- Lynne Shelby
Writing Novels in the Language of Cinema - Tobias Bukkehave - This Writing Life #26
Today, there’s a distinctly international vibe on my blog as I welcome American writer Jason Maurer with a guest post about the work of Danish screenwriter and novelist, Tobias Bukkehave, and how Tobias’s novels are infused with the language of cinema.
Over to Jason…
Writing Novels in the Language of Cinema
By Jason Maurer
Screenwriter Tobias Bukkehave only began writing novels recently. In 2018, he published two fantasy novels about a boy named Elmer Balthazar journeying through a digital fantasy world called Arkadia. Two years later, he published a spy thriller called For King and Country (Kongetro in Danish). What connects these disparate novels—we can all agree that geopolitical espionage and children’s fantasy could not be more different—is more obvious than you might think: a love of cinema.
Tobias’ writing is suffused with the language of cinema. It’s not just the economy of expression, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pacing of his tensest scenes, or the way he paints the visual landscape of Copenhagen and its suburbs – it’s also the tropes, the expectation, the palpable pleasure of knowing that something good will happen but we don’t know what. This is evident from For King and Country’s cold open onto a luxurious yacht moored off the coast of Dubai, where a rich Iranian programmer is murdered and his Danish wife captured. We have the reluctant hero, security expert and ex-soldier Tom Cortzen, who wants to get out of the game for a desk job but is roped into “one last mission” at his father’s funeral, in service of a country that betrayed him.
Tobias consciously constructs a visuality in For King and Country and his earlier novels. In writing them, he tries to work with the same deadline- and structure-intensive process as he does with his screenwriting process, such as by breaking down the story into a series of interconnected chunks. He also adds a collaborative element, such as by having his editor Anders function as his “executive producer” off which he can bounce ideas. These efforts help to diminish the ruthlessness of the blank novel page and put him in more familiar territory. For Tobias has long been entrenched in cinema, from his master’s degree in media and communications, to his publishing a book on the 50 TV series that you have to see (many of which are American), to his career as a script doctor and writer in the Danish film and television industry. His role models are Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and HBO. To Tobias, they are the masters of blending sophisticated, insightful literature with broad themes and dynamic pacing. His novels aim for a similar blend, combining the dramaturgy and accessibility of cinema with the freedom and depth of the novel, creating a chimera that will appeal to the consummate reader as well as more TV-oriented audiences.
His writing has recently reached even further harmony with film: For King and Country was just optioned by Nordic Films.
We're working hard to get For King and Country sold to an English publisher. If you're interested in the book, please let us know by sending an email to email@example.com, as every little helps!
Thank you, Jason, for giving us such an interesting insight into Tobias Bukkehave’s writing life.
For King and Country
First Lieutenant Tom Cortzen is back in Denmark, even though he swore he’d never return—not after what happened in Iraq. Even worse, it’s to attend the funeral of his father, Rear Admiral Richard Cortzen, for whom everything began and ended with God, king, and country. But even as he says his goodbyes, Tom receives a tap on the shoulder from an old soldier friend: Denmark needs him. A top Iranian programmer has been murdered and his Danish girlfriend has disappeared. While such a case wouldn’t normally impinge on Denmark’s security, the military intelligence envoy to the Middle East seems to have been murdered by the same shadowy mercenary group—and he just so happened to have been Tom’s old friend.
Divided between serving a country that betrayed him and honoring his friend, Tom begins a pulse-pounding adventure that will lead him from the rich sprawl of Dubai back to the regal stonework of Copenhagen.
With unmistakable inspiration from writers such as John le Carré, Jan Guillou, and Jens Henrik Jensen, and from TV and film series like Homeland and Jason Bourne, Tobias Bukkehave débuts as a writer for adults with For King and Country, a high-octane spy thriller on the abuse of power, international conspiracy, and nationalism in a world where borders are increasingly being tightened.
Tobias Bukkehave was born in Svendborg, Denmark, in 1980. He débuted in 2018 with the children’s novels The Journey to Arkadia and The Threat from Kragoria, both about a young boy called Elmer Baltazar. The Journey to Arkadia was nominated for the Orla Children’s Book Prize. Bukkehave also works as a screenwriter for film and television. He lives in Copenhagen with his partner and two children.
Jason Maurer was born in New Hampshire, raised in Vermont, educated in Scotland, found love in Finland, and found a life in Sweden. He has written two short stories and is finishing a novel.