Award-winning author to write book set in Arctic Norway – locals to provide inspiration

Stef PenneyPhoto: Bodø 2024 / Press
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The catch? She is not allowed to travel there. Instead, locals themselves will provide Penney with inspiration for her book, sharing stories and tips remotely via mail and phone and later helping her with her research. 

Penney has no idea at this stage what the book will be about. The contributions she receives will be decisive in determining what kind of book she ultimately writes. 

The project will be part of the program for Bodø European Capital of Culture 2024.

Stef Penney is an award-winning and best-selling Scottish author – her books have been translated into 30 languages. In 2006, she won the “Costa Book of the Year,” one of the UK’s most prestigious literary awards, for her novel “The Tenderness of Wolves,” which was set in Canada. 

Penney received much praise for her landscape descriptions and her ability to create atmosphere – despite her never having been to Canada. She had done all research from her local library in London because she suffered from agoraphobia at the time.

“In connection with Bodø2024, we wanted to get a foreign author to write a book about Nordland with a strong sense of place, as well as start a literature project that describes us ‘from outside.’ The choice naturally fell on Stef Penney, who agreed to write a book where the action takes place in Nordland – without traveling there,” Henrik Sand Dagfinrud, Program Director at Bodø2024, stated. 

Nordland as a backdrop for a new international bestseller? 

Locals in Nordland will be able to share their stories and tips for anything they could imagine described in the book. These could be details from their own lives, people (living or dead) who could make good characters for a novel, interesting places, historical events, etc. 

Penney will follow up on the tips she finds the most interesting with a phone call or an email, and she expects to have many interesting exchanges with the people taking part in the project. 

Maybe someone’s great-great-grandmother can become a central character in the book. Or maybe a famous local landmark will become the backdrop for an important event in the book. Here, known and unknown local stories can be told to a large international audience. 

A world’s first 

This is the first time a book will be written that way. Quercus Books in London, part of the Hachette Group, one of the world’s largest publishing houses, will publish the English edition at the beginning of 2024, and the book will be translated into Norwegian later that year. Everyone whose contribution is retained for the project will be credited in the book. 

“When the idea first came up, I thought, no way! The prospect of writing to a deadline and sharing any part of my (messy, unfathomable) writing process were initially terrifying. But something about it wouldn’t let me go… The idea of people in another place coming up with their own stories and experiences is different and refreshing,” Penney said.

Source: Bodø2024 / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayTravel

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