Questions on Black Mail
How did you think of the idea for Black Mail?
One evening, I got an e-mail from Sweden which wasn’t meant for me. I wanted to let the sender know immediately that I was not the intended addressee. Then I realized that I didn’t speak a word of Swedish, apart from the names of a few bits of IKEA furniture. How would it be, I thought, if the mail was in fact about a crime to which I had unwittingly become a witness? That’s the basic idea behind all my books: What if? In the end I decided not to answer after all.
Your books are usually set in a technical or computer-oriented context. In Black Mail, it’s more in the background.
That’s right. I’d had enough of the classic computer thrillers and I’d always wanted to write a book about a band. As a child, I dreamed of becoming a musician, I even had an electric guitar. But if I’m honest, I was too lazy to learn to play an instrument properly. In my youth, I was even in a band for a while without actually being able to play anything at all. After a few rehearsals, though, it was impossible to hide my inability any longer.
That’s presumably why your hero Johnny plays the guitar…
That’s right. The boy sets out with his guitar on a quest to go to his idol’s concerts. From the start, I liked the idea that Johnny’s involved in all kinds of dangerous, illegal goings-on and is even the main suspect, yet has no idea what’s going on.
Tell us about the the Dhuul?
The Dhuul is the demon of rock music. If you sell him your soul, you become very successful. But if you make him angry or pull a fast one on him, then you’d better look out! The Dhuul is an invention of mine, it doesn’t exist. Although, after correcting the proofs, I wasn’t so sure any more.
Do script kids and online blackmailers exist in reality?
Sure they do. You don’t even have to be able to program properly to hack, there are lots of ready-made components available on the Internet. Script kids are mostly young, they love to destroy things for fun. A bit like vandalising underground trains. And many companies really have been blackmailed by criminal hackers. As a bank, you might think seriously about paying a ransom if the alternative is watching all your data and functions go down the drain.
How long did the book take to write?
I researched for a year and then wrote a biography for each of the characters. Darlis Diller’s alone ran to 60 pages. Then I did a chapter structure. The writing itself took about six months. I might have been finished sooner if I didn’t have the terrible habit of listening to very loud music when I write.
extract from Black Mail