We asked Cilla & Rolf Börjlind a few questions by mail about their thriller Fruset Guld (Frozen Gold) that was published recently by A.W. Bruna Uitgevers in Dutch as Bevroren Goud.
Hello Cilla and Rolf! We’re so happy that you’re letting us interview you for our website, Thrillers & More. Our team always thoroughly enjoys reading your books and waiting for the next installment in the series with Olivia and Tom is hard. We hope you’re both doing well in these strange times. Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview!
So, first of all: who are Cilla and Rolf Börjlind, and what should we definitely know about the two of you? Is there anything you’d actually rather not tell us?
We have been a couple since 1990 and started off working together on a humorous/satirical TV-program. Rolf has been writing his whole life; scripts, poetry, theater plays, song texts and so on. I (Cilla) worked at the Sweden’s Television drama section when we met and fulfilled different functions there through the years. I wrote my first script for a sequel when I was still employed there. In 1996, we officially started writing scripts together and since then it has been so. In 2011, we started to write books as well.
In 1994 we had our daughter, Molly. Now she is grown up and last year she and Rolf wrote a book together, specifically for the audiobook market, which will also be released in the Netherlands.
We live in a 110-year-old house outside of Stockholm, we are passionate trout fishers and half-maniacal mushroom pickers – we spend lots of time in the woods. We love to travel and have done that much through the years. Gardening is Cilla’s main hobby and Rolf’s is crosswords.
And there are lots of other things we would rather not tell you! ?
What made you decide to write the series with Oliva and Tom? Were they based on people you know? Or did you base them on yourselves?
We knew when we started off that we didn’t want an ordinary police group working at a station. We had created so many stories with that scenario, writing 26 scripts for the (Martin) Beck films. What we wanted was to create a group consisting of characters of different ages, sexes, and social statuses.
In the first book, Olivia is attending the police academy and Tom Stilton is a homeless former police officer. She is young and undamaged, he is older and has reached rock bottom. We also added a brilliant elder woman, Mette Olsäter, who is the only one working as a police investigator from the beginning. She often involves Abbas el-Fassi in her cases, a Frenchman with Moroccan roots, who has a criminal background and was a knife thrower at a circus, but is now working as a croupier in Stockholm.
These four we consider our main group, but we have more characters that turn up throughout the books, like The Mink (don’t know what he is called in Dutch). He’s a squealer, or informant as he prefers to call himself. A drug-addicted mythomaniac (a pathological liar) who, without a doubt, has far too much self confidence, but who also has a big heart. He was created to be a kind of comic-relief character and he has grown as a character from the first two books, partly because the Swedish actor Johan Widerberg, who interpreted him in the TV series, was so brilliant and inspired us to use him more.All our characters are created from imagination, but of course we borrowed character traits and background both from ourselves and the people around us. No names. ?
Where does Frozen Gold (Fruset Guld) take place, and why did you choose this location?
Frozen Gold takes place in the mountains in the north of Sweden, in Stockholm, and in Banjul, in Gambia. We knew from the beginning that this book would take place in the Arjeplog mountains and that’s because we go there nearly every summer to fish in the fishing camp we describe in the book. We know and love the landscape and the wilderness. The Gambia part came in because we saw a TV-program about how much different kinds of garbage from Europe end up in different countries in Africa.
When did you decide to try your hand at writing books, in addition to scriptwriting?
We thought and talked about it for many years, but couldn’t really find the time, since we were constantly writing sequels for TV. But after finishing a series based on another writer’s books (Arne Dahl series) we thought, now is the time. If we should write another series, it would be based on our own books. That’s why we started writing Springtide in 2011.
What would you consider to be each other’s best qualities in terms of writing?
Rolf has always been the faster one. He has a sense for writing page-turning texts that always make you want to read more, and I love his use of language. He also has the quality of creating odd characters with their own special language.
Cilla is very careful with her writing, everything she creates is solid. She also has a wonderful sense of humor and is very good at writing dialogue. She is also perfect as a first reader, with intelligent comments.
Do you have any plans for writing a new series? Or perhaps a standalone?
Yes, perhaps. But now we are concentrating on Rönning and Stilton. (See the answer below)
Why is it important for you to incorporate social issues in your thrillers? Is a subject like COVID-19 something you could write about?
It’s important because we get our inspiration and fuel from social injustices, things that upset us in society. And since our books take place when we write them, it comes naturally to incorporate what is going on at the moment. The next book will for sure include COVID-19 in one way or another, since that is the reality right now, sadly enough, but it will not be the main theme.
What’s your writing process like? Does Cilla write the female characters while Rolf writes the male ones? Do you alternate writing chapters? Do you have the plot completely worked out before you start writing? Do you ever completely disagree on where the story is going? Tell us a little bit about your process.
