Well, it's official: I had one of the best weekends of my life at Iceland Noir 2016. I made new friends, was introduced to new authors, and fell completely in love with Iceland! There are so many people for me to thank for this awesome weekend: Sara, Karen, Yrsa, Ragnar, Oskar & Helga, Thomas, Stacy, Valentina, Garrick, and so many more, thank you for welcoming me into the family and making this such an incredible weekend!! Until we meet again.
And to all of my fantastic Instagram and blogging family, thank you all for being so supportive and excited for me as I went on this adventure! Your enthusiasm and support made the trip even better. Without further ado, I'm so excited to share a rundown of my weekend in Reykjavik for Iceland Noir 2016.
Iceland Noir 2016 Journal
Day 1: Registration and Panels
I'm not going to lie, I was majorly jet lagged on Day 1 of Iceland Noir. I arrived in Reykjavik early that morning, and was a bit of a zombie for the rest of the day. But despite my zombie brain, I immediately fell in love with Iceland's beauty, and felt instantly at home at the conference. Day 1 consisted of meet-and-greet time, and then the first panel of the conference: "New Blood in Iceland's Crime Fiction." My jet lagged brain didn't manage to get a good photo of this panel, but during this panel I was particularly excited by the work of Óskar Guðmundsson and Hildur Sif Thorarensen. Sadly, neither of their books are out in English yet - but I will be sure to update this page once they are! This panel was moderated by the inimitable Quentin Bates, who has translated some of my most favorite crime books into English - including Ragnar Jonasson's Dark Iceland series.
I was also so excited to meet Karen Sullivan, publisher of Orenda Books on my first day in Iceland! Karen was one of the first people to encourage me to attend Iceland Noir, and I probably would never have done it without her encouragement. So Karen, if you're reading this, thank you so much for welcoming me into the family! If you're new to Orenda Books, Karen has impeccable taste in crime authors - you can find Orenda's list here.
After the afternoon's debut authors panel, we made our way to City Hall for a reception, where we listened to Val McDermid speak. (Talk about an amazing experience!!) I then stumbled back to my hotel and promptly fell asleep.
Day 2: Reykjavik Bookstores and Panels
On Day 2, I spent a good amount of time walking around the Reykjavik city center, where I discovered that Iceland has arguably the best bookstores I've ever seen. I then returned to Nordic House to listen to some seriously awesome panels! But first things first: Reykjavik Bookstores.
Guys. I live in New York, so I consider myself very fortunate with the selection of independent bookstores I can visit whenever I want. Well, Reykjavik completely blew me away with its bookstore selection - and possibly one-upped New York. On Day 2, I visited two different bookstores: Ida Zimsen and Penninn Eymundsson. Ida Zimsen is the official bookstore of Iceland Noir, so they had an amazing selection of English translations for both authors appearing at the conference, and famous Icelandic authors in general.
At Ida Zimsen, I purchased WHY DID YOU LIE? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, and ONLY ONE LIFE by Sara Blaedel. After Ida Zimsen, I headed down the street to Penninn Eymundsson - where I was met with yet another amazing selection of crime books in English!
I actually exercised self-control at my second bookstore stop, but I couldn't help but take a photo of their stunning crime shelves. Iceland, your literary scene is truly exceptional.
After my bookstore tour, I headed back to Nordic House for panels! There were so many great panels to listen to, but my top two favorite panels from Day 2 of Iceland Noir were titled "Darkness: What Frightens You?" and "Dangerous Nordic Women."
The Darkness panel featured Grant Nichol, AK Benedict, and Thomas Enger, and was moderated by Michael Ridpath. On this panel, authors explained not only what frightens them, but why they choose to explore this darkness through their books. This panel really was stellar, and inspired me to buy yet another book! (More info on that later.) During this panel, AK Benedict described her book featuring a time-traveling serial killer (is that just the coolest thing you've ever heard?!), and Thomas Enger discussed how his Norwegian crime series explores parents' fears of harm coming to their children. Thomas sold his series so well, I literally started looking for his books on BookDepository during this panel! I also was fortunate to get to interview Thomas later that afternoon - I will be posting that interview soon. We had a great conversation about his new publisher (Orenda Books), his path to becoming a published author, and the other authors who have influenced his work. (Hint: his top influence is a bestselling American crime author!) I ended up finding book 1 in Thomas' Henning Juul series (titled BURNED) in a bookstore in Reykjavik later that weekend, and read it on the way home to New York. (You can read my thoughts on BURNED on my Instagram! Suffice it to say, I wholly enjoyed this book, and can't wait for his new book with Orenda in 2017.)
Next up was my most highly-anticipated panel at Iceland Noir: "Dangerous Nordic Women," featuring one of my top favorite authors, the amazing Sara Blaedel of Denmark.
