Continuing our Nordic literature week, Nordophile has been speaking with the hugely successful Danish author, Sara Blaedel.
Sara Blaedel’s interest in story, writing, and especially crime fiction was nurtured from a young age, long before Scandinavian crime fiction took the world by storm.
Despite a struggle with dyslexia, books gave Sara a world in which to escape when her introverted nature demanded an exit from the hustle and bustle of life.
Publishing ultimately led Sara to journalism, and she covered a wide range of stories, from criminal trials to the premiere of Star Wars: Episode I. It was during this time—and while skiing in Norway—that Sara started brewing the ideas for her first novel. In 2004 Louise and Camilla were introduced in Grønt Støv (Green Dust), and Sara won the Danish Crime Academy’s debut prize.
Sara’s writing process is intense and she swears, “I am absolutely not fun to be with. And therefore everyone is happiest if I get it over with somewhere else.” That somewhere else is a summer house with huge windows affording a panoramic view, white terrace furniture, and a gas barbecue. In this seemingly tranquil environment, Sara formulates her brutal literary murder mysteries.
Research also plays an important role in Sara’s writing process. She believes that the imagination has its best chance to thrive within the framework of reality. “I work tirelessly to learn all I can in order to create the settings.” So most of the geographical locations that constitute Louise Rick’s universe are imported from the real world. Her apartment is Sara’s old apartment in Copenhagen, and she frequents the same cafés that Sara does.
An essential tool Sara uses for her research and preparation is a large whiteboard she’s named her “killing wall.” The killing wall is home to sketches of the story’s development, giving Sara the visual stimulation that best ignites her creativity. Sara also relies heavily on a host of experts who offer input and feedback on her novels. “I am so fortunate to have good helpers in those areas where I really need factual knowledge—whether in the Homicide Division, Forensics or Forensic Psychology.”
Her hard work and determination have branded her the “Queen of Crime” in Denmark.
Today, Sara lives north of Copenhagen with her family. She has always loved animals; she still enjoys horse riding and shares her home with her cat and Golden Retriever. When she isn’t busy committing brutal murders on the page, she is an ambassador with Save the Children and serves on the jury of a documentary film competition.
Having two successful parents within acting and journalism, was there a reason that the pull to express yourself in writing rather than acting was greater?
Actually neither occupied me to any great extent when I was a child. I was mainly interested in horses but it is clear that all the words that surrounded me in my childhood and all the drive towards artistic expression and the journalism had an influence on me. Both of my parents always told me stories. My upbringing was full of stories. Especially my mother used her imagination when making up the bedside stories that she told me. But it was only in my adult life, and through various roundabout ways that I found my own way back to storytelling and found the will to pass them on.
Denmark seems to be a culture hub right now, have you always felt the support from Denmark within the arts?
I have always felt an incredible support from my Danish readers, booksellers, people in publishing and journalists. In Denmark, luckily a lot of books are read, and support for writers both directly and indirectly is really good through public libraries etc.
Nordic noir is a genre, which has become synonymous with the Nordics. You started writing crime novels before this explosion, what was your motivation to go down the crime route?
An uncontrollable curiosity combined with a lively and murderous imagination made it natural for me to start writing crime fiction.
What can we expect from your latest offering “The Forgotten Girls”?
Hopefully an entertaining and touching although scary story that will engage the reader and make the reader feel that my characters make for good company.
You’ve just come back from ThrillerFest in New York, can you tell us a bit about your experience there?
It is always wonderful to meet your colleagues and people from the business. An event like this helps to widen your own horizon, because it is so exciting to hear about other people’s way of approaching writing, to hear what they think and to learn from their experiences.
The Forgotten Girls
We are very excited by the latest release “The Forgotten Girl’s” which has once again seen Sara Blaedel explode onto the crime fiction scene, regardless if it is Nordic Noir, crime sells, we know that but it takes a good writer to keep the reader committed to the end of the book. And this Danish literary artist does just that, time and time again.
“In a forest in Denmark, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of an unidentified woman. A large scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. After four days, Louise Rick—the new commander of the Missing Persons Department—is still without answers. But when she releases a photo to the media, an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a “forgotten girl.” But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates over 30 years ago. As the investigation brings Louise closer to her childhood home, she uncovers more crimes that were committed—and hidden—in the forest, and finds a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed”.
Photos credited to: Steen Brogaard