Monday, 24 June 2013

Crime Fiction Week Debut Spotlight: Sara Blaedel

If, like me, you love reading books by Scandanavian authors then I'm delighted to be able to introduce you to Danish bestselling author Sara Blaedel who will be making her UK debut next month with the publication of Blue Blood

Sara Blaedel is the author of the Detective Louise Rick crime series, which has been published to acclaim in fourteen territories around the world. Each of her novels debuts at number one in the Danish  bestseller charts. Voted Denmark's most popular novelist three times since 2007, she is also an ambassador for Save the Children. Sara lives in Copenhagen with her family.
In an idyllic neighbourhood of Copenhagen, a young woman, Susanne Hansson, is discovered in her apartment bound and gagged, the victim of an extraordinarily brutal rape attack. Detective Inspector Louise Rick soon learns that Susanne met the rapist on a popular online dating site, although Susanne tries to conceal this.

Events quickly spiral out of control as a horrified Louise realises that the rapist is using the website to target specific women for future attacks. It's not long before the next assault leads to a death and Louise finds herself in the middle of a full-blown murder investigation.

Undercover and in danger in a world of faceless dating, Louise must try and stop a murderer who has shocked Copenhagen to its core. But how much is she willing to risk in order to catch a killer?

Sara kindly agreed to answer a few questions so I'll hand you over to her...

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a crime writer? 
My mother introduced me to crime fiction at a young age—so you can credit (or blame!) her for my devotion to the genre. She was an actress, and I loved it when she read to me out loud, which she happily did, as long as she was entertained by the stories as well.

She introduced me gently to mysteries, starting with Enid Blyton’s “The Famous Five,” and progressing to classics by Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. So I’ve had a lifelong love affair with the British and American mystery genre.

In the early nineties I founded a small publishing house dedicated to crime fiction – it was long before crime novels became popular. I have just always had the passion for crime fiction.

Tell us something about yourself that your readers probably don’t already know?
I curse way too much! I love both Paul Simon and AC/DC! I was trained as a waiter! I have a motorcycle license! And I’m the only one in my circle of friends who really doesn’t enjoy dancing!

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
I often write based on indignation. Or something I cannot understand, but really want to understand. The idea for BLUE BLOOD came when reading the newspaper. I read an article about internet dating and how dangerous it can be. I did quite a lot of research, including spending a lot of time on online dating sites. I never went so far as to go on a date — it might have been a bit awkward bringing my husband along ;-)—but I spoke to a number of people who had met their partners (and others) online.

Hopefully you will find BLUE BLOOD suspenseful, shocking and entertaining. And if I am really lucky, you will get something to think about.

Where do you get your ideas from for your stories?
My latest book in Danish is called THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS. (Louise Rick #7).

The idea for THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS came from a series of theme articles about the mental institutions in the Denmark 30-40 years ago. I was shocked when I read the articles, and stories immediately began to occupy my mind. And I wanted to know more. The articles also had interviews with former patients, relatives and social workers. It was really disturbing to read about.

It's not that long ago that we were treating odd characters in our society as indecent. And there are still people whose lives are marked by the horrible conditions we previously offered the mentally challenged and their families. We can be quite smug about the way things have changed for the better, and this is just to say: Hello, look what we did, let’s not treat other human beings in that degrading way ever again.

Percentage-wise, how much time do you spend researching and how much time do you spend writing?
I spend a LOT of time on research – actually the writing process is the least time-consuming.

When the story is good, and I have the research in place, and the plot is thought out, then I can write and write and almost get into a trance. It can be great fun. But sometimes I can get moody and dark – then it is usually because I just killed somebody in the story ;-) When I am writing, I usually isolate myself, and then it is only very few people who can get in touch with me. I spend the day writing and going on long walks in nature with my dog, and here I think or clear my mind. I love walking.

Also I’m a very visual person, and so I don’t create traditional outlines, but I do lay out the plot for each book on coloured note cards arranged on a big whiteboard, which I have come to call the Killing Wall. As each book develops, I research different components and adjust the Killing Wall as needed. As I write, I track my progress through the cards, too.

How do you get the information you need about police procedures?

I have spent a lot of time talking to pathologists both presently and in the past, and I’m so lucky as to now count some of them as friends and advisers. I always take my plot to the pathologist first and get his help in order to make everything as realistic and life-like as possible. The pathologist is always the first person with whom I discuss my plot. I go to his office when the autopsy rooms are empty, clean and quiet. Then we sit in the big autopsy theatre where homicide victims are autopsied and discuss the forensic details I need for the book. For example, it was the pathologist who came up with the Colombian Necktie as an execution method, which is used in BLUE BLOOD, and it was also him who described to me how the throat is slit in one long, straight cut. We simply go over the details as if the crime has really been committed. He describes how the post mortem examination would take place, and what would be the conclusions of the autopsy report. The same is the case for the police, where I am lucky to have a group of people in the homicide squad who are kind enough to help me. There are millions of details that I couldn’t possibly know without gaining insight into real police work. So I spend a lot of time on research and, and I have for many years worked closely together with the police force in Copenhagen. The best compliment I ever got was from the Detective Inspector in Chief who once during an interview on stage said to me: “Sara, sometimes you would think that you actually work here”. That made me very happy.

How hard is it to keep coming up with different/alternative ways to kill someone off?

Actually, it’s frightingly easy for me to keep finding new ways to kill people and coming up with new gruesome plots.

How do you relax/unwind after writing gruesome scenes?
I go for very long walks in the woods or by the sea with my dog. I love the nature that surrounds my writing quarters in the north of Seeland (Sjælland).

Are you one of those writers who wake in the middle of the night with ideas for plots, new story etc.?
I’d wish that I was one of these eccentric writers wearing a big hat, writing until late at night in the mist of cigarette smoke. But that is not how things work for me. I start the day with a long walk on the beach with my dog, ​​and then I sit down with my computer, and there I will stay for the next five to seven hours. I'm actually surprisingly disciplined when I write. But it is of course because I love to get absorbed into my story and stay there.

If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
If I was not a full-time writer, I would probably have continued to work as a TV journalist.  Or maybe I would have followed my old dream and had become a horse trainer. I have been a dressage rider and in riding competitions for many years, and I have owned horses since the age of ten. I miss riding, and I miss dealing with the large animals.

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
A typical day of writing begins early, when I walk my dog, and while the whole world (or at least my family) is quiet. There are times with a very good flow, and then I can write for hours and hours only interrupted by natural breaks, and then there are times when it is much harder. When it is difficult and I have to concentrate a lot, I stop early. But all in all, writing days are amazing. But peace is important when I write. And sometimes I unplug from the outside world completely.

If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?I would definitely be writing children’s books or young-adult books. I think it is a gift, if you discover as a child the pleasure to sink into a good story and let everything else go. I really appreciate children's literature, when it is able to awaken a love of reading, such as "The Famous Five" did for me.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Spend a LOT of time developing your characters down to the smallest detail.

When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?

First: I go outside and throw my arms in the air and shout YES(!) no matter where I am. It is a GREAT and very satisfying feeling to finish a novel. Then I drink a glass of champagne and feel really relieved. Also I allow myself to have a present. The last time I promised myself an expensive bag, but ended up with a new lawn tractor - and this is very typical me. I am not a typical female shopaholic, but I do love heavy machinery.

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