Chichester author Isabel Ashdown opts for Norwegian setting for latest thriller

Isabel Ashdown
Isabel Ashdown

Themes of family, isolation and unreliable memory return, but Chichester author Isabel Ashdown takes us to Norway for her latest thriller.

Exactly ten years after launching her debut novel Glasshopper, Isabel breaks new ground with Lake Child.

Her third psychological thriller after Beautiful Liars and Little Sister, Lake Child offers an atmospheric tale of family secrets and betrayal, set in a remote valley town in the heart of Norway’s ancient fjords.

“I have always tended to set my books on the south coast or in London, but this one was quite a departure.

“I have had a fascination with Norway for a while, I think in part because there has been such a lot of interest in all things Scandinavian over the last decade.

“I had the idea for quite some time, this idea of someone who finds herself incarcerated in the family home by loving parents.

“But I hadn’t worked out why these loving parents had been keeping her captive in this way.

“I just couldn’t quite get the idea down on paper. I could see Eva’s view from the attic, but I couldn’t get it on a page.

“But I just happened one night to be watching a documentary about Norway and the fjords and then I realised that that’s where the story belongs.

“The book has got themes of family and isolation and unreliable memory, the things I am interested in.

“Themes of family and the outsider are very strong across all my books, but the thing about the fjords is that they have such a wonderful sense of openness, but the communities, quite often at the foot of the mountains, have a much more claustrophobic sense to them.

“It just really seemed to work for me… plus I really wanted to go to Norway.

“There were quite a few different places that I wanted to visit but they were hundreds of miles apart, so we had to take a cruise ship to travel the distances we needed to travel.

“I was able to go to various different places along the Norwegian fjords… and while we were there, I found a location that was so close to what I had imagined Eva’s home to be.

“It was so exhilarating to be there.. and to fall absolutely in love with Norway.”

Whilst there, Isabel was “constantly hijacking coach drivers”, a key way to find out the extent of isolation in the kind of community she wanted to depict.

“Some of these places are so remote, and remote places are so useful for a thriller. It was so useful to find out about these communities that are completely disconnected.

“And it was wonderful speaking to the Norwegian people.

“They were so friendly and really enjoyed talking to somebody who was going to write about the place.

“The Norwegians are so proud of their culture and of their country.

“I felt so connected to the place, and so did my son who found out that the Norwegian National Day is on his birthday!”

Isabel was even tempted to send off for DNA testing. She was thrilled – and vindicated – to discover that she has in fact got nine per cent Norwegian DNA.

“I have really loved writing the thrillers. It is a different type of writing. You get a real sense that you are creating a puzzle.

“When you are reading a thriller, you are unravelling the mystery, but when you are writing a thriller, it is almost the opposite process.

“But I am so interested in character and in making sure that my characters and locations feel authentic that before I start writing the mystery, I have to work out what that mystery is.

“You have got to do all the plotting and the due diligence first to make sure that it all holds together.

“And then once you have done that, you are free to write, regardless of whatever genre you are writing in,” Isabel says.

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