Photo: Mikael Eriksson
Jenny Rogneby’s first crime novel about Leona Lindberg was recently released. The novel was a breath of fresh air and impossible to put down.
Jenny, welcome to TheCrimeHouse!
For our readers who may not know who you are, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a 40-year-old criminologist and I work as an investigator at the City Police in Stockholm, Sweden. I was born in Ethiopia, grew up in Boden in northern Sweden, and have lived in Stockholm for many years. I recently published my first crime novel in a series about the police Leona Lindberg.
It must be an advantage to be a criminologist and an investigator when you write crime novels. But you are also a trained musical artist and you have worked as an artist for many years (e.g. you have been the opening act for Michael Jackson, released an album in Japan, and toured both in Sweden and abroad), do you use that experience in your writing in any way, and if so, how?
I think I have always had a desire to express myself artistically. Either through music, dance, art, or like now, through writing. I think all my life experiences benefit my writing when it comes to creating characters, environments and dialogues. I get a lot of inspiration from movies and music. For example, I can use some moods in musical pieces when I describe the mood in a scene.
How did your writing career start?
I got the idea for Leona when I had worked as an investigator for a few years. The idea would just not go away. So I decided pretty quickly that I must write it down and figured I would write a novel. I decided to give it an honest try, so I took a leave of absence, sold my condo in Stockholm, all my furniture, and moved abroad for a year to write. I moved to Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean with a nice climate and not too many distractions – a perfect place for writing.
How long did it take to finish the novel and how much of that time was research and how much was writing time?
It took a little over a year before I sent the novel to publishers. Before that I contacted the author Sören Bondeson, who reviewed my manuscript. When you have a job in the same field as what you are writing about, you do not have to do that much research. So I have not spent much time on that. But this was the first manuscript I have written so I have spent a lot of time exploring the craft and finding my own way of writing, etc.
The main character, Leona Lindberg, is very special. Can you please tell us a little about her and how you came up with the character?
Leona was the first character I created. I thought it was liberating to write about a person who has lived her life according to the norm for years, but then decides to break free from society’s expectations and do things on her own terms. But Leona’s pursuit of a life free from obligations comes with a very high price. She carries a lot of personal baggage, which make her choices destructive and problematic for her as well as the people around her.
To write about a person that breaks social rules and cross boundaries that people normally do not is extremely interesting. Especially to write about a woman, mother, and police, that is expected to act in a certain way. What happens when Leona no longer does what is expected of her is what drives the story forward.
Both you and Leona are investigators at the City Police in Stockholm; how have you used your knowledge and experiences in your writing and how much of yourself is in Leona?
My experiences and knowledge about police work, the investigative process and the justice system is a big advantage and I use it a lot in my writing. I have worked with countless investigations and many different types of crime. Everything from simpler crimes, like thefts to aggravated assault, robberies, rapes, murders, etc. I have interrogated countless plaintiffs, witnesses and suspects and collected all the necessary evidence that is needed. I have used my knowledge since my first novel is about a bank robbery investigation.
There are some similarities between me and Leona, but mainly differences. Just like me Leona is a woman investing crime at the City Police. Leona also wants to get away from her predictable everyday life and questions why she should live according to the norm. I recognize myself in that way of thinking. However, Leona does not hesitate to break rules to get where she wants and she has a pretty dark past and events in her childhood often makes her act without emotion. She does not act the way that is expected of a woman, police, and mother. Her whole life Leona has acted the way people have expected, and she has showed a façade that she can no longer maintain. What happens is that she breaks free—with a vengeance.
What advice do you have for our readers who are aspiring authors?
The most important thing is to decide that you will finish the manuscript. Many people start but never finish. For me it helped a lot to plan the entire novel and write a synopsis before I started writing. Then you have a foundation that you can return to if you get stuck. You also know in which direction you are heading, even though that can obviously change during the writing process. My last piece of advice is that when you have finished the manuscript, let someone review it and give positive and negative feedback. Then you can decide if you want to rework and improve it before you send it to publishers.
Do you have any writing role models? If so, who? And why?
I do not have any specific authors, but I get a lot of inspiration from movies, music, news, people around me, everyday events and my job.
Are you working on a new project? And if so, can you please tell us a little about it?
Right now I am working on the second novel in the series about Leona. The series will be published in seven other countries, so the next few years I will work on the continuation of the series.
Anything else you want to share with our readers?
That they can follow me on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jenny.rogneby
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with your current project!
Note: This interview has been translated from Swedish.