Interview with The Writing Desk

Tell us about your latest book

Embers is a YA Mystery and crime novel set in the fictional mining town of Svartjokk in northern Sweden. It can be described as a Scandi Noir version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. It tells the story of 17-year-old Ellen Blind, who travels to Svartjokk with her brother Simon, a 14-year-old with Aspergers. They’re on a holiday arranged by their parents, who claim that the siblings should bond, visit the birthplace of their late grandfather, Lars-Erik, and discover their Sami roots. Ellen, though, knows that her parents also want them out of the way so they can sort out their marital problems.

The holiday turns upside down when the siblings discover reindeer heads in the forest. Simon’s findings at the scene suggest the reindeer have been poisoned, and he suspects people in the town. Frustrated with the police’s lack of interest, he is determined to solve the case himself. The siblings’ investigation takes them to the local Sami village and the owner of the dead reindeer, Per-Anders Thomasson. It turns out that Per-Anders knows far more about Lars-Erik’s past than the siblings did. The more they learn, the more Ellen suspects that the reindeer killing is somehow connected to their grandfather and the reason he left his home-town and the Sami community behind. As Ellen and Simon are to discover, embers of the past rarely burn out.

What is your preferred writing routine

My writing routine follows more or less the same pattern regardless of whether I’m writing a short story or novel. I always prefer writing in the mornings, roughly between 10 am – 2 pm. Normally, I’ve typed up the first draft on the computer, but recently I’ve gone back to writing by hand (even for my current WIP, my second novel!), before redrafting/editing it on a computer. I find writing by hand in a beautiful notebook is a safe space for trying out my ideas, before typing them up in a more formal, “polished” version on my laptop.

I tend to have a rough outline of the plot, which I will tweak and amend as I go along, but with certain key stages /turning points (including the ending), clearly identified. I normally have a reasonably detailed mind map for all of my characters, including appearance, body language, generic info like their favourite food and drink, hobbies etc, so that they feel like a real person I know in real life.

When it comes to drafting, I feel like I take the long route. The first two drafts of a WIP are always complete rewrites, particularly for novels. Not until the third draft do I have what feels like the true version of the story. Only by the fourth draft do I get to the true micro-editing stage.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

It is never too early to share your work with other writers/readers. Perfection does not exist, and striving for it before you’re willing to share your story can kill the heart of the work. Throw yourself into whatever opportunities come your way, and actively seek out for opportunities, in equal amount. Writing is about perseverance, but in order to persevere, you need to be fearless.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Social media. I love the Twitter community for writers, it’s an incredibly supportive space and a very efficient to grow your network. If not for twitter, I wouldn’t have encountered Tony and be invited to write this guest post! Twitter is also a great way of discovering new magazines, publishers and agents to submit to.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

The crime in the book is actually based on a real reindeer killing, in which a circle of mutilated reindeer bodies had been discovered by two teenage girls in the forest. The location wasn’t far from the town where I’d stayed with my brother when we were travelling in northern Sweden. The culprit was never found. This opened my eyes to the hate crime that is committed against the Sami and their reindeer. The more I researched, the more atrocities, each one stranger and more gruesome than the next. All of them could be linked to the long-term contempt and discrimination against the Sami that has taken place through history with forced assimilation, racial biology studies and exploiting ancient grazing lands for iron ore mining and forest industry. All of these underlying issues have been described in the novel.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

It’s difficult to describe this without giving away the plot! What I will say though, is that the confession building up to the climax near the end of the novel was quite challenging emotion-wise: every single word was loaded and had to perfectly selected. There was a very delicate balance between raining the emotion in and maintaining a tangible tension, and going overboard resulting in more cliched dialogue.

What are you planning to write next?

I am currently finishing the third draft of my second novel, a crime novel for adults. Like Embers it is set in Sweden, but closer to home, describing the hunting community and small-town life, and the secrets and conspiracies that can take place within a family. It is also loosely based on a real incident that happened in the area, about wolf hybrids roaming the countryside and passing through towns, which had to be tracked down and shot.