My first novel 'On A Small Island' was re-released today through Fahrenheit Press and my new book 'A Place To Bury Strangers' will follow very shortly. Here is a Q&A I did with them yesterday.
1) I’d read and loved your first two books “On A Small Island” and “The Mistake” way before we even launched Fahrenheit Press so I was really happy when you sent us the manuscript of your 3rd novel “A Place To Bury Strangers”. I guess the big question is why did you want to publish your new book with Fahrenheit?
My first book ‘On A Small Island’ I published myself. I wasted a great deal of time trying to find an agent with no success and without an agent representing me I couldn’t get it into the hands of any of the big publishers. I thought that system was completely fucking ridiculous and still do. This was a few years back now before there were any indie publishers set up so I figured that if I wanted to get it done I would do it myself. DIY all the way. My second book ‘The Mistake’ I wrote after coming across Number Thirteen Press and loving the idea of what they were doing. I totally dug the whole indie vibe and what I was writing suited the novella format they were interested in too. I kind of tailored it to their needs a little bit and it turned out to be a huge success, for them and for me. So when I finished ‘A Place To Bury Strangers’ I was in a bit of a bind. Number Thirteen were winding down operations and the new book was too long for what they were doing anyway but I was determined to stick to the indie route because I had found it such a good way of getting things done. I was sitting around scratching my head trying to decide what I would do and getting nowhere fast when I came across Fahrenheit Press. I read about the ethos of this new Hot Punk Publisher – the new bad ass kid on the block – and knew straight away that this was the place for me. Everything about the way Fahrenheit do business just feels right. You can submit directly to the guy in charge and there’s no bullshit involved like there is with the rest of the publishing business. Bingo! I was fucking sold.
2) We’re re-publishing “On A Small Island” under the Fahrenheit banner shortly before we launch your new novel “A Place To Bury Strangers” – for anyone who hasn’t already read the first book, could you give us a feel for what it’s about and how it links into the new book.
‘On A Small Island’ is the story of an Icelandic family targeted by a vengeful ghost from somebody’s past and is told from the point of view of one of the daughters. She looks on as her father’s stable boy is killed and her sisters are taken and when the police show little interest in doing anything about their disappearances or solving the murder she takes matters into her own hands. The cop heading the investigation is Detective Grímur Karlsson and he also features strongly in ‘A Place To Bury Strangers’.
3) All of your books so far are set in Iceland so clearly it’s had a strong influence on your writing – what is it about the place that inspired you so much?
I first visited the place for my birthday when I turned 40. I was living in the UK at the time and was starting to think about moving somewhere else and Iceland just fit the bill. There’s something quite magical about this strange little nation. Aside from the clichéd stuff about elves and trolls there is just something really special about the place. It’s unique in so many ways. The fact that is so isolated means that it kind of goes about things its own way and the way it was formed makes its special too. There’s not many places you can live surrounded by geysers and volcanos except maybe New Zealand. It’s possible it reminds me of home too in its own weird way. As far as crime writing goes it’s totally unique. There’s almost no crime here, never has been, and the whole country is something akin to a locked room mystery. That was the idea behind ‘On A Small Island’. There really is nowhere to hide here.
As for ‘A Place To Bury Strangers’, it was the first of my books to be completely written while living here – the first two were written in the UK although I finished ‘The Mistake’ shortly after moving here – so it’s much more topical and embraces some of the real issues facing Iceland right now.
4) In related news, you recently announced you were relocating to Finland. Are you planning on starting a new series set there or will you continue to write about Iceland?
I have just finished my fourth book and it will probably be the last one I write set in Iceland. I have begun work on the next book already and it is set at a fictional lake in the south of Finland. So it looks like for now anyway it’s all going to be about Finland. I have a new detective in my head and a whole new country to fill with bodies and heinous crimes so I’m going to run with that for a while and see what comes of it. Finland is a great place and I intend spending many years there so for me it makes sense to write stories where I’ll be breathing, observing and dreaming up all kinds of crazy shit.
5) We’ll be meeting for the first time in person at the #IcelandicNoir festival in Reykjavik at the end of November – what delights do you have in store for me and the rest of #TeamFahrenheit when we get there.
Freezing cold weather, wind that you’ll be able to feel in your bone marrow for weeks if not months to come afterwards and one of the coolest cities in the world. Reykjavík is one of the hippest, grooviest and prettiest cities anywhere and is full of lovely places to visit and hang out. Hopefully the Northern Lights will be in full working order while you’re here and then there’s always the local hospitality otherwise known as Brennivín or as the locals call it – The Black Death. Alcohol is a major thing in this part of the world and since they’ve only had beer on sale here since 1989 they taken something of a hardcore shine to it. Suffice to say that the good times will rock and almost definitely roll as well.
