunday Times hardback fiction charts, and the paperback was in the top ten overall bestsellers. Phantom secured Jo's first UK no. 1 in paperback. Police, the tenth Harry Hole thriller, debuted at no. 2 in the hardback fiction charts.
I come from a reading, story-telling family. My mother was a librarian and my father used to spend every afternoon reading in the sitting room. He told stories too, long, familiar narratives told so well that we wanted to hear them again and again. The first novel my father read to me was Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. My father wasn’t too sure if the Nobel Prize-winning author was suitable for a boy aged just seven, but I insisted. Why? Because of the cover: a blood-dripping pig’s head on a stake . . .
Did you always want to be a writer when you were younger?
Yes, I guess I did. As I listened to my father read, I knew I wanted to try and write myself. I was already impressing kids my own age, even slightly older ones, with my gruesome ghost stories.
A lot of my literature-loving, bohemian (in their own eyes at least) friends started writing the great European novel at the age of 17. Or at least they started talking about it. I didn’t say much, and waited till I was 37.
In the past you have been a musician, songwriter and economist: which was your favourite job?
I still play gigs, and occasionally write and record songs. I love performing almost as much as writing, actually I hardly think of it as work. As Bruce Springsteen sings: ‘Been paid a king’s ransom for doin’ what comes naturally.’ Working as an economist was . . . well, work. Overpaid work, but work. My favourite previous job was as a taxi driver, I guess I like observing people.
Do you write full-time and do you have a routine when writing?
I definitely write as much as possible. Everywhere and all the time. When I don’t write, I play. I play about a hundred gigs a year. The flexible nature of my work allows me to travel extensively throughout the year, which is something I enjoy. My longer journeys often take me to South America, Asia and Australia; every year, I spend two to three months in Thailand together with my laptop, thinking up new ideas for forthcoming projects and working on novels already planned.
Who (or what) inspired you to create the character of Harry Hole?
It was so many things. A friend; a drunkard I often drove around when I was working as a taxi driver in my small home town; myself; and other characters from fiction.
What can your readers expect for Harry in the future?