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David Lagercrantz explains why he needs new challenges

Sabine Peschel
August 26, 2019

With "The Girl Who Lived Twice," David Lagercrantz is signing off from the "Millennium" series that was authored initially by the late Stieg Larsson. But the author told DW that this is not the end of his writing career.

David Lagercrantz schwedischer Journalist und Schriftsteller
Image: Imago Images/TT/L. Fernvall

Deutsche Welle: International readers are much anticipating the August 27 publication of the latest "Millennium" novel, The Girl Who Lived Twice. But they are also disappointed that, after three books, this is definitely going to be your last "Dragon Tattoo" story. Did you fall out of love with Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist?

David Lagercrantz: No, no, I will always love Lisbeth Salander. But I am an old journalist in many ways and I need new challenges. I mean, this has been the thrill of my life, writing these books. But if I would just go on and on, I would maybe slip into a routine, and that would be a shame for this fantastic book that Stieg Larsson created. So it's important for me as a writer to find new challenges. I have a great crime story on my own that I already started and am thrilled about. I am sorry about Lisbeth, but maybe she will live on — one way or another.

Release David Lagercrantz Millennium series
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Nackstrand

Your continuation of Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" series has been extremely successful. The first two books sold tens of millions of copies and have been adapted into films such as The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018). Did the publishers exert pressure on you to continue?

Yes, a lot of pressure. They asked me, and they asked me again and again if I want to write some more sequels. But I'm absolutely sure that this is it. This is my best book, I think, the third, my final. So for me it's time to move on.

Read more'The Girl in the Spider's Web': Stieg Larsson's heroes get an update

How difficult is it to reimagine stories in a setting and with protagonists that someone else originally invented? Did you immediately say yes to the project?

At first I was absolutely thrilled. I sort of screamed: "Yes I want to do it!" because I loved the characters, loved the books and saw the challenge. But then after a while of course, I was scared, scared if I really could do it and write with the same quality. So of course there's been a lot of pressure, and sometimes pain. But in the end, it's been hilarious, really fantastic.

How much Stieg Larsson is there still in your "Millennium" stories and characters? Or have they completely become your own now?

They feel like my own. I mean there was a genius who created them; but they certainly feel like mine, and I saw it as part of my mission to add something to the characters, add to the mythology, make them a little more complex.

This super strong girl in this, my final book, will eventually show some weakness. She will hesitate, and I have always sort of been dreaming about that. To make her break a little bit because she's always so much under control and so strong. So this time, she shows a bit of weakness and hesitates in a final dramatic situation.

When you started the continuation of the series in 2013, and when The Girl in the Spider's Web was published in 2015, there was some controversy as to whether it was right for another author to finish what Stieg Larsson started. Has that been since settled? 

The wind has shifted. It's absolutely different. You should have seen the Swedish press back then, before the publication. They were crazy, and everyone was going after me, I was all over the headlines: "How could he do that?" There was really a media storm. I was laying in my bed, absolutely shocked. I understand how the Millennium books engaged people.

Noomi Rapace als Lisbeth Salander
Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander in the film franchise based on the novelsImage: picture alliance/Mary Evans Picture Library/Ronald Grant Archive

But you know, a month later the wind changed directions. I got great reviews from the Der Spiegel, The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, and suddenly readers started writing: "Oh God, I love that she's back, that it's back."

It's such a joy for me to know that this has been good, not only for me, but for Stieg Larsson. Now a new generation reads his books, and we are making a documentary about his political work. I think this is really a win-win, because the figures are even more iconic now.

You began your career as a crime reporter for national newspapers. Does crime fiction need truth and facts? 

As a crime writer, you can do whatever you want. But I think it's easier to write crime fiction if you know about the truth. If you want to write fiction, it's very good to do journalistic research. So that's what I always try to do. I always try to dig in. I used to say that good journalists need literary technique, but good fiction, good literature always needs journalistic research. You have to know what you're writing about.

Release David Lagercrantz Millennium series
When Lagercrantz published "The Girl in the Spider's Web" in 2015 he suddenly had many new fansImage: Getty Images/AFP/J. Nackstrand

You became famous as a writer of biographies, including "I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic," the life story of the football icon. Will you go back to writing biographies now, or will you write more crime stories?

Well, no, I will stay with crime. I have this idea that I myself at least think is brilliant. I'm absolutely thrilled. So now I have to prove that I could write equally good books with my own characters. 

Can you tell us any more? 

I don't have a title yet, but I know that I will flirt a little with Sherlock Holmes, but a more depressive, darker Sherlock Holmes. And I will have a female sort of Dr. Watson from the suburbs. So I have one person from the upper class and one from sort of the ghetto. The greatest challenge is that I will write as a woman. A woman from a different background than I. That's really a challenge.

Has the date of publishing been set?

Yes, 2021. I have just signed a contract for three books with my Swedish publishing house, and then we will sell it internationally at the Frankfurt Book Fair. So I will be coming to Germany as well.

Born in 1962, David Lagercrantz published several novels as well as non-fiction titles in his professional capacity as a journalist and author. In 2013, the original publisher of Stieg Larsson's highly popular "Millennium" series in Sweden and Larsson's family chose Lagercrantz as Larsson's successor to continue his unfinished "Dragon Tattoo" series. Lagercrantz' additional, highly successful books were followed by film adaptations. The Girl Who takes an Eye for an Eye of 2017 quickly went to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.