Jo Nesbo played football for Norway's premier league team Modle, but his dream of playing professionally for Spurs was dashed when he tore crucial ligaments in his knee at the age of eighteen. After three years military service he attended business school and formed the band Di derre (Them There). Their second album topped the charts in Norway, but he continued working as a financial analyst, crunching numbers during the day and gigging at night.
When commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, The Bat. He is regarded as one of the world’s leading crime writers, with both The Leopard and Phantom topping the UK bestseller charts, and his novels are published in 40 countries
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?