Last year I was introduced to writer Eva Björg Ægisdóttir and her debut novel, The Creak On The Stairs. There were some rumbles in the Nordic noir camps that it was a fantastic read and I felt that I could not miss out on the opportunity to check it out.
Iceland is known for generating some fantastic authors, with the likes of Ragnar Jónasson, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Arnaldur Indriðason, and Lilja Sigurdardottir, to name a few – well now you can add another to that list, as Eva’s breakout debut has its follow up released this week, Girls Who Lie.
As I catch up with Eva she has just returned from a book festival in Lyon – where usually there are 100,000 guests, but obviously this year it was a little smaller.
Eva has also just won an award – the CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger Award. The award is given by British Crime Writer’s Association (CWA) for previously unpublished writers and Eva picked up the award for The Creak on the Stairs.
Girls Who Lie
The big question fans of the previous book are thinking is and I pose to Eva: what can we expect next for detective Elma?
I think with The Creak on the Stairs Elma was recovering from a personal trauma in Girls Who Lie she is much better emotionally. She is coming to terms with everything that has happened and she is dealing with a new case where a mother is found dead near an old volcanic site in Iceland – she is found seven months after she has been reported missing.
Her daughter has been in and out of foster care – now seven months after the disappearance of her mother she seems really happy with her new foster family and not missing her mother so much.
Elma’s Detective is one that I have personally found incredibly likeable – so often in crime novels you’ll find the lead character will likely frustrate you, make poor decisions, or in some cases just be a pain in the ass. Elma comes as so much more realistic, making it impossible to not get frustrated with the character.
The pace is slower, which makes the realism of this so much more believable – I wonder whether that is something Eva had set out to achieve or whether it was just my own feelings being drawn from the character?
Of course, I wanted her to be very real and from the first pages, I wrote she has been very real for me. She is almost a mix of me and someone else because we have a lot of similarities – we both come from Akranes and are very motivated for example.
Elma’s feelings towards her old town are almost similar to my own – I wanted to write about her relationship with the town and the community and try to avoid her being like too many other detectives that have a lot of problems; alcohol problems is always a common problem and often you just want to scream at them.
Elma needed to be more normal – in The Creak on the Stairs she was going through some stuff that had brought her down and now with the following books, we get to know her more as she gets over her trauma.
Eva is from Akranes in Iceland, and I wonder how much easier it is for her to write about the place and whether it helps inspire her – a silly question one might think but not all places are real in novels!
Well what inspired The Creak On The Stairs was a place in Akranes – the lighthouse there. It was a place I used to go to as a kid but there are in fact two lighthouses there. One is old and closer to the sea, it is very scary and as kids we used to dare each other to go up there. It is a very very spooky place!
For me, Akranes was the only place where I could set my story because it is the place I know best and even though I don’t live there now it is where I have always been and in my mind. Even though I love this town and there is a beautiful white beach there and so many beautiful places it is also very hard to come from somewhere like there because of there being such small communities.
When you grow up you get a status there and it is always difficult to perhaps change someone’s perception of you – I think that is why people move away from the small communities because they can’t change that perspective of themselves. I think in both my books the theme is there – how are you supposed to come from a small community where something has happened and get your status back?
Eva has an incredible technique of creating a world for the reader where the community is so tight-knit that it is almost claustrophobic.
What is coming next?
Now after two novels featuring Elma, I wonder whether we are going to get to see more of her? Was it going to be a trilogy or are we expecting a series here?
No, it is not a trilogy but it is going to be series – I am currently writing book four now.
This one is going to be a bit of a prequel but it will still have a lot of the original characters in it. I am not done with these characters yet!
And what might book three offer us?
It is coming out next year and it involves a fire.
This is as much information I can get, and really, it’s the right amount as I want to keep excited for its release!
Let’s twist again
One thing that Eva does confirm is that there will be some good twists – and if there is one thing that Eva is good at it is planting a great twist in her stories.
Once upon a time twists weren’t so easy to figure out – they came out of nowhere and swiped you off your feet and left your jaw dropped. Though in this modern age more and more people seem to have become savvy to figuring out a twist – thinking they are one step ahead of the game but Eva has still mastered the skill to set you on off on the wrong red herring!
I wonder whether there is a sense of excitement and achievement when such twists and ideas form in the author’s mind?
For Girls Who Lie the first idea I had was a twist and I think I am very good at guessing twists – I read a lot and watch a lot of movies so I have got really good at guessing them.
In my books, I try to think a few steps forward and put myself in the shoes of the reader. I love making twists and so I am always trying to play with the reader a bit.
With books, people will always make assumptions and I don’t want to have to lie. Good twists in books are a lot more about what you don’t say instead of what you are giving away. It is very tricky to do it right because you always have to tell the truth and so I love it when it works right.
What else has been capturing Eva’s attention recently?
We start talking about music and Eva mentions how she needs to get back into after her days of loving the likes of Death Cab For Cutie and going to Denmark’s Roskilde Festival.
I really enjoyed Sweet Tooth on Netflix and then I have also been enjoying Why Women Kill I love that series! I am onto the second season – it is very good.
There is such a common theme in books and films where the woman is always the victim and it is a lot like that in the real world too but I love watching something about bad women. Perhaps that is even a theme in my books too! I don’t want to write about women that are always innocent.
I wonder whether anyone has ever approached Eva about making a TV series or a film based on her books?
With Ragnar Jónasson’s The Darkness being made into a TV series already in the pipeline, I wonder whether the idea has ever been floated with Eva.
I was never thinking of that when I wrote the books but I have been approached – I am just not sure. I think it is always a hard decision if you want your books to be adapted to TV because then you lose some control over your characters. I don’t think I am there yet.
Interview by Alex Minnis