September 3, 2008 / 10:13 AM / 10 years ago

Horror writer puts a new spin on vampire myth

STOCKHOLM (Reuters Life!) - Unlike most of her literary antecedents, the vampire in John Ajvide Lindqvists novel “Let the Right One In” does not live in a gothic castle on a mountainside. She lives in an downmarket Swedish suburb, next to a houseful of alcoholics and a bullied schoolboy.

Handout photo of Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist from publisher Ordfront Förlag. REUTERS/Mia Ajvide/Handout.

Critics have praised the novel’s new twist on the vampire myth and the film version recently won The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival.

After a career as a magician and a stand-up comedian, Lindqvist turned his hand to writing, publishing four books in four years. Reuters went to the successful horror writer to discover what his next books will be about. And why a neatly mowed lawn is scary.

Q: Did you know from the start that you wanted to write horror fiction?

A: No. It wasn’t until I wrote a horror short story that everything felt completely right. It went so well that I tried writing an entire novel and that was “Let the Right One In”. In a way, that is my best book — it has a kind of fever that drives it forward all the time. To a certain extent, that is probably because I partly describe my own life as a child. In that respect it is a pretty conventional debut novel. But then I added an element that wasn’t really a part of my childhood.

Q: Can you tell us about your next project?

A: I know roughly what the next three books will be about and I’m looking forward to writing each of them, because they are quite different from each other. The next one is called “Little Star” and it is about a young girl who gets an exceptional breakthrough as a pop star. She gathers a group of young girls around her who like her so much they will pretty much do anything for her. Which is a little sad, since she uses her celebrity for a different purpose than what is common.

Q: It doesn’t really sound like a horror story?

A: Sure, it will be bloody. But I often think when I start writing that now there’s gonna be blood, but then there isn’t. There are feelings and relationships and stuff, because I am just as interested in that.

Q: Do you never get tempted by the traditional horror settings?

A: No, because the horror stories that take place on some satellite where everyone is a vampire and someone is a super hero don’t say anything to me. I like it when there is a good description about what life is like and the kinds of problems people have, only that they are saddled with another problem to deal with that in some way raises the temperature of their own. But the book after the next one will take place in a kind of parallel reality, on an enormous lawn where people have been transferred. It is kind of emptiness from a suburban perspective. Neatly mowed green grass as far as the eye can see. Pretty scary.

Q: You have written about vampires, zombies, ghosts and trolls. Does it have to be something new every time?

A: I could never stomach writing one book after the other with the same people, the same settings and the same essential conflicts. That would just be office work. Neither the next book nor the one after has any prototypes in classic folklore or mythology. There won’t be any werewolves, for example.

Q: In your latest book the sea is the enemy, why is that?

A: It is probably because my father drowned ten years ago. I went and looked at him at the morgue and I’m glad I did. But he looked kind of scary. And I got some kind of zombie fear after that — I saw things in the shadows. I’m not afraid of the dark and I don’t scare easily, but then I was actually frightened for a while. I think it has stuck. But now I’m not afraid of the sea at all anymore.

Q: In most of your books you refer to The Smiths singer Morrissey, what does he mean to you?

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A: Morrissey is probably my greatest literary role model. I think my characters tend to see reality in a way that resembles what he describes in his lyrics — the longing to escape and the impossible love and the one who will save you, where rescue comes from the wrong direction.

Q: The characters in your books are often outsiders. Why?

A: I think I would find it difficult to credibly portray a person who works on some computer company and has a chilly connection to his wife. I have to write about people whose basic conditions in some way resemble my own, even though I am much happier. People who live in a kind of situation that makes them likely to embrace change, even if it comes from the dark side.

Editing by Matthew Jones

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