We start with creating the story from the beginning to the end. That work contains much talking, walking, and writing down the story in big parts. The plot is well worked out before we actually start to write; since we are two people writing the same story, it has to be that way, as we see it. After that, we break it apart in short scenes without dialogue, and come up with what we as scriptwriters call a “treatment”. Then we put all the scenes up on a big wall in our study. After that, each one of us chooses the scenes or chapters we would prefer to start writing. Sometimes we choose to follow one of our characters, but it’s not necessarily so that Rolf writes the male ones and Cilla the female. That differs and depends. Then we read and rewrite each others scenes. Finally, we write through the whole script from the beginning, twice. We very seldom disagree, but we sometimes have long discussions concerning the development of the story, where we try to inspire each other to the best possible result.
Was it your idea to adapt the Olivia and Tom books for television, or how did adapting the books for television come about?
What do you think of the resulting series so far? Will all the books be adapted for television? If so, when might we expect the next season/part?
Actually, the (film) production company that we have been working with for many years bought the film rights before we wrote the first book. So when we finished writing the third book, we started with the scripts for the first. So far two books have been filmed. Right now we don’t know if there will be more. There are so many people and so much money involved in the TV/film business, so we will just wait and see and concentrate on writing books. That is so much more fun.
Did you have any say in casting the lead characters? If so, was this difficult, or did you know who you wanted to play the parts right away?
Yes, we were a part of the casting work, together with the directors and producer. And it turned out to be as we wanted or as we all wanted.
Which book is the most precious to you out of all the books you’ve written? Why this book in particular?
The fourth book, Sov du lilla videung (Sleep Little Willow / Wiegelied), is special to us.
Is it difficult to keep your work and your private lives separate?
Yes, when we are alone together and are in the middle of writing it’s all a mix, but we have lived this way nearly since we met, so it has become a way of living. And in between books or scripts, we have long summer vacations and then we don’t discuss work at all.
I was lucky enough to meet Rolf twice and Cilla once; you were both promoting Springfloden with your publisher, and I met Rolf a second time when the TV series premiered in Utrecht. What do you think of the Netherlands? And what do you like best about our country? Will you visit us again?
The Netherlands has a special place in my heart (Cilla) since it was my first visit abroad when I was a child. My family went there by car and travelled around. I still keep a typically Dutch doll that my parents bought me. Together we have been to Amsterdam a few times and we love the city. We have also always felt so welcome when we were there. We have met so many nice people, our publishers, booksellers and, last but not least, our readers.
For anyone that isn’t familiar with your books yet (they don’t know what they’re missing!?), why should they start reading your books? Should they start at the beginning, with part one?
You don’t have to, but we strongly recommend starting at the beginning to get into our universe. We think that’s the best way to get to know our characters and be with them on their journey through the years and adventures.
Would you ever consider writing anything other than a thriller? A young adult maybe, or a novel?
Yes, in the future perhaps. We have a few stories yet to be told. Preferably a “tall tale” (hope the word is correct), about people living on the outskirts of society. Or perhaps a historical novel. We’ll see. Right now we’re concentrating on Olivia Rönning and Tom Stilton in a few more books.
What has the COVID-19 crisis been like for you? Have a lot of things changed in your lives? Are you busier now, or is it more a question of trying to keep busy?
To be honest it hasn’t changed that much. We have been and are still living in our summerhouse in the Stockholm Archipelago, as we do every summer. The difference being that we moved out here already in March and that our social life has become smaller. That is sad, but we are used to isolating at times when we work, so we haven’t suffered that much, yet. It will be harder for sure when the winter and darkness is coming. Since Rolf is in a “risk group” because of his age, we are still very careful. But despite COVID, we’ve had a beautiful summer. Rolf has been working on his memoirs and I’m mostly working in the garden. Now we have slowly begun working on the next book in the Rönning & Stilton series.
Do you have any dreams you still want to make reality as writers? What do you still want to achieve?
The Nobel prize. Not. Ha, ha.
Now, we’re going to ask you to choose:
Tea or coffee?
Cilla: Both, but not at the same time.
Reading or writing?
Cilla: Hard, because I read so much. I have to say reading.
Rolf: Definitely writing.
Never reading again or never writing again?
Cilla: Torture, but never writing again.
Rolf: Never reading again.
Sweet or savory?
Movie or TV series?
Cilla: TV series, especially now in COVID times.
Rolf: Same for me.
Paper book or e-reader?
Cilla: Paper book.
Rolf: Paper book.
Wine or beer?
Cilla: Wine, if I have to choose.
Summer or winter?
Cilla: Of course summer, since I am a stubborn gardener.
(Edited by Yfke)