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Interview with Writer Diamant Salihu and Perfect Day’s Creative Head Amanda Schulman

Salihu works as an investigative journalist at SVT and has through multiple years of research become an expert on the Swedish gang violence in general, and the gang war around Järvafältet in particular. Until everyone dies has been awarded with some of Sweden’s most honorable prizes. Most recently, Salihu hosted a tributed Sommar i P1– a popular Swedish radio program – about these gang conflicts. 

Schulman is a co-founder of the media house Perfect Day and Creative Director in this project. Perfect Day stands behind countless successful projects within the media and culture industry. They have a hard-to-beat position as podcast producers, with (just to mention a few) Alex & Sigge, Fredagspodden, Ursäkta and When we were kings under their umbrella. Experienced within all different kinds of sound, they are now merging their knowledge into a new concept: the pod book.

First things first – what is a pod book? 

Amanda: A pod book is a condensed audiobook with different kinds of audio elements added to the sound image. It’s a fusion of podcast, literature and music – A hybrid format challenging the traditional division of these expressions. In Until everyone dies, we have included music, news features and sounds from the authentic story environment.

Amanda, you are the creative head behind this format. How did you get the idea? 

Amanda: I read the book and was amazed. I contacted Diamant on Instagram, got his number and called him. We had a long conversation about this story and what we could do together. There were a few circumstances that hindered us from doing exactly what we wanted to, but out of those limitations this format was born. Which we are very happy about today.

Diamant – what was your reaction to that phone call? 

Diamant: I was of course very happy to hear that Amanda had read the book, and that she wanted to take good care of this story and spread it to those who don’t prefer reading or listening to audiobooks. I was also positively surprised when I listened to the final result. The sound image and the music add new pieces to the puzzle. That’s a very strong complement to the experience.

What role does the music play in the pod book version? 

Diamant: I write about the music in the book, and have transcribed parts of the lyrics. But if you want to fully understand the music’s role in this story, and how it has escalated the conflict, hearing it will give another dimension. In the pod book you get to listen to these songs, and I believe that gives a different insight and feeling for the material.  

Amanda: Mood music can of course also do a lot to the atmosphere. Imagine for example an exciting movie scene without music. That won’t be the same experience.

For those who haven’t read the book yet, what’s it about? 

Diamant: Until everyone dies is about one of Sweden’s most reported gang conflicts. A group of childhood friends have, due to disagreements after a robbery, become each other’s worst enemies. By zooming in to this separate conflict you will get an understanding for the existing alienation we have in many parts of Sweden. I think that you can understand these issues better through this conflict, whether it’s by reading a book, or listening to an audiobook or pod book. Hopefully that can lead to a change, and that these fatal conflicts come to an end.

Amanda: We get push notifications about young men getting shot every day, but we don’t know where it begins or how it will stop. When you read this book and understand who the people behind the headlines are, how they feel and how they think, you get a huge respect for them. You get to know them in a new way, and that gives you an important perspective.

What do you think the future will look like for this format? Will it fly? 

Amanda: We hope so. Of course you can wish that people read or listen to books more often, since we know for a fact that it’s very rewarding for the brain and soul. But not everyone has that time or ability to concentrate. Primarily women over 60 buy books. The audiobook is also fantastic, but takes many hours to go through. That’s why we hope for the pod book to work – to engage more people with great stories. 

Diamant: I’ve met so many people saying that they normally never read a full book, who have read Until everyone dies. I hope this group sees this as a way to assimilate a very complex story. For me it means a lot to find another way to reach people who need more perspectives to understand the complexity of the situation – That nothing is black or white. I’m convinced that this way of telling the story will help the reader to get insights in the conflict, even if you’re not a book reader.

How will Perfect Day move forward with the pod book format? 

Amanda: It’s been very well received by authors who see this as an exciting and complementary format where they can tell a story. We will definitely focus more on this. I can’t say more about the exact plan yet, but we have a lot of exciting stuff going on around this new format.

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