The story of my book: MONA by Dan Sehlberg

Swedish author Dan Sehlberg tells us the story behind his techno-thriller, MONA.


MONA dates back to 1995, to my days at Aftonbladet, Scandinavia’s leading daily. One day we got a video-game from someone hoping for a review. With black and white graphics and a childish layout it seemed anything but exciting – a ping-pong ball jumping back and forth between two moving bricks. But it was not the game itself that was the big thing … it was the controls. You moved the two bricks with your alpha and beta brain waves. Everybody at the paper went wild and wanted to try it out. Then a virus hit the computer running the software. I joked that perhaps we were all going to get sick. The idea of a person being infected by a computer virus stayed in my head and over time I made up a whole story around it. However, I only told it to my daughters and never thought I would actually get it out on paper.

Then, in 2009, we got the summerhouse in Sörmland. One day my youngest daughter walked up to the big windows, with a fantastic view of glittering lakes and golden fields. After a while she turned around and declared, “If you don’t write the book in this place, you won’t write it in any place.” The day after she helped me push an antique desk in front of the window. I sat down, opened the Mac and dived in.

When I closed the computer I realised that all the flowers were dead, I was really hungry and my daughter was four years older. That’s not exactly true but researching and writing did spellbind me in a way that I had not experienced in any other line of work. From that day on I knew writing was going to be my elixir of life.

With MONA, I wanted to write a story that combined an innovative narrative with exotic and dynamic locations and interesting, real-life characters, without compromising on any of them. I also wanted to dig deep into the human soul, exploring emotions such as doubt, loss, revenge and love. What are we prepared to do in order to protect the once we love? Or to revenge the once we lost? I also thought it would be interesting to look into the vulnerability of modern societies, based on our increasing dependency on technology. Today, all governing and central functions are more or less controlled by it: financial markets, hospitals, transportation, energy production, defence. What would happen if these systems suddenly turned against us?

MONA has been called a lot of things - a political thriller, a spy story, a sci‐fi tale, even dystopian fiction – but to me, it’s a love story, or perhaps many love stories. It’s a man’s love for his wife, a father’s love for his daughter and a woman’s love for her sister.


MONA is available now, in-store and online.