A lot of the folklore is still there. I researched – read everything I could find, but the most valuable information I got from the interviews with my grandmother and her friends. And I remembered stories from my childhood. We grew up with tales about sprites and fairies, like the ones about ‘the boy on the bog’ who would steal your things if you had bad thoughts…— or Santa Claus who was not a large, jovial man dressed in red but a small, grey goblin who lived in the barn and who would punish you if you did not treat him right.
Blackåsen Mountain doesn’t 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 imagine the mountain to be 70 kilometres inland of Luleå town – as I state in the very loose sequel I am writing right now and where maps are an important part of the tale.
My grandmother used to say, ‘I don’t think I’m living in Lapland as much as Lapland is living in me.’ And growing up in northern Sweden, its setting has made its mark. The long winters, the six months darkness, and the seemingly endless forest landscape – contrasted with the summer midnight sun, the hot weather and the absolute explosion of flora and fauna; one season is lived as quietly as the other is, exuberantly. This, our setting, governs, to a large part, the rhythm of our lives and imprints itself on our psyches. I am not certain I had to recreate it on the page, as much as just ‘let it flow,’ if you see what I mean?
Perhaps because of how powerfully we are marked by it, place—in the broadest sense of the word—has taken on a big role in Scandinavian crime writing and contributes to its uniqueness. The location where the scene is laid—the architect of the experience in the mind of the reader—is more than simply a supporting element in much of our fiction. I believe that this is why Scandinavian crime writing has such a broad appeal, blurring the line between highbrow and lowbrow forms of literature
In WOLF WINTER, I wanted 'place' - the mountain - to be almost a character in its own right. It felt right to give it a voice in the interludes. 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 full.
As for setting in fiction in general, I think it is always important. Setting impacts characters, their drivers and mood.