Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Cecilia Ekback - guest post

Last week I had the delight of reading and reviewing Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback - a murder mystery set in eighteenth century Swedish Lapland. Today I'm delighted to welcome Cecilia to talk about the inspiration, setting and meaning of Wolf Winter.....

The expression ‘wolf winter’ in Swedish (vargavinter) refers to an unusually bitter and long winter, but it is also used to describe the darkest of times in a human being’s life – the kind of period that imprints on you that you are mortal and, at the end of the day, always alone.  The old Nordic religions talked about fimbulvetr, ‘the ’large winter,’ that preceded the destruction of the world. It took place when Fenrisulven, the ‘wolf of the wolves’, had eaten the sun…

My father was my best friend. The period preceding and just after his death was my wolf winter. As he lay dying, I interviewed him about his life. He died and I continued speaking, with my grandmother, her sister, their friends, my mother... WOLF WINTER came out of those conversations. Thus the book was not as much an idea I had carried around with me for a long time, as a reaction, or a riposte, to a life event. I became very interested in ‘place’ – setting – in the largest sense of the word and the impact it had on people, versus ‘heritage’ – how many things do we not chose, but that are just there, in us, inherited from generations and generations.

Blackåsen Mountain does not exist as a physical place, but its nature is something I remember from my childhood: a combination of the places and memories I have from Hudiksvall, where I grew up, Knaften and Vormsele, the two small villages in Lapland where my grandparents lived, and Sånfjället, a mountain close to the Norwegian border, where our family had a cabin. Blackåsen is the embodiment of what I felt like growing up in the north of Sweden. It represents the fear, the doubts, the religious fervour, the loneliness and the need to fit in and to belong.

I began writing with the idea of several characters passing through their wolf winters at the same time. I wanted 'place' - the mountain - to be a character in its own right. Blackåsen Mountain watches the settlers. It doesn't care. It is dispassionate. It has already seen many of them come and go and it will see many more come and go after them. I brought this ‘place’ down onto the characters and let it impact them to the fullest. The characters and the plot grew out of the idea and the setting.

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