Good morning, Bookshelf readers! Today I’m incredibly excited to share with you a Q & A with Anders de la Motte, author of the new “Game Trilogy” that follows Henrik “HP” Petterrsson through an alternate reality game and the dire consequences it brings to his life. A former police officer, Anders de la Motte also has worked in security for IT companies and now works as a security consultant. Readers in his native Sweden got to read his novels before we did on this side of the ocean, but his first book in the “Game Trilogy,” Game, released here in the States back in December, and the sequel, Buzz, came out this month. The action-packed finale, Bubble, comes out in two weeks, and Mr. de la Motte has graciously agreed to share a few thoughts on writing, his books, and the state of technology today. Enjoy, readers!
Questions on writing and the books
1. It’s easy to assume from your non-writing career that you love technology. Did you always imagine yourself as a writer too, or is that career path something that came later?
I certainly like technology; like many others, I have a hard time imagining what life would be like without all the amazing tools that have been introduced just in the past decade.
Surprisingly, I’m actually not all that tech-savvy. What fascinates me way more is what I’m addressing in the plot of the trilogy. How all this new technology and fantastic ways of communicating affect people’s behavior and what mechanisms it triggers. Why do over a billion people use Facebook for instance, and provide a multitude of different parties with their personal information without even getting paid?
I’ve always loved books; my mother is a librarian and I started reading very early. But it wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties I started thinking of writing something of my own. As usual, my wife was one step ahead and during a dinner in Milan she asked me out of nowhere when I was going to start writing. To my own surprise I answered “now” and that was that. 🙂
2. You spent many years working in IT security. How much of the trilogy is based on personal experience, and how much is fiction? Are there—or could there be—alternate reality games like the one HP gets into?
Although I worked for one of the largest IT-companies in the world, my job was actually physical security and to a lesser extent IT security. The two are linked as well as related, but the background competencies are a bit different. In my private career I dealt a lot with designing and managing security systems, conducting various investigations and providing executive protection just like Rebecca.
I was a police officer for 8 years before joining the security industry and I’ve certainly drawn a lot of experience from both careers when writing the books. I’ve used some actual events and tried to get as many of the small details as “correct” as possible in order to give the plot a higher sense of credibility to balance out the far-fetched theories of HP.
There are already a few Alternate Reality Games out there that are a bit similar to “The Game”, but as far as I know none of them are as powerful and sinister. And if they were, we probably wouldn’t know about it…
3. In the books you make several clever references to American pop culture, especially where theory conspiracies are concerned. Were these references part of the series when you originally wrote it in Swedish, or were they changed for the international release?
Ha ha, no, all the pop-cultural references are very much my own. They are the result of spending way too many hours in front of the TV. Sweden in general is very influenced by American pop culture; we get almost all of your TV series, books and movies at the same time you do.
4. Did you have a clear vision of the series when you first conceptualized it, or did some of it evolve—or even change completely—as you wrote?
I actually wrote the first book, Game, as one solitary story and had no plans of continuing it. But shortly after Game was released, we went to Dubai for a holiday and while sitting at the beach I started thinking about what would happen if HP was confronted with this, in many ways, Disneyland for grown-ups.
The train of thought took off and suddenly I had to run to my room to get all the ideas on paper. I still have the original notes on the Hilton stationary. Once I got started on Buzz I quickly realized I needed a third book to finish up the story – and so Bubble and the trilogy was born.
5. In the books HP seeks validation from the Game and the people watching it; in other words he relies heavily on his technology. Do you think our reliance on technology today is unique, or is it just the new version of something old?
I think we certainly are a lot more reliant on technology than just ten years ago. Not that many of us can imagine a life without smartphones, tablets or Facebook. However, I also think that a lot of the technology speaks to some very ancient needs inside us, the same need that makes HP very quick to start ignoring all his moral limits — the need to be accepted, to be included and validated by a group of your peers, and being a part of a larger context.
This need dates back to the Stone Age when you were either inside the cave by the fire or outside in the dark where tigers would eat you. With the help of modern technology and all the new tools of social media, we are able to constantly remind our inner caveman that we are ok. Safe, warm and validated. All it takes is a digital thumbs-up or a retweet every now and then to keep us happy.
6. Do you think the proliferation and accessibility of technology actually increases security risks (personal or global) for people?
If you stay clear of obvious risks like spam or phishing emails, the risk to private citizens probably hasn’t increased very much. However what everybody needs to keep in mind is that the Internet rarely forgets and what we post there — comments, pictures, film clips or other types of information — could be accessible throughout our entire lifetime. This is a very different type of risk and we need to manage it by considering closely what we post and where. Even private citizens need some kind of basic IT strategy.
7. HP thinks he can hide from his enemies for a while, but because of his involvement in the Game that becomes almost impossible after a certain point. Do you feel like there is still room for technology to grow? For us as people to become even more connected with each other to the point where we almost can’t hide from one another? Or have we reached the most connected we could possibly ever be?
I’m sure there is plenty of room for more technological advances. In just ten years, I’m sure we’ll look back at 2014 smiling about the tools we use and how crude they are compared to those of 2024 , much like we do with the early 2000s today.