Thursday, April 22, 2021

Hidden people and toe-dipping artwork: an interview with Sólveig Pálsdóttir

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the latest weekly instalment of our 9mm interview series for 2021. This author interview series has now been running for over a decade, and today marks the 228th overall edition. 

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you. 

My plan is to to publish 40-50 new author interviews in the 9mm series this year. You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. Some amazing writers.

If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been featured, let me know in the comments or by sending me a message, and I'll look to make that happen for you. Even as things with this blog may evolve moving forward, I'll continue to interview crime writers and review crime novels.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome Icelandic author Sólveig Pálsdóttir to Crime Watch. Sólveig is a trained actor who has performed in theatre, television and radio, and also taught Icelandic literature and linguistics, drama and public speaking, as well as producing radio programmes and public events. 

I first met Sólveig at the Newcastle Noir festival in 2019, where she appeared on a panel about Icelandic crime writing, although her work wasn't yet translated into English, although she had been a bestseller in her home country for several years and her books had been translated into German. Her 2012 debut, Leikarinn ('The Actress') is being developed for a film. 

Last year, Corylus Books started bringing Sólveig crime tales to English-speaking readers, with the publication of THE FOX. I was thrilled to see this, especially after meeting Sólveig the year before. THE FOX was Sólveig's fourth crime novel, but first to be translated into English. It continues her series following "the detective team of the family man Guðgeir and the ambitious Særós", and is told from the perspective of Guðgeir and also Sajee, a Sri Lankan immigrant to Iceland.

Michael Ridpath, a British author who set several novels in Iceland, called THE FOX "a sinister story of fear and isolation told with imaginative flair. Mesmerising". This year, Corylus Books has brought another Sólveig Pálsdóttir tale to our shores and our shelves, SILENCED. 

But for now, Sólveig Pálsdóttir becomes the latest crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm. 


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson and Kurt Wallander from the Henning Mankell novels, both from Sweden. And Erlendur from Arnaldur Indriðason’s books.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I read a lot of poetry as a child, especially those of Páll Ólafsson, an Icelandic poet who died long before I was born. He wrote a great deal of verse, some very beautiful and others that are satirical and funny. I also read a lot of Icelandic folk tales, and some of those are very disturbing. They are about ghosts and hauntings, the hidden people, elves and terrible weather.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I never wrote pure fiction until starting on my first novel at the end of 2010, and it was published in May 2012. Before that I had written articles, teaching materials and radio scripts, plus as an actor I had done a lot of improvisation. Of course I had written a great many essays while I was studying literature at university.

4. Outside of writing and writing-related activities (book events, publicity), what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I walk a lot, preferably in natural surroundings, and travel a lot in Iceland. I’m a member of a book club and also a walking group, and I swim practically every day. At the pool I spend a long time in the hot tub, and get changed in the outdoor (ie, unheated) changing room, even when the temperature is below zero and there is snow on the ground. There are outside swimming pools in virtually every town and community in Iceland and these are important places, not just in terms of health, but thes ealso serve as social centres. There can be quiet in the hot tub, or the world can be put to rights – but there’s never an argument. I go to theatres, concerts and exhibitions, as well as meeting freinds and relatives – except that Covid has out an end to much of that for the moment. As a writer I feel it’s important to be in touch with people of all ages and to follow what’s going on.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
I go for a swim and then a meal at a good restaurant, preferably local fish or lamb. Then a walk to the beach where I pull of my socks and shoes and dip my toes in Ólöf Nordal’s Bollasteinn artwork, which has a constant flow of cooled thermal water running through it that has unique properties and even healing powers. It’s wonderful to sit and look out over the sea and the mountains with your feet in the hot water.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I don’t know ... Emma Thompson or Laura Linney maybe...

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or a bit special to you for some particular reason, and why?
My latest book, Klettaborgin (2020) is very dear to me as it contains my memories from the age of five up to around 20.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I went straight home after signing my first book contract, and my family were waiting in the garden with chilled white wine and grilled prawns...When the book was published, my publisher threw a fantastic party.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I don’t recall anything in particular, except that when one of my books was published there was a young man in the queue who wanted the book signed ‘to Mum, from Sólveig Pálsdóttir.’

I though it was very odd and asked twice if he was sure he wanted those words, and he was absolutely sure that was exactly how he wanted it!

Thank you Solveig, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch.

You can find out more about Sólveig Pálsdóttir and her writing here, or by checking out some of the blogs below who will be featuring her and her new book SILENCED this month. You can also follow Solveig on Twitter. 

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