As part of its nation-building in Lapland in the early 17th century, Sweden encouraged colonialisation and a lot of land that had previously been used by the indigenous people, the Sami, (referred to as ‘Lapps’ throughout Wolf Winter, as that was the name used at the time) was distributed to new settlers. Today a ‘homestead’ is more about the ownership of forest rather than houses. These estates are inherited, and it can be a hugely emotional issue in families – who gets to take them over.
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.