Arctic Noir – it’s a thing!

It has been an interesting week with lots of things going on in the world of Greenlandic crime and thrillers. I was thrilled to see The Arctic Journal’s article about The Ice Star be tweeted on the Danish Embassy in Canada’s Twitter account. Of course, knowing what I do about the plot of The Ice Star (no spoilers here), there’s a few butterflies fluttering inside my stomach.

But the really exciting news has absolutely nothing to do with my book at all.

Mads Peder Nordbo, a Danish author living in Nuuk, Greenland, has just sold his crime book set in Greenland: The Girl without Skin, to 14 countries, for a 7 figure number (Danish kroner, I imagine). You can read about that in Politiken’s article (Danish). The gist of the article suggests that Greenland is hot right now, and it has nothing to do with Global Warming. While some in the literary world might believe that interest in Nordic Noir is waning, Arctic Noir might just be the next big thing.

Yep, you read it right, that’s Arctic Noir.

So, this is exciting in the sense that The Ice Star has come out at just the right time. The question now is how to make the most of it.

Keeping It Real

I want things to be right, or as close to right as possible in a fictitious story. I had the chance to talk about that with a journalist from The Arctic Journal. This is the result – an article entitled “Seven Years in Greenland”.

As I get more and more embroiled in right and wrong in the second book of the Greenland trilogy, what’s right takes on a whole new meaning. Getting the facts right is tricky when the characters – some of them at least – are devious by design.

If the lines are blurred in The Ice Star, those same lines in In the Shadow of the Mountain are buried in lies, deceit and a hefty dose of geopolitical subterfuge. I still want things to be right, with a suggestion of today’s truth, and a hint of tomorrow’s, but boy is it fun to mix it all up a little for the sake of a good story.

Hurting

I stepped out of the Huey and onto the Uummannaq helipad in August 2006. A newly-baked teacher, fresh out of a Danish Teaching College, and desperate to begin my new life, together with my wife, in the Arctic. At last, after so many years of dreaming of snow, ice, dogs, and whales, I had arrived. I was on “the frontier”, at the very edge of my known world, and ready to tip off and into the unknown. I had lived, dreamed and fed on years of romantic claptrap, and it had brought me to that very moment. Sure, I had dipped my toes in the Arctic as a kennel helper at a sled dog kennel in Alta, Norway. Jane and I had paddled our canoe for a week or so above the Arctic Circle in Sweden. But this was it. The real Arctic.

It was also the first time I had ever really listened to Johnny Cash.

I discovered that the so-called frontier was a real place, with real people going about their lives, not in a time bubble, but in a connected world that was, at times, speeding them too damned fast towards the future, when one foot was lingering in the past.

My pupils were avid music enthusiasts with a greater and more varied vocabulary than my own. In fact, during my time in Greenland, I began to wonder if there were any Greenlanders that couldn’t play the guitar, or aspire to it at the very least. The time-bubble idea burst right along with the idea that we were living on the frontier. Sure, I heard whales swimming beneath the Northern Lights as I fed my sledge dogs on the rocks outside our house, but that was the norm. That and Johnny Cash, Roger Waters and every pop idol you can shake a stick at.

I remember seeing the first cruise ship passengers arrive in Uummannaq. Grey-haired adventurers, many of whom were rich enough to make the journey of a lifetime, but often too frail to wander more than a few hundred metres away from the boat. I watched as a particular group gave out crayons and balloons to the local, younger, kids. One of the kids sent a text on his mobile to tell his friends to hurry up, the tourists had arrived.

Scenes like that woke me up to the reality that was Greenland. The tour companies need the small towns and villages to remain museum pieces, but the kids, their parents, and grandparents, need to keep up with the times, get better and faster Internet services and rates, while still preserving the traditions and passing on the knowledge of their culture.

Which brings me back to Johnny Cash, and to the film Logan. The blend of Cash’s voice (a cover of Hurt by Nine Inch Nails) and a real human interest story wrapped up in a superhero movie, well, I was sold. In a way, there are comparisons to be made. Life is tough in Greenland, the environment, the distances, the challenges in providing services to remote communities, all contribute to a life that requires grit and determination. Not everyone has it. For some, the challenge is far greater than for others, but that determination, across the generations, in spite of everything and because of everything, well, you can see it in the eyes of the kids, their parents, and their grandparents.

It’s Greenland.

Sometimes it hurts.

But when did a little hurt stop anybody?

My character of Konstabel Fenna Brongaard hurts in The Ice Star. So do other characters around her, and some more than others. But wrapped up inside the character of Maratse, the policeman, you’ll find the spirit of Greenland, and I look forward to letting him show just how strong that spirit is in future books.

