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She Writes: Lilja Sigurdardottir

I did not want the She Writes series to come to an end not featuring a Nordic Noir author. Even though my professional area of expertise is American (and sometimes British) crime fiction, I love reading Nordic crime fiction novels because of the setting. I am a sucker for winter and snow, and I love the way in which gritty crimes disturb the social haven of Nordic societies. Nordic crime fiction is also a subgenre in which I read women authors and male authors equally, and I think that vouches for the responsible representation of women that comes these societies – though truth be told there is still work to be done. You can check all my reviews here.


My main source of Nordic Noir in recent years has been Orenda Books. Led by Karen Sullivan, this British print has been responsible for brining high quality Nordic Noir into the UK. They are the press behind Agnes Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal, which enchanted everyone alike last year. At Crimefest17 I met with Karen and she kindly let me have an early press release that included the first few chapters of her new author Lilja Sigurdardottir’s debut novel in English. The novel tells the story of Sonia, an attractive single mother in her thirties who is an imaginative, albeit unwilling cocaine-smuggler. Her main adversary, Bragi, an almost-retired customs officer, knows all the tricks in the book after decades of experience. Not only must Sonja think of new and increasingly daring ways to outwit her nemesis, she must also find a way to get out of the snare.

So, today I am very happy to welcome Lilja Sigurdardottir to Bodies in the Library to talk about her career as a woman writer. Even though Snare is her first novel to be translated into English, she is the author of four crime fiction novels Steps (Spor), 2009, Forgiveness (Fyrirgefning), 2010, Snare (Gildran) 2015, Tangle (Netið) 2016 and Cage (Búrið) 2017. She is also the author of Big Babies (Stóru Börnin), an acclaimed stage-play which won the Icelandic Theatre Prize Gríman as “Best play of the year.” Not only is Lilja a fantastic writer, but she also openly discussed the role homosexuality and feminism play in her writing at Crimefest17:

You can learn more from Lilja herself at her personal website (click here), and don’t forget to follow her on Twitter @lilja1972!

Currently on your nightstand?

There is a big pile of books on my nightstand that I truly want to read but don’t get around to. I have been very busy for the last weeks to read over the edits and proofs for my new book that is out in Iceland this month and also reading over the English translation of Snare. So I have mostly been reading my own books recently! But I do look forwards to reading quite a few titles soon, all of them are crime fiction of course.

Favourite book by a woman writer?

What a difficult question! It puts me in terrible trouble. One book that had a deep effect on me when I was young is The Awakening by Kate Chopin. It tells the story of a woman that gradually wakes up to recognize her own situation in the society at the turn of the century, and it kind of makes her mad. In the crime genre I would say The talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. I do like antiheros.

Where do you find inspiration to write?

Everywhere! I absolutely love writing. It is the best thing in the world. I have lived inside my head since I was a child and being able to get the stories that constantly form in my mind out there is wonderful. Sometimes the well runs dry and then I have to take a pause for a few days and do something completely different to charge the batteries. Then I find it helps to do something I have not done before, visit a new place, see a new exhibition, eat something new.

What is your routine for writing?

I like to wake up, grab a cup of coffee and start writing immediately. By lunchtime I will then be done writing for the day and do other things. I am not the kind of writer that sits at the desk all day long. I can’t do that. If the writing doesn’t pour out of me in the morning it won’t later in the day so then it is useless to sit by the computer and try to force oneself. If that happens I take it as a sign that I need a mental rest and need to do fun things for a couple of days.

Name three things you cant live without when writing:

Coffee, coffee and coffee. A computer is helpful as I cannot read my own handwriting it´s so terrible. And Malinche, a 16th century Mexican skull and a family treasure, that sits on my table is my silent writing partner. She helps too.

What are you reading next?

I have new books by Ann Cleeves, Val McDermid, Mark Edwards and Caz Frear and am planning to get a few more, including Mari Hannah´s new and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir´s. I really love her new series. Thankfully I have ten days in the sun and Christmas coming up as I am a slow reader in English.

What does being a woman writer mean to you?

It should really just mean that I am a woman who writes, but of course it has all kinds of meanings. Probably it makes me feel responsible for creating good female characters, as female characters are still the minority in the world´s crime fiction. The kind of characters I myself like to read about, and that means interesting, multidimensional, awesome women. But that doesn´t mean I don´t like writing male characters, cause I do and am quite good at it is I may say so myself.

Words of wisdom about writing for your younger self:

Enjoy the writing and stop trying to make it a good book. If you enjoy the process and love your story it will be good.


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