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Karin Wahlberg – From doctor to queen of crime fiction

Portrait Karin Wahlberg

Alumna Karin Wahlberg is on a roll, and she is not afraid to try new things and change paths. From teacher to doctor, and then crime novelist. She made her debut with The Last Round in 2001, when she was about to turn 51. Since then, she has split her time between murder mysteries and doctor’s rounds. 

You have mentioned in other interviews that the idea of The Last Round came to you during a morning meeting at the Women’s Clinic. Had you never thought of writing a book before that?

– I tried writing a few children’s books, but not seriously. Having said that, I have always thought about things and processed them as if they were stories in a book.

You have changed careers several times in your life, from teacher to doctor and then novelist. How does one arrive at the decision to make a change like that? How did it come about?

– When I changed careers from teacher to doctor it was out of necessity, as I was unemployed. I liked being a teacher, but when we moved to Lund I couldn’t find work. I was inspired, or jealous perhaps, of my husband who was a doctor, and I felt very strongly the need to get out among people. So, I took the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test in a panic and started studying medicine. And it turned out to be so much fun! I had never wanted to be a doctor before that; I liked being a teacher. But because I had children early and they had started to grow up and fly the nest, I had a lot of freedom to make those choices.

Changing careers involves a bit of discomfort so you need to have grit, and I think I was just born that way. I’ve also always known that life is short, my mother died when I was very young, so I felt it right down in my bones. I also got some old-fashioned comments. I’m as influenced by what people think as everyone else and have the same thoughts, but somewhere deep down I do what I want.

How did it go when you started writing?

– I just started. Got an idea and went home to write and discovered, to my surprise, that it flowed quite well. That’s when I discovered another side to myself. I am intense when I speak, but I write more slowly. I read the first three chapters to my sister over a glass of wine and she told me to keep going. It took a long time, a few years. I was only doing it for fun. It was my project, a way to get as close to myself as possible, without it actually being about me.

Do your colleagues ever reflect on the fact that you are also a successful author?

– No one has cared, they’re used to it. I might have had the occassional comment, “Put that in one of your books.” The job takes over when you are in it. Sometimes a patient might ask about the next book, but it has never been a big thing. Many readers like that I present the healthcare system from different perspectives, and that what I write about is based in reality.

One of my colleagues asked me to write a book about cancer as they found it difficult to get the word out about something as unglamorous as a colorectal tumour. So I wrote Cancerland – There and Back. That is one of the books I am most proud of. I wrote it as a thank you to the healthcare system. 

Is there a particular character in one of your books that you think is most like you?

– Claes Claesson, in that case. He is not as explosive as I am, but it’s more about his view of the job. That you keep on going. He is robust in his way, he is not an extreme person, but rather has the attitude that sometimes things go right, sometimes they go wrong, and you just get on with it.

Is there anything else on your list for the future?

– Not really. I am just happy if things stay as they are now!

Text and research: Ida Andersson Intern at Lund University External Relations and current student in Strategic Communications.


Did you miss the author talk with Karin Wahlberg? Watch it here on YouTube.

October 26, 2022

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