I was thrilled to find that Sara is just as enthusiastic, well-spoken, and inspiring in real life as I have imagined her to be while reading her books. In this panel, Sara and her co-panelists Kati Hiekkapelto, Jónína Leósdóttir, and Sólveig Pálsdóttir discussed both their experiences as female authors in the crime world, and the experiences of the female characters in their books. As a young woman in the world of publishing, this panel was particularly interesting to me. The panelists discussed varying degrees of sexism and ageism that they have faced in their path to being published, but I was excited to hear that the overall consensus was that women really are experiencing huge success and rightfully-deserved equality in the publishing industry. On a lighter note, it's also worth noting that Sara was wearing the most amazing leather pants for this panel - I really do love her.
After Sara's panel, she and I spent time together and listened to another panel on family secrets. I didn't document that panel as thoroughly, because I was busy chatting with Sara! Day 2 concluded with a crime walk through Reykjavik, which I opted out of - but for good reason, I promise. Yrs Sigurðardóttir (Iceland's "Queen of Crime") was hosting a party at her home that evening, and I was invited! (This was possibly the coolest party of the whole trip.) The party was so much fun, and it was such a great environment in which to get to know some of the authors at the conference. At the party, I also met Rachel of Chillers, Killers and Thrillers blog, and Garrick of Crime Fiction Lover! (Hi Rachel and Garrick!) It was such an awesome surprise to meet fellow bloggers in Iceland, and at the home of Iceland's Queen of Crime no less.
Day 3: Party Recovery, Harpa Concert Hall, and Conference Dinner
My third day in Iceland got off to a slow start - I blame Yrsa's party. But after finally dragging myself out of bed, I headed to the Harpa concert hall - a gorgeous building looking out over the water. I went to Harpa for the "Nordic Crime Fiction Stars" panel, featuring Sara Blaedel, Val McDermid, Ann Cleaves, and Leena Lehtolainen, moderated by Ragnar Jonasson.
Harpa is one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen - standing inside of it felt like being inside a giant beehive! We got slightly lost on our way to the room for the panel, but it all paid off: we wound up on the top floor of Harpa, with this stunning view. (Turns out the panel was actually on the first floor... but we made it there eventually, I promise.)
The Nordic Crime Fiction Stars panel was unsurprisingly amazing. Each author shared background information on their series, took questions from the audience, and discussed what they're working on next. (I was personally so excited to learn that Sara has a new series coming out, starting with THE UNDERTAKER'S DAUGHTER. This book will be coming to the US in the not-so-distant future, too!)
Following this panel, I had the unique opportunity to listen in while Sara was interviewed for a podcast! She's so well-spoken, it's always so inspiring to hear her speak about her books. (If I'm sounding like a huge fangirl at this point, you're right, I totally am!) Sara has that perfect blend of grace and boldness that make her a total joy to spend time with and learn from.
While at Harpa Concert Hall, I also had the chance to see Yrsa Sigurdardottir sign books! She has a new release out in Iceland, and was having her launch at the concert hall following the Nordic Crime Fiction Stars panel. I spent a few hours with Yrsa and Sara, and then it was time to go back to the hotel and get ready for the big conference dinner.
The conference dinner was the perfect finale to such an amazing weekend. Thanks to Yrsa and Karen, I was seated at the self-proclaimed "fun table" with Yrsa, Karen, Sara Blaedel, Kati Hiekkapelto, Thomas Enger, Amanda Jennings, and many more. We had a blast! The dinner included a crime fiction quiz, which our table came in second for! (We lost to Val McDermid's table, so I feel like that's perfectly acceptable.) Following the dinner, we all went out for drinks together, and then it was (sadly) time to part ways.
Day 4: Exploring Iceland
Iceland Noir may have ended, but on my final day in Iceland, I was so fortunate to be taken for a tour of Iceland by Óskar Guðmundsson, an Icelandic crime author. Oskar kindly spent the whole day driving three of us all over Iceland. We explored mountains, waterfalls, geysers, and even went to visit Oskar and his wife's summer home up in the mountains. The views were simply stunning, and I couldn't have asked for better company. I owe a huge thanks to Oskar for making this amazing day possible. I will remember it forever! Here are just a few of the gorgeous stops we made...
Öxarárfoss: a stunning waterfall within Þingvellir National Park. It was freezing cold, and the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
Geysers! They smelled like sulfur, but were so incredible to watch.
And last but not least: meet our tour guide, Oskar! It's worth noting that Oskar takes the most beautiful photos of Iceland, and has an awesome website that gives you behind-the-scenes looks into his publishing process in Iceland. Check it out here. (Plus, listen to this: his gorgeous wife Helga is the cover model for his debut novel! If that's not true love, I don't know what is.)
There's really no way to adequately express how much fun this past weekend was, but suffice it to say, I had an amazing time. I met new authors, made new friends, bonded with one of my personal heroes (Sara Blaedel), and fell completely in love with Iceland. I also interviewed a few authors whose books are coming out in English and which seemed particularly interesting! I'll be sharing those interviews with you just as soon as possible.
To everyone who made Iceland Noir possible, thank you so much. And to all of you who have read through this lengthy Iceland Noir journal, thank you, too! :)
Until we meet again, Iceland!