Dark Pines in Sweden with Will Dean
Dare you enter Dark Pines? This is the darkest and most eerie forest you will ever encounter in a novel – it’s a Swedish forest where elk roam, and so does death….
Our guide for today is Will Dean – he lives in an actual Swedish forest so knows what he’s talking about. And it was a gunshot which gave him the idea for this novel. The sound of gunshot is not unusual in the middle of elk hunting season but what happens if it’s not directed at an elk?
Will Dean it’s over to you:
Tell us about the location/where the book is set/inspired by.
(Thank you so much for inviting my on your excellent blog!)
Dark Pines is my debut crime novel. The book’s set in Gavrik, a small (fictional) town in central Sweden. It’s also set in nearby Utgard forest, a huge dense spruce forest overdue for harvest. Tuva Moodyson, my protagonist, is a young deaf journalist and she is terrified of nature.
The setting is fictional but I borrow heavily from my own surroundings. I live at the very centre of an enormous forest north of Gothenburg. I’m surrounded by moose and deer and badgers and eagles and wild boar. I chose to set Dark Pines a few hours further north because the change in latitude offers an incremental increase in danger. There are brown bears up there. There are wolves and lynx cats. The forests are wilder and the winters are colder and darker and the towns are spread further apart.
How did the story come about?
I had the idea for Dark Pines when I was outside in my forest clearing playing with my then one year old. It was October and the noise of high calibre rifle fire was booming through the pine trees all around us. And the strange thing was that I didn’t find it strange any more. I hardly noticed the gunfire. So I thought: what if? Out here we all assume each bullet is intended for a bull elk or a cow elk or her calf, but what if the shooter was aiming at another hunter? A gunshot would raise suspicion in a city. Not so out here.
When I first imagined Dark Pines, I saw a gravel track snaking through a thick forest. I zoomed in and saw a pick-up truck driving along the track. I zoomed in further and saw Tuva Moodyson driving the truck. I’m interested in the interplay between character and setting. Tuva’s a city person. She does not want to be in Garvik or Utgard forest, and I like that dynamic.
In real life you live in a forest in Sweden – and you have glossy hair and beard. Are you secretly Father Christmas?
Ha! The stress of book two is rapidly turning my beard and my hair white, so maybe? Perhaps by book three I’ll have gone full Santa!
Good setting for inspiration?
My home setting is very useful. The wilderness here is vast and it is truly wild. It’s more dangerous than the UK countryside. And I find the seasons here fascinating. The autumns are extremely wet and the forests team with mushrooms and decay. The winters are cold, of course, but it’s the darkness that I find most exotic. Each season is incredibly distinct. And midsummer sleep is very difficult because the night doesn’t really exist.
What’s unique about Sweden and Swedish noir?
I’m not really sure. I write Scandi noir from the perspective of an outsider (Tuva Moodyson is originally from Stockholm and has lived in London). The things I love when I read Swedish books are the characters and the landscapes. In some ways life is tougher here. Nature is more of a challenge, especially away from the towns and cities. The climate and the wilderness have shaped Swedish personalities. I enjoy the fact that Swedish characters are relatable to British readers, but they’re also subtly different. And that translates into speech patterns, behaviour on public transport, expectations in the workplace, flirting – every part of life.
Favourite word in Swedish?
Trollsländer (troll fly – or, in English, a dragonfly)
Allow me to introduce Tuva Moodyson from the book who will answer a few questions:
Hi Tuva! A real pleasure to meet you! What’s your favourite and least favourite thing about work?
My favourite thing about work is my editor, Lena. She’s brilliant and fierce and she’s someone I can learn from.
My least favourite thing about work is having to (occasionally) interview a mansplaining bore. Most people I interview are interesting and patient and kind. But occasionally I need to interview someone, usually a local businessman or bureaucrat, and they’ll talk down to me like I’m some schoolgirl in the 1950s and they’re my science teacher. They’re usually the people who ask for favours afterwards. Not happening.
Does the setting help or hamper?
Both. The town dynamic helps me to uncover stories. Everyone knows each other. Everyone has history, grudges, gossip, secrets. But that can also hold me back. I often have to pick through allegiances and old pacts to get to the truth. I need to work out exactly how people are connected. I need to dig.
How do you relax?
I relax by gaming. There’s something about getting home to my flat and pouring myself a good drink and removing my hearing aids and settling down to a few hours of Grand Theft Auto. I find it cathartic.
Any day to day difficulties?
I have day to day difficulties like everyone else. But I’m content if I have a good pick-up truck, a decent pair of boots, a charged phone, my hearing aids, a bag of wine gums in my Hilux, a good chat with Tammy every day, and a blank newspaper to fill each week.
Thank Will and Tuya! So so fascinating to meet you both in that Swedish forest!
BookTrail Boarding Pass: Dark Pines
Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying law at the LSE, and working many varied jobs in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.