Danish crime author Sara Blaedel is one of the headline authors attending Iceland Noir 2016 next month in Reykjavik. She’ll be on the main panel with Val McDermid, Viveca Sten and Leena Lehtolainen. Meanwhile, her Louis Rick series has become a hit with fans of Nordic noir, and the books have been published in 31 countries. As a warm-up for Iceland Noir – because Crime Fiction Lover is the event’s media partner – we wanted to ask Sara about her plans for Reykjavik, and get her take on Scandinavian crime fiction in general…
What are you looking forward to most about Iceland Noir?
Iceland is one of my very favorite places to visit. In addition to going back to beautiful Reykjavik and meeting with my wonderful Icelandic readers, I am super excited and eagerly looking forward to hanging out with a lot of my fabulous crime fiction colleagues. I can’t wait to have the great honor of talking about Louise Rick and my books about her, the entire series of which is published in Iceland.
And what are some of the things you want to talk about, points you’d like to raise, when you join the panels there?
I will absolutely dig into what my protagonist, Louise Rick, is made of. There is something in her backstory that has had a huge impact on the way she reacts when she gets involved in the two cases in Hvalsø, where she grew up. I am fascinated with how the decisions we make early in our lives can have such profound influence on who we ultimately become. And also how things in our backgrounds contribute to the forming of our futures.
What do you think the main trends are at the moment in Danish crime fiction and who are the new authors we should be watching out for?
Keep an eye on Katrine Engberg (Krokodille vogteren). She had her first book published this spring. It is set in Copenhagen and has really amazing characters. Not all crime novels are turned into domestic noir here in Denmark; we still have solid police procedurals, but I’m all about the huge importance of strong and organically depicted characterisation. After the huge crime fiction wave that hit us a couple of years ago, there was probably too much put out there too quickly, and to be honest, not all of it deserved to be published. Now only the best is being marketed, as we are back to basics. These books have good plotting, solid, well-developed characters, and stirring settings.
Tell us a little bit about your main character, Louise Rick. What drives her and what will crime fiction lovers find interesting about here?
Louise is an everywoman. She’s smart and tough and able, but also very vulnerable and as haunted as anyone else by painful parts of her past. She is committed to her work and extremely good at what she does, but she doesn’t have the answer for everything that comes up in her personal life. She’s a loving mother, who’s figuring parenting out as she goes along, and trying to make things work in her love life, but also coming up against challenges there. She juggles and struggles with trying to have and do it all, which, as we all know, is a lot harder that it looks.
Can you also tell us about your upcoming book, the Lost Woman? I think it arrives February 2017 in English.
In The Lost Woman, Louise discovers that her partner/love, Eik, has been hiding some dramatic secrets from his past. When he vanishes, she tracks him down in England, where a murder has been committed that links to Eik and an underground society which assists with suicide for the desperately ill. This is a subject that is close and personal and painful for me, and one which I find an imperative issue. In this book, Louise finds herself dealing with one difficult situation after another, and questioning her relationships. As we all do at one time or another.
People have said that Scandinavian crime fiction is a trend but it’s been popular around the world for more than a decade now. What is it that has made this particular type of regional crime fiction its staying power?
Now, we get back to characters. What I hear when I am traveling on book tours in the United States is that my readers really like strong, female characters. And not just because so many of my readers are women. I think it likely has something to do with the fact that these protagonists are not superheroes. They’re normal people with normal lives. They have private and personal elements of their lives as we all do. They could be one of us, and in turn, we could be one of them.
How would you say Scandinavian crime fiction, or Danish crime fiction, has changed in recent years? What are the new things writers are focusing on?
There is so much more domestic noir, which seems to be growing in popularity and demand. Not so much about it is new to an old reader like I am, but, of course, books like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train have an impact on what is coming now, given their enormous success and how broad their appeal is.
Which crime books have you been reading recently and what did you think of them?
I really enjoyed Clare Mackintosh’s, I Let You Go. I absolutely loved Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter, and from Iceland, I am a huge fan of Yrsa Sigurdardottir. She is a super plot master and she is so fabulously scary too.