Norwegian author Karin Fossum has published six novels featuring Insp. Konrad Sejer, the latest When the Devil Holds the Candle.

Is your inspector's last name, Sejer, a common one in Norway?

Not at all. I created the name. The word sejer means "victory" in Norwegian.

What kind of man is Konrad Sejer?

He's a representative Norwegian policeman. He's serious, correct and a bit shy. He's an ordinary good man. He's very cautious about everything; he smokes one cigarette and has one drink a day and never more.

What about his new love interest, Sara?

She's a very strong woman. She's a psychiatrist and a very curious woman. She wants to know about things. She'll try anything once for fun, and that scares the hell out of Sejer.

And your other characters. You seem to have empathy for even the most brutal of them.

It's important to me that the reader look upon every character as a human being. It's easy to be decent if you never get into a difficult situation. But I take my characters and I put them in difficult situations. They don't handle them too well. When everything goes wrong for them, I empathize with them.

Your latest book is more suspense than mystery. Is this a new direction for you?

Not really. I work very much by intuition. I don't make a plan when I start a book, I just start. The book I'm working on now, the seventh Sejer book, is more of a traditional crime story with several suspects. But I don't care much about plot. In the real world, there are no smart plots—the guilty one is the father, it's the husband, it's the neighbor, and it's rather obvious who did it. And that's how I do it in my books.

How do you gather information for your books?

I have a friend who's a policeman. If I need to talk to a priest, I have someone, and I also know a psychiatrist. Mostly, I read—psychology, history, whatever is useful to me. I don't like to do too much, though. I don't want to know a lot. I like to have the freedom to invent.

What's the subject of your seventh Sejer novel?

Pedophilia. As always, I would like to show the character in my new book as a human being. He is really sorry about the kind of guy he is, but it's something that he can't fight. It's the way he is. I saw an excellent American movie, The Woodsman, with Kevin Bacon, with this kind of man.