Nordic Watchlist speaks to award-winning Swedish author Lina Bengtsdotter

Lina Bengtsdotter is an award-winning Swedish author, probably best known for her Charlie Lager series. Nordic Watchlist were able to speak to her shortly after the third and final book in the series, ‘For The Lost’ was released. Read on to find out about the book, Lina’s path to becoming an author, and what’s coming next.

Nordic Watchlist: I guess we should probably start with ‘For the Lost’. Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about it?

Lina Bengtsdotter: Well it’s the third in my Charlie Lager series so she is, once again, the main character. This time though I’ve based it in Karlstad rather than my childhood hometown of Gullspång. Charlie is dealing (or maybe not dealing!) with some personal demons but she must try and put those demons to one side to solve a new case.

Beatrice, the nine month old daughter of successful couple Frida and Gustav Palmgren has gone missing from her pram and it’s up to Charlie to try and solve it. Let’s just say the leads don’t seem to be going anywhere and the locals don’t seem all that interested in helping!

Nordic Watchlist: I’ve noticed that your books seem to have different titles depending where they’re published. ‘For the Lost’ seems to have also been published as ‘Beatrice’ for example. Is there a particular reason for that?

Lina Bengtsdotter: I had no say in the names but there is a reason. It’s really all to do with sales and my editor here in Sweden didn’t think that books with female names as titles would prove popular with male readers in certain countries. In others, where reading is perhaps a pastime more popular with women, it was decided that the name titles would work better. 

I have a say in the Swedish titles (even though my agent didn’t like the women’s names (he thought it would make the novels lose male readers), I really wanted the names.

In other countries, I have no say. 

It’s a similar story with the covers, for example the cover of the first in the series ‘For the Missing’ is a snowy looking street but it takes place in the Summer. It was just thought that people associate Nordic crime fiction with those sorts of settings.

Nordic Watchlist: When you started writing ‘For The Missing’, did you always know it would be the start of a series?

Lina Bengtsdotter: Oh no, not at all. I thought that would be it. Luckily, people seemed to like it and it started to sell. Still even then I didn’t think I’d get the opportunity to write another or another two! It’s quite funny how that happened.

My publishers ran a competition, and I basically had an hour to not only come up with the ideas for the next two but also write the blurbs.

I knew I could write quickly so I sat down and started working and sent them across. It was almost like a dream to get the call to say that they liked the ideas and would publish them.

Nordic Watchlist: Did you ever expect that you’d be selling outside of Sweden?

Lina Bengtsdotter: Not at all. My goal when I set out was simply to get published in Sweden. When I found out the publishing rights to the book had been sold to Germany and Denmark I was so happy but couldn’t really believe it. It was an amazing feeling. The rights to the second two were sold before I’d even written them!

Photo Credit: Gabriel Liljeval

Nordic Watchlist: Have you started to get used to receiving compliments or praise for your writing or does it still catch you off-guard?

Lina Bengtsdotter: It’s definitely not something I’ve got used to and, to be honest, I’m not sure it’s something I ever want to get used to. I think it’s natural as a human to like positive attention but it still surprises me every time.

Nordic Watchlist: ‘For The Lost’ is the last in the series isn’t it? Are you able to tell us what’s coming next?

Lina Bengtsdotter: Yes, next up is a standalone that will come out here in Sweden on 1 September. There’s some crime in it but it’s probably not what you’d call a traditional crime fiction story. Hopefully it will make its way over to the UK at some point.

Nordic Watchlist: When you sit down to start writing do you always know where the story is going or do you go with the flow so to speak?

Lina Bengtsdotter: I very much go with the flow but I quite like that. It means, like the reader, I’m always curious about where the story is going to end up! I like to follow my imagination and see where it takes me rather than following a pre-planned structure. It does mean that sometimes there are little continuation issues but either I spot them when I read it all back or my editor does.

Photo Credit: Gabriel Liljeval

Interview by Marc Harries