6) Speaking of Reykjavik, imagine it’s 3am and we’re working our way through another bottle of bourbon and sharing war stories – what’s the soundtrack gonna be?
Given both our rather solid backgrounds in the music business in the 80s and 90s and my passion for the whole post-punk Goth thing I would imagine that it would feature Jeffrey Lee Pierce and The Gun Club, The Cramps, The Jesus And Marychain, Husker Du, The Ramones and possibly even The Cult and Mother Love Bone. I also remember reading somewhere that you used to have a bit of a thing for Patricia Morrison so we’d probably have to play a few tracks off The Sisters Of Mercy’s second album and as you seem to think that I’m some sort of doppelganger for this Black Francis fellow I guess we’d wind up listening to The Pixies too. And as the night went on, eyes blurred, sentences shortened and dawn approached probably shitloads of Nick Cave.
7) Fahrenheit readers are passionate about the books they read – if you could make 3 suggestions of books that you think are must reads for crime fiction fans – what would they be?
As far as crime fiction goes I would always point people in the direction of ‘Mystic River’ by Dennis Lehane. It’s as good as it gets. The other two books I would recommend aren’t crime fiction but they are both extremely dark and twisted – ‘And The Ass Saw The Angel’ by Nick Cave is my favourite read of all time and ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy is the best thing I’ve ever read. There’s a slight distinction there. All three of those books are totally fucking genius in their own way.
Sunday, 9 October 2016
The end of an era is upon us. After just over two years in the beautiful city of Reykjavík it would seem that my time here has come to an end or is just about to at any rate. As I gear up for the most exciting moment yet in my fledgling writing career it turns out that it will also serve as my farewell to Iceland.
Iceland Noir takes place in a little over five weeks’ time on the 17th, 18th and 19th of November and it is going to come as something of a shock to many who know me in the crime writing community that I am on the verge of leaving my adopted Nordic homeland. What I am really doing though is swapping one adopted Nordic home for another. Straight after the festival I will be moving some 3,000 km to southern Finland where I will be settling in the idyllic medieval town of Porvoo. Klovharu, otherwise known as Moomin Island or the place where Tove Jansson built her summer house lies just off the coast of Porvoo so I expect to be seeing fat little trolls in my dreams.
From a writing perspective what it means is that after the impending release of ‘A Place To Bury Strangers’ by Fahrenheit Press and then one last Icelandic novella ‘Out On The Ice’ my books will no longer be set in Iceland. I have recently begun work on a new as yet untitled novel set at and around Surujärvi a fictional lake in south-eastern Finland. Gone will be the meandering and at times completely useless Detective Grímur Karlsson of the Reykjavík police force and soon he will be replaced by the much tougher and nastier Detective Markku Waris of Finland’s law-enforcement counterparts.
Iceland Noir will be the perfect platform for me to launch ‘A Place To Bury Strangers’ my debut release with Fahrenheit Press who will also be re-releasing my first novel ‘On A Small Island’ at the same time. I will be appearing on the ‘Darkness: What frightens you?’ panel at the festival alongside Ævar Örn Jósepsson, Thomas Enger and AK Benedict as well as moderating the ‘F**king Sweary’ panel which should be a landmark event in the history of literary festivals and will contain Val McDermid, J.S Law, Craig Robertson and Derek Farrell. If I am to be remembered for just one thing by my friends in Reykjavík I genuinely hope that it is for swearing my head off in front of a paying audience at Nordic House on a Saturday afternoon. It’s a tough and at times disgusting fucking job but someone’s gotta do it.
Literary festivals can, dare I say it, be a little tedious if you’re not a huge fan of listening to authors talk about themselves so I’m hoping to inject some much needed irreverence into proceedings by encouraging Val, Craig, James and Derek to do more than a little swearing on my behalf. The fact that three of them are Scots, my grandparents were Scottish and that Derek hails from Dublin should not be lost on anyone. We Celts are at the forefront of all things sweary. Always have been, always will and that folks is just the way we fucking like it.
So, if you’ve nothing else on at 5:30pm on Saturday the 19th of November pop down to Nordic House to see what a real storm looks and sounds like here in Iceland. After all, we can’t let the weather have all the fun.