Elina Backman is the author of Kun Kuningas Kuolee, translated into Dutch by Sophie Kuiper into Als de koning sterft published by uitgeverij Cargo. We got in contact with Elina and asked her some questions.
Hi Elina, thank you for letting us ask you a couple of questions! Maybe you could briefly introduce yourself? Tell us about your guilty pleasure(s)?
Hi! My name is Elina Backman, I’m a crime author from Finland. We have an old wooden 1920s house near Helsinki’s city center and in the summertime, it is possible to hear the nightingales sing. I´m a Master of Arts & Media, I have worked as a copywriter and creative, and have a background in media & advertising. I´m a big fan of mysteries and I have read crime stories for over 20 years. I blame my strong imagination for my sometimes being a bit afraid of the dark. My guilty pleasure is to eat cinnamon buns (you’ll find the recipe below). I also collect missing people announcements from the papers and watch way too many police tv-series.
When did you start writing? Was “When the king dies” your first book or the first book to be translated into Dutch?
When the King Dies is my first ever book that was published. It was published in Finland in 2020, so I´m quite new author. I have always loved crime novels and I was searching for an idea for a book. And suddenly the story was there. Many, many years ago, I got old earrings from my mother-in-law. The pearl earrings were old and she had originally got them from her godfather. Who was he? I asked, and so the story began.
My godfather was very original man, the mother-in-law told me. He lived in Hartola in an old mansion. He had birds living with him and he also grew Finland´s most beautiful orchids. He was invited to a Christmas dinner but never showed up. Later, he was found dead in his mansion. The case happened in the late ‘70s and it got me interested. My husband’s relatives had interesting theories of what might have happened, and I acted like Saana does in the book, I emailed the police. I wanted to see if I could have the case file (as they do on TV) and get all the facts. After one week, I received a phone call from the police. They said everything is secret, because the case is still unsolved. I traveled to Hartola to see the places and found out that this small self-confident place calls itself a Kingdom. I interviewed locals and fell in love with the Koskipää mansion and its dark waters. In the end I decided to write a fictional account of the story, since it all happened so long ago. This is how it all started.
I think you have a pretty busy (stressful) job. Would you say writing is an outlet for you, or is it purely a hobby?
Writing has always been my way to escape and recharge. I feel that writing doesn’t take, it only gives. You are right, working in a commercial media house is fun but also quite stressful – a life full of deadlines. When the first book was received so well, I had a chance to take some time off and that was a luxury. When I started to write, it was a hobby, but now it is also my job and I love it.
What makes Lammassaari the most wonderful place on earth for you?
Lammassaari is a nature reserve area with over 300 bird species. My dad is a bird watcher and we used to cycle there for a day trip when I was a kid. Nowadays, I live so close by that I can go there easily, and I feel that Lammassaari is my secret recharge spot. I can just go there and breathe fresh air; close my eyes and listen how the wind makes the reed buzz. You can also find sheep there, so now I take my daughter there as well (she is now seven) to look for the sheep. They move freely there.
Is Saana Havas a character that you can identify with or the complete opposite?
At the same time, I´m all my characters and no one. But you are a good detective: there are some similarities between Saana’s background as a journalist and my background in the media. I have seen a lot of burnouts when young people became exhausted, even when working in entertainment. Saana and I have other things in common: we both love the series The Killing, pizza, good wine and food in general. When I started to write, I also did many things like Saana does in the book. I tried to solve a real-life case. I’m also very curious, so Saana is a perfect character. Someone who can do things that I might be too scared to do.
Where does the inspiration for your stories come from? Do you get inspired by the news, or come up with them on your own?
I follow the news and it doesn’t take much before my imagination starts to build up plots. Still waters run deep was born when I was walking in Lammassaari, and it was very peaceful and quiet. I started to wonder: what if someone would disappear here? Without anyone seeing. I had also spotted quite a lot of missing persons announcements in the papers. All of them were young guys – I started to wonder: what is there was someone behind all these cases?
Is there a sequel in the works? If so, could you tell us a little bit about it?
The Saana Havas series now has 3 books in total. The last one came out in October 2022 in Finland and I’m currently working on story number 4. It will take place on an island they call Beautiful Island, near Kotka. My aunt has a summerhouse there and the whole island is a very interesting place, with old fisherman’s huts, etc.
Which authors do you like to read? Have you read all their books?
I read a lot, but when talking specifically about crime authors, my biggest favorite is Jo Nesbø. I also love Camilla Grebe, Gillian Flynn, and Joël Dicker.
What book is currently on your nightstand? And what book would you recommend to anyone?
I always have too many books on my nightstand, ha-ha. Currently, I’m reading a book about the history of Kaunissaari, the ‘beautiful island’ where the next story is taking place. But I´m also in the middle of the latest book from Jo Nesbø, Killing Moon.
The Dutch are huge fans of Scandi thrillers. We read them a LOT and give them raving reviews. Why do you think we’re so attracted to these authors and their stories?
We have the same thing in Finland! Many books in the top lists are thrillers! I think a thriller book is the safest way to be afraid. After reading about a murder and a protagonist that has a lot of challenges ahead, your own life problems seem pretty harmless. I’m very happy to hear that the Dutch love Scandi crime and I hope the readers will discover Finnish crime as well. I know there are many stories from Sweden, Denmark, Island and Norway, but not that many from Finland – yet.
And finally, what is your favorite, typically Finnish thing to eat? Would you share the recipe with us?
I´m a better baker than I am a cook. So, I just love Finnish cinnamon rolls. They’re the best! Here is a quite traditional recipe for them. <3
INGREDIENTS FOR 15-20 SERVINGS
½ l milk or lactose-free milk drink
1-2 teaspoon salt
2 deciliter sugar
1 tbsp cardamom
Approx. 14 deciliter wheat flour (approx. 900 g)
100 g butter
Inside the bun:
50-100 g melted butter or margarine
½ to 1 deciliter (farina) sugar
1-2 tbsp cinnamon
For lubrication and on top:
Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm milk. Mix in salt, sugar, cardamom and egg. Add the wheat flour gradually, whisking at first to allow air to bind to the dough. Knead the dough well. Add soft butter towards the end. Put the dough, covered, in a warm, draft-free place to rise.
When the dough has doubled in size, take it to the baking table and knead the air bubbles out of the dough. Divide the dough into two pieces and shape each into a rectangle (approx. 30 x 50 cm).
Spread soft butter on the dough in a thin, even layer. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top. Roll the dough into a tight roll, with the seams facing down.
Cut the rolls into 3-5 cm pieces diagonally, cutting so that every other cut is slanted in one direction and every other is slanted in the other direction. Press each piece down the middle with your thumb to form a knot on each bun.
Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Brush with egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake on the middle shelf of a 225-degree oven for approx. 10 min. until nicely colored.
Elina Backman Elina Backman
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