It’s the last session of a busy day at the Lemon Tree Theatre as crime writer Sarah Ward introduces Kristina Ohlsson, described as Sweden’s Queen of Crime. We sense Ward’s excitement. Her popular blog, Crimepieces, reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world; she’s on the judging panel of the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. It’s clear she is a fan of Ohlsson and is delighted the Swedish writer is appearing at Aberdeen’s inaugural crime festival, Granite Noir.
Ohlsson writes both crime and children’s fiction, describing herself as ‘someone who writes fairy tales – sometimes for adults, sometimes for children’. Her novels have been shortlisted for best crime novel of the year by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers. Her latest, Buried Lies, is due out in June 2017. Her Bergman and Recht series includes Unwanted (2011), Silenced (2012), The Disappeared (2013), Hostage (2014) and The Chosen (2015).
She is a political scientist and until recently held the position of Counter-Terrorism Officer at OSCE (the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). She has previously worked at the Swedish Security Service, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Swedish National Defense College. Ward asks, surely then Ohlsson must use this experience in her writing? But Ohlsson shakes her head, confessing she’s made a pact with her readers not to make her writing political. However, in Silenced she shines a spotlight on human trafficking, admitting that if a novel is dated then it’s impossible to write in a vacuum.
Ohlsson is petite and at first appears serious, dressed formally in a dark suit, but as soon as she begins she reveals an unexpected light side. She laughs and smiles often as she recounts beginning to write at the age of seven, and must have been a precocious child as by the age of thirteen she was penning letters to favourite authors requesting writing advice. Most writers replied. David Morrell, author of First Blood: Rocky, provided three simple rules – pick a genre, read all the books in that genre, write a novel that’s better than the rest. Rules Ohlsson appears to have taken to heart, stressing her primary motivation is to keep her readers entertained.
And Ohlsson doesn’t restrict that motivation only to writing. Ward’s relaxed questioning style is incisive, whilst Ohlsson’s compelling replies draw the audience in. This makes for the perfect late night conversation to round off the second day of Granite Noir.