THE SANDMAN: Five Questions with Lars Kepler

When it comes to scary, Lars Kepler is so, so good. 

In truth, Kepler is actually a pseudonym used by the critically-acclaimed husband-and-wife writing team of Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril, the co-authors behind the internationally bestselling Joona Linna and Saga Bauer series. Together, the couple has had their work translated into 40 languages and sold more than 10 million copies of their books. 

On their own, both Alexandra and Alexander (who live in central Stockholm and have three daughters together) are accomplished writers. Before, and even since taking on the pseudonym of Kepler, both authors have published their own separate works. . . but it’s writing together and merging their individual styles into one unique voice that makes Lars Kepler so special. 

The Sandman, which is already a #1 internationally bestselling novel, is set to be published by Knopf, the couple’s new American-based publisher, who has had plenty of success working with other Scandinavian thriller authors such as Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Jo Nesbo (The Thirst).

Armed with a new translator (Neil Smith) and the considerable resources of their new publisher, the Ahndorils, who have already conquered the rest of the world from a selling standpoint, are finally ready to re-introduce their work to the American audience when The Sandman comes out tomorrow, Tuesday, March 6th. 

I won’t say much so I don’t give away the plot, but in my review, I noted that Jurek, the book’s antagonist, might be the most cunning, maniacal, and superbly written villain to terrify this generation of readers. Think Hannibal Lecter, but times a hundred. Seriously, this book will mess with you as you read it. . . and I mean that in the best way possible.

Thank you to Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril for taking the time to partake in our Five Questions segment, and for providing such great answers! See the Q&A below, followed by more information about The Sandman.


The Sandman: Five Questions with Lars Kepler

TRBS: This is, hands down, one of the scariest books I’ve ever read! I couldn’t put it down, and if I had to in order to do something else for a moment, I couldn’t quit thinking about it. What kind of research did you do before actually sitting down to write this book?

Kepler: “Thank you for your kind words! That makes us really happy. TRBS is a fantastic and important blog. Keep on spying!

“Research is a big part of our work since authenticity is essential in order to create suspense. In our research for The Sandman, we visited crime scenes and prisons, went to shooting ranges, read forensic reports and talked to police officers. To us, crime fiction stands with one foot in reality and the other in the world of fiction, where anything is possible.”

TRBS: Jurek Walter, the bad guy in The Sandman, is perhaps the most cunning, maniacal, and superbly written villain to terrify this generation of readers. . . who was your inspiration in creating him, and what do you think makes a great bad guy?

Kepler: “We read a lot of the most recent research in the field and interviewed doctors, psychiatrists, criminologists, and investigators. We focused our research on the serial killers who appeared to be the most intelligent, who had strategies and who communicated. We then searched within ourselves to find our deepest fears and let those fears interlace with reality. Jurek Walter was so real to us during the writing process that Alexandra had nightmares about him almost every night. In order to create a great “bad guy,” you have to feel a certain empathy for him, but that isn’t the easiest thing to do when it comes to serial killers. It’s not about pardoning him. Rather, we wanted to understand Jurek Walter and find his logic.

“The answer that some people are born monsters just isn’t interesting to us. There has to be something more.”

TRBS: What is your writing process like, and do you know all the twists and turns before you begin writing, or do you think up some of those things as you go?

Kepler: “The answer is actually a mix of the two. We never start writing before we’ve planned our story down to the very last detail. We write hundreds of notes with all the different scenes on them and put the notes up on a wall. But something happens when we sit side by side at our computers, e-mailing paragraphs to each other, filling in gaps, and changing things. It’s as if the story and the characters take on a life of their own. At that point, it becomes important to steer everything in the right direction and listen to what the story wants. When we finish a book, there is not a single sentence in it that one of us has written alone.”

TRBS: The Sandman is actually the fourth book in your Joona Linna series, but the first published in the U.S. by Knopf, who has had major success with other Scandinavian thriller authors. What’s it like being with Knopf, and what are you doing to get ready for your upcoming book tour? 

Kepler: “We’re very impressed with the collaboration with Knopf thus far. They have been absolutely fantastic and we feel very honored to be able to be a part of such an esteemed publishing house. We have a new translator named Neil Smith who has the ability to capture and replicate the exact tone from the original books and an editor, Edward Kastenmeier, who truly understands our style. Now we’re very much looking forward to traveling across the U.S. and meeting readers. At this point, our preparations mostly revolve around getting everything in order at home. We have three teenage daughters and Alexander’s mother will be living with them during the book tour.”

TRBS: Lastly, what can U.S. readers expect after The Sandman? Can you tell us about the other upcoming Kepler releases we can look forward to in 2018?

Kepler: “In addition to working on The Sandman, Neil Smith has also made new translations of our first three books, which will be published in paperback starting in June. First out is The Hypnotist, our debut and breakthrough book, where the reader meets our criminal investigator Joona Linna for the first time as he works together with a hypnotist to interrogate a traumatized witness. That will be followed by The Nightmare, where our second protagonist, Saga Bauer, is introduced, and, finally, The Fire Witness, which revolves around a murder at an institution for troubled girls in the northern part of Sweden.”


THe Sandman“Sensational … like meeting Hannibal Lecter all over again – twice.” —Lee Child

The #1 internationally best-selling thriller from the author of The Hypnotist tells the chilling story of a manipulative serial killer and the two brilliant police agents who must try to beat him at his own game.

Late one night, outside Stockholm, Mikael Kohler-Frost is found wandering. Thirteen years earlier, he went missing along with his younger sister. They were long thought to have been victims of Sweden’s most notorious serial killer, Jurek Walter, now serving a life sentence in a maximum security psychiatric hospital. Now Mikael tells the police that his sister is still alive and being held by someone he knows only as the Sandman. Years ago, Detective Inspector Joona Linna made an excruciating personal sacrifice to ensure Jurek’s capture. He is keenly aware of what this killer is capable of, and now he is certain that Jurek has an accomplice. He knows that any chance of rescuing Mikael’s sister depends on getting Jurek to talk, and that the only agent capable of this is Inspector Saga Bauer, a twenty-seven-year-old prodigy. She will have to go under deep cover in the psychiatric ward where Jurek is imprisoned, and she will have to find a way to get to the psychopath before it’s too late–and before he gets inside her head.





Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck is the editor-in-chief of The Real Book Spy, and one of the thriller genre’s most well-recognized critics. He currently lives in southwest Michigan with his wife and their five children. For more information, make sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook


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