If it wasn’t for her son’s severe food allergies, author, journalist and former archaeologist Liselotte Roll would never have pursued her passion for crime writing. With experience in newspaper reporting and inspiration from a thought provoking trip to Argentina in the nineties, Liselotte put her unexpected free time to good use and wrote her debut novel Good Girls Don’t Tell.
-Can you tell me a little bit about your vegan journey? How long have you been vegan? Do you get involved with any activism?
I have been a vegan for about a year and a half. We have a few backyard chickens as pets, since my son is allergic to fury animals and it was when one of these chickens – our favourite one – suddenly died in my arms one morning, that we decided to quit all meat and dairy products. When her body got stiff, I couldn´t help but think about the sick food industry where they would have slit her throat in seconds to prevent this natural thing. I also thought about the chicken industry as a whole and it made me sick. In this industry chickens only have one month to live in gruesome conditions and some breeds can’t even stand up because they raise chickens with abnormally big thighs. Soon after this we saw Forks over Knives on Netflix, and the message that the World Health Organisation sent, finally sunk in, meat can give you cancer. I wasn’t able to eat or serve my children meat after this.
I am not involved in any activism but hopefully I can contribute to the debate by talking freely about my own food choices. I don’t think people can be forced into change, but most people would say they care about animals, their own health, and the environment and will make good decisions when informed.
-When did you first realise that you wanted to be an author?
I have probably known it all along, but I didn´t go for it until my son got sick when he was two (he had allergies and was very sensitive to infections). I took a year off from the newspaper I worked at to be at home with him and used the time when he was asleep to write my first novel Good Girls Don’t Tell.
-What draws you to crime as a genre?
There is a lot of drama around death, sorrow, pain but also rage and sometimes warm feelings and memories. Families come together. All the feelings in life are somewhat summed up around death. It makes it very interesting to write about.
-Where do your ideas for novels stem from and particularly ‘Good Girls Don’t Tell’?
There are usually memories which seem to be the first seed to a story. In Good Girl’s Don’t Tell it was a journey to Argentina in the nineties that set me off. Prior to my work as a news reporter I worked as an archaeologist. It was during that time I visited La Rioja, a city embedded in the Pre-Andees. I was part of a pre-Incan excavation, looking for the remains of the locals referred to as “leopard people”. The country and its generous people made quite an impression on me.
Initially I stayed with a self-proclaimed Shaman woman who had an altar of Marilyn Monroe in her hallway and a dog kennel in her house. I thought it was quite interesting but my colleagues were concerned. They argued that her house wasn´t clean enough (the dogs had some accidents) and that the woman was obviously mad. Eventually a colleague invited me to stay at her house instead, and we became good friends.
My friend told me stories about the military junta and took me to a cemetery where young men who had died during the military regime were exposed in glass coffins, to always be remembered. It was emotional and that’s why ten years later, I came to write Good Girls don´t Tell. It takes place in Argentina during this time and in a present day, snowy Åkersberga, which is a suburb of Stockholm.
-When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
I don’t sketch my characters on paper, but of course I have a loose idea about them before I begin. In Good Girls Don’t Tell I knew that the therapist Linn should be smarter than her husband, the somewhat slow minded cop Magnus, but she is not incredible in any particular way, just a normal, hardworking, average mum who struggles with bad memories from her childhood, like me and many others. Her marriage with Magnus is strong even though the whole family are being hunted by a vicious murderer who likes to scald his victims.
-Do you have a favourite place where you like to write?
As long as I am alone I can write just about anywhere, I don’t have an office with a chair and bookcases although I really would like one. I wrote Good Girl’s don’t Tell sitting on a children’s chair in the corner of my bedroom.
-What is the hardest thing about writing books?
When you are finished and realise that the book will be read by people other than me and my husband.
-In comparison, what is the easiest thing about writing a book?
The first draft, where your story can run free is pure joy. It’s like seeing a movie inside your head, and sometimes, when I get great ideas about the plot, I just sit and laugh out loud like I am deranged.
–Good Girls Don’t Tell is your debut novel; can you tell discuss any plans for future novels?
There has been a second book in the series published in Sweden and in other countries and hopefully that one, and the third one (which is still in my drawer) will be published in the UK as well. The English language opens up the world and it’s very special for me to have my books on the UK market. The UK is full of many excellent authors so it’s an honour. I also have another series about two brothers which launched in Sweden this spring.
-What advice would you give to any aspiring novelists?
If you think you’ve got it, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. By that I don’t mean that you shouldn’t change and improve your story, because you probably should. Nobody can write a perfect novel from the beginning. Publishers however are another story and they like different things so be stubborn like a bulldog getting your story out. Cry and try again.