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Alex Dahl on infusing her love for travel and different cultures into her novels

Alex Dahl on infusing her love for travel and different cultures into her novels

As an adult, I have lived in Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, the UK and Norway, in some before I had my children, and some after. I wanted to give my kids wings, as well as roots. I’ve been called rootless more than once, but I believe that roots can grow within us and be as strong as those that tie us to any one physical place. There are many upsides to an adventurous, international way of living, both for adults and for children. My older kids speak several languages, have friends to call upon when we return to visit places we’ve lived and loved, and have benefitted from first hand experience in understanding diversity and cultural differences. There are some downsides, too, such as always missing dear friends, and often growing close to similar people, meaning many relationships will necessarily be defined by transience.

My international experience has also been hugely influential in my work as a novelist and I have increasingly wanted this part of my personal experience to be reflected in my novels. During the pandemic, when travel was mostly off the cards, I felt a mounting claustrophobia, like many people, which was reflected in the novel I wrote during that time – Cabin Fever, the story of a psychotherapist stalked by her client in a remote cabin in the Norwegian forests. When things started to normalize, I knew I wanted to travel, both in real life and in my next book. After She’d Gone, my newest novel, would be set in several locations that were interesting to me, and I loved the location research, a big part of the planning process.

The book starts off in Sandefjord, a quaint Norwegian harbor town south of Oslo, which has featured in several of my books. There is something about the bleak, icy Scandinavian winter landscapes that lends itself especially well to thrillers. The action then moves on to Europe’s fashion capital, Milan, a city I once used to visit frequently. I also chose three other much-loved Italian destinations to feature in the book – Como, Palermo and my eternal favorite – the island of Capri. I spent countless hours roaming the streets and beaches and sights of these magical places on Google Earth and hope their flavor became infused into After She’d Gone.

I also decided to feature Russia, specifically the large city of Yekaterinburg in the Urals, a city which has always fascinated me and is known worldwide for having been the site of the brutal murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918.

As the novel came together and I read through for the first time, I realized how much I’d enjoyed infusing my love for travel and different cultures into it, and knew that this is something I’d like to define my authorship in the future, too. I like the idea of keeping my novels rooted by dark Scandinavian backdrops, and giving them wings with a variety of exciting international settings. Next up – Ibiza…

After She’d Gone by Alex Dahl is published by Head of Zeus in hardback on 18th August 2022

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