Curious? The Ice Star is available in paperback and on Kindle or for Kindle apps from Amazon:

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Amazon Canada

Write … Keep Writing!

I saw a picture of Neil Gaiman today, posted by Tor.com. On Neil’s palm, facing the camera, are the words: “Write. Finish things. Keep writing”.

This would be my writing mantra if I didn’t have one already: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”. I think those words came from Hugh Howey, and probably other writers before him. But no matter who says what, there is no greater truth to getting books finished – without the writing, they will never be written.

So, in the course of my marathon, I have set goals. August is the next one. By August, the second book of The Greenland Trilogy will be done, finished, and available. By December, book three will also be done, finished, available. It’s that write, edit, redraft, write some more, edit even more, and repeat that is the recipe for running this particular marathon, and I can see the finish line. It’s just there, a few hundred sleepless nights – and a lot of battered keys – away, in the distance.

Just there.

Beyond the ice.

And I’ll get there too. Fenna’s journey through book two: In the Shadow of the Mountain, is shaping up with threads being pulled and teased in all directions. The side plot(s) are developing along with the main storyline, and some interesting new characters are showing up, while familiar ones are developing – in more than one direction. All in all book two is rocking along, and the deadline is looming.

So, if you’ve got a book inside you, follow Neil’s advice:

Write

Finish things

Keep writing

Fearless Girl!

Since reading the CNN article about Fearless Girl, and then a second article in Adweek, I have really enjoyed seeing the different photos and reactions to this bronze symbol of hope, potential, and power. Yes, I am reminded of why I choose to write strong female lead characters, but more so, I am reminded of strong, inspirational female leaders, and the young women and girls they once were.

Why?

Because one of those strong female leaders I grew up around was my mother. Like Fearless Girl, my mother took on the world and raised me by herself during a time when single mothers were scorned, a time when the man was predominantly right. She took on the world and worked hard to become a leader, a director, and I remember seeing the determination in her eyes shine just as fiercely as Fearless Girl‘s, no matter what bull or bullish male entity came charging toward her.

As a child and a teen I never really understood. As an adult I can better appreciate it, and as a male I can respect it.

In the spirit of Fearless Girl, and the present and future female leaders of the world, I will continue to write strong female characters in my stories, and I look forward to seeing where such adventures take me, and them.

#shemakesadifference

Nuuk Noir

It’s a whole new genre: Nuuk Noir! As the world becomes increasingly interested in the Arctic, and Greenland, a new noir has been recognised, and it makes great use of  the name of Greenland’s capital: Nuuk. While my characters do not travel to Nuuk in The Ice Star, it will feature in book two: In the Shadow of the Mountain, and I can’t wait to explore the town I lived in for a year, my seventh and last year in Greenland.

KNR have published an article today about the growing interest in this niche genre of noir – in Greenlandic and Danish, only. The gist of the article traces the genre back to Peter Høeg’s “Smilla’s Sense of Snow”, and brings it up to date with Nina Von Staffeldt’s “Frozen Evidence”, released in January this year.

While Fenna’s story is set predominantly in the east of Greenland, with a number of chapters set in Uummannaq, she does not visit the capital. Not this time. But with a growing interest in the country, the genre and not the least the people of Greenland, it makes sense that the next book spends some time in Nuuk.

I am excited about this new genre, and very interested to see how it develops.

Curious? The Ice Star is available in paperback and on Kindle or for Kindle apps from Amazon:

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Amazon Canada

Breaking Bones or Busting Noses?

dscf0888It’s no spoiler – I am building up to a fight scene in book two, and Fenna has to break something. Rather, someone has to break something of Fenna’s and I can’t decide what it should be.

Plot devices can be cruel, but she must break something in order to drive the story and her motivation through to the next set piece scheduled later in the story. A couple of black eyes will also do the trick. Which reminds me of my own, self-inflicted, black eye, gained on the ice.

Greenlandic dogs are taught to react to a sealskin whip; with a crack of the whip on the ice to the left or right of the dogs, a skilled hunter can turn the sledge in the direction he or she wishes the dogs to take. I am not a skilled driver of dogs, but my dogs were wary of the whip even if they only ever saw me use it on myself.

When sledging one day in March I wanted to turn the dogs to the right, so I cracked the whip on the ice to the left of the dogs. In my head I had imagined a smooth Indiana Jones-like action, what I achieved was a satisfying crack and a flash of searing pain as the tip struck my cheek beneath my eye. I was millimetres from removing it.

The dogs pulled to the right out of sympathy, the kids at school were less forgiving.

“What have you done this time?” they asked, and, “Maybe you should stop?”

I couldn’t stop, I had a team of dogs to train. But while the lessons learned on the ice were painful and embarrassing, the environment was unforgiving.