As a blogger I love discovering new authors, whether they're already published authors who have been under my radar until now, but also hearing about new authors whose writing career I can now follow from the start. One such author I've recently heard about is Finnish author Minna Lindgren whose The Lavender Ladies Detective Agency series is now being published in the UK by Pan Macmillan, the first book Death in Sunset Grove is published this Thursday.
Minna Lindgren is a well-known journalist and an expert of classical music. She is the also the author of several non-fiction books. Minna was inspired to write The Lavender Ladies Detective Agency after researching the treatment of the elderly in Finland for a magazine article. The article won the 2009 Bonnier Journalism Prize, considered the highest journalism honour in Finland.
The Lavender Ladies Detective Agency: Death in Sunset Grove is her first novel.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey?
I have always known I was a writer even though my first fiction book (not translated) was only published in 2011 (when I was 48). Writing as a journalist has been very satisfying and a good school for a novelist and since I left my permanent job in the Finnish Broadcasting Company in 2008 I was just waiting for a good story to pop up. These old ladies gave it to me.
Your debut novel Death in Sunset features two elderly women Siiri & Irma who between them have experienced a lot of life, what inspired you to write this story?
I have always loved old people. I remember how the oldest in the family were my favourites as a child. I guess it is the free spirit and capricious sense of humour that inspires me and was fascinating for a child, too. The way we talk about old people in the media is opposite to what I have experienced – there are only problems and only big problems around senior citizens. I wanted to tell people how exciting it can be to live a long life - for isn’t it, after all, something we all wish? At the same time I was able to write a satire of the modern society which has always been my favourite genre. Everything turns out a little funny when you look at it through the eyes of a 95 years old lady.
Did you need to do much research before you could start writing about life in a retirement community?
Yes I did, but the research was done first by experience when my parents were living in a retirement community and died happily (2007, 2010) and then as a journalist when I wrote several big articles about the problems with the care of senior citizens in Finland. After 6 large articles and two years I got fed up with that journalistic point of view but still had a huge amount of untold stories.
Which character did you have the most fun creating, Siiri or Irma, or is there someone else who became your favourite during the writing of this story?
Impossible to say. Maybe Anna-Liisa, because she surprised me the most. I really did not expect her to fall in love. But of course, I had a lot of fun with all my characters and I am now in the traumatic post Sunset Grove process trying to cope without them.
What can we expect from you next?
I will concentrate on younger people, maybe someone around 75 years old. Believe me, it is a totally different age to 95. Very dramatic and more difficult, I think. When you are over 90, there are no risks or fears anymore. But at the age of 75 you really start to be afraid of getting old.
Have you treated yourself to something special to celebrate your publishing your debut novel?
Not really. Publishing in English still sounds unbelievable to me. Writing in Finnish is such an obscure thing to do, you don’t think that either you can live by writing or that your books would be translated into other languages. In a way I think I celebrate all the time, my normal life is so happy: I have an interesting job, a lovely family and a lot of interesting things to do. My biggest dream is to one day see my English book in an airport bookshop. That would be something! Then I could treat myself to something. Maybe a glass of cheap red wine like Irma and Siiri would.
Finally have you anything exciting planned for publication day itself?
To be honest, I do not know the date. If you let me know, I will ride on the trams in Helsinki from morning till night.
Good detectives come in all manner of guises...
Meet Siiri and Irma, best friends and the queen bees of Sunset Grove, a retirement community for those still young at heart. With a combined age of nearly 180, Siiri and Irma are still just as inquisitive and witty as when they first met decades ago.
But when their comfortable world is upturned by a suspicious death at Sunset Grove, Siiri and Irma are shocked into doing something about it. Determined to find out exactly what happened and why, they begin their own private investigations and form The Lavender Ladies Detective Agency.
The trouble is, beneath Sunset Grove's calm facade, there is more going on than meets the eye, and Siiri and Irma soon discover far more than they bargained for...