FORGOTTEN GIRLS, OLD WOUNDS AND MISSING DANES

By Jannie Schjødt Kold

“Almost done,” Sara Blædel replies when asked to tell about her seventh Louise Rick novel. The writing process takes place – as ever – north of Copenhagen in the writer’s summer cottage boasting a fireplace, small-framed windows and a countryside view. This is where the successful 47 year-old writer finds the needed peace and quiet to build a new crime plot that this time leads back to her own roots.

Where in the process are you right now?
“I’m writing the ending and I’ve got about forty pages left. But before I can do that, I refine the characters. It’s very important to me that they are still alive in the living room when you have finished reading the book. Actually, this is the greatest challenge of writing: that the characters don’t disappear when you finish reading about them.”

How did you prepare for the book?
“I have prepared during the past four months: mapped out the plot, interviewed the police’s search service, spoken to a forensic scientist and talked to undertakers. I even borrowed a death certificate from the 1980s for inspiration. It’s a little bizarre but very efficient working with these morbid things in the summer cottage’s idyllic atmosphere, but that’s the way it works for me.”

How do you know when the story is gripping enough?
“The litmus test for me is that the story has to turn me on, and the current story fascinates me incredibly. First of all missing Danes interest me. Between 1600 and 1700 Danes go missing each year and five to six of them are the victims of a crime. So what is the story behind their disappearance?”

Can you reveal a bit of the story in the upcoming book?
“The story is about two twin girls that were left to a terrible and lonely fate in 1965 on the institution Eliselund. Their mother died in childbirth and their father was told to forget all about them. 15 years later they died – of pneumonia, according to the death certificate. 35 years later a woman’s corpse is found in a forest close to Roskilde. The woman is scarred horrendously on one side of her face and she hasn’t been missed by anyone. The police are without clues until an older woman calls Louise Rick to tell that the woman must be LiseMette, one of the two twins she looked after at Eliselund. The investigation opens up old wounds for Louise Rick and the trail leads, among other places, to the region where I grew up.”

What was it like to write about past times?
“Very difficult and vulnerable. In order to describe the feelings the young Louise Rick had, I have had to refresh many of the emotions from my youth. Being young is many things and it is fun, but for me it was also a time when I wasn’t so strong, when I in many ways didn’t succeed. The woman’s body is found not far from Hvalsø where I hung out as a young girl, so this time it hits close to home.”

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