We’ve been speaking with fellow Nordophile Sarah Ward – author, Scandinavian crime literature judge and crime fiction blogger.
Sarah Ward is very much at the heart of Nordic Noir in the UK through her blog, which has reviewed some of the most well-known and successful Nordic Noir literary offerings, as one of the judges alongside Barry Forshaw and Kat Hall for The Petrona Award for ‘Best Scandinavian Crime Novel‘ and she has recently found the time to sit down and pen her own novel, which although set in the UK most certainly has a noir aspect to it.
Do you consider yourself a Nordophile and completely embrace the whole culture or are you more specific to Nordic literature?
I’ve visited all the Nordic countries with the exception of Norway so I do consider myself a Nordophile. I’ve been to Iceland twice and am going later this year and again in 2016 so that’s the country I know the best. However, my main interest is reading in general and crime and thrillers, in particular, Therefore I’m particularly fascinated by the crime fiction that these countries produce.
Out of all the Nordic countries where do you prefer to visit and learn about?
The first country that I visited was Sweden, then Denmark and Finland and most recently Iceland. I’m always fascinated by the unknown and therefore I’d say that I want to go to Norway the most at the moment. In particular I’d like to visit the arctic circle. There’s something fascinating about the frozen landscape. I’d also like to visit the Sami region of Scandinavia.
How did you first become interested in Scandinavian crime fiction?
Henning Mankell was the first Scandinavian writer that I read and loved. It was in the late nineties and I devoured all his books. After that, I tried to find as many Scandinavian crime novels as I could. Early favourites were Arnaldur Indridason and Hakan Nesser.
Your successful blog crimepieces.com reviews crime fiction books, particularly Scandinavian crime, how have you seen this genre grow over the last few years?
In the 2000s, the genre exploded in the UK. I’ve never paid that much attention to the ‘hype’ in Scandinavian crime fiction. I enjoyed the Steig Larsson trilogy but I that think there are better books out there too. Reading for me, first and foremost, is a pleasurable activity. If a book grips me and I can’t put it down, I can forgive the writer most things. I read for entertainment, pleasure and for escapism. Of course, I also read with a critical eye. But I am first and foremost a reader not a critic.
Another role which you have taken on is as one of the judges at the ‘The Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel’. How did Petrona come about and what part do you think the award plays within the Nordic Noir genre?
The Petrona Award was set up in memory of one of the early bloggers, Maxine Clarke. She was a great reader of Scandinavian crime fiction and supported many of us bloggers when we first started. The award was the brainchild of Karen Meek from Eurocrime and she approached me along with Barry Forshaw and Kat Hall to judge the award. in the three years that it’s been running, we’ve seen the award go from strength to strength and it’s mentioned on the covers of a lot of the shortlisted books. We hope it celebrates the excellence of Scandinavian crime fiction, I think last year there were over forty eligible books. The shortlist was particularly strong and any of those novels could have won.
This has been an extremely busy time for you this past month as you have just published your first crime novel ‘In Bitter Chill’ although it is not set in the Nordics, the ambiance seems to be quite Nordic, was this your intention?
It wasn’t particularly my intention although the cold landscape has a strong role in my book. I certainly didn’t set out to copy Scandinavian crime fiction. But I think I’m influenced by everything I’ve ever read from Agatha Christie to Jo Nesbo.
‘In Bitter Chill’ has been well received, does this mean you have a second novel coming?
I’ve just finished my second book which is also set in the Derbyshire landscape but this time in spring. It has the same police characters but a new central protagonist. I’m hoping to write a quartet set in the region. So, fingers crossed!