Yrsa Sigurðardóttir Iceland’s literary Queen

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is a successful author of children’s fiction and adult crime fiction.
Her writing debut was in 1998 and since then she has been a part of and watched the incredible journey that has catapulted Nordic Noir authors into the limelight.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir talks to Sarah Surgey at Nordic Style Magazine, about how she has watched this genre grow into a worldwide success, which has seen many Nordic novels been turned into TV shows and film.

She also gives us a small glimpse into her funnier side, when she’s not writing her best selling crime novels. Yrsa Sigurðardóttir tells Nordic Style about what she hopes to do in 2015, why she thinks Iceland is on a slightly different path than the other Nordic countries and gives us her thoughts on how social media has played a big part in other authors flourishing careers.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir tells it all

We are hearing a lot about Swedish and Danish crime writers in the press right now, do you think now is the time for Icelandic writers to offer something different?

I believe that the difference between Iceland and Sweden/Denmark comes across in the crime fiction. By difference I am referring to the rather lack lustre real life crime we tend to experience here as opposed to the 18 to 30 times bigger nations of Denmark and Sweden. There are no crime syndicates and because we are an island there is less trafficking of humans and drugs as on the mainland. Instead, what we have to offer are creepy crimes and crimes that result from rotten human emotions, i.e. we write more about the evil within regular people. Personally I usually find such books more disturbing than books about axe murderers and deranged serial killers.

All of your adult books have been best sellers in Europe, what do you think it is about your books that grab readers attention?

I think it probably has something to do with how the books come to be within me, before and during the writing process. I do my very best to propel the reader forward by keeping the story and characters interesting and would rather set a boring manuscript on fire and eat it while in flames than have it published. I have heard it mentioned that I must be totally perverted and that this is why the books are enjoyable – I don‘t really agree with that but must admit that I have been a fan of gruesomeness since childhood.


We are in a time where ‘Nordic Noir’ is causing a positive stir, in your opinion what intrigues the everyday person into reading crime novels from the Nordic regions? 

The Nordic countries are considered in most places to be a role model societies, and of course it is much more fun to read about horrible things happening in places that are supposed to be perfect, than in places that are known to be awful. I think the quality of the writing is also good, the content multi-dimensional and often meaningful – a benchmark set by Sjöwall and Walhöö. It should also be noted that the popularity of Nordic Noir has proven itself to be more than a passing phase, which strongly implies that the readers are happy and left wanting more.

You have been writing since 1998, have there been any noticeable changes to your career, with how an author can promote themselves on social media?

I am really not very good at social media. I blame this on the fact that my cell phone is from 2003 and not really capable of much other than making calls and text messages. Soon I must get a new one, since I can now only call people that are on the recent calls list (the number keys don‘t work any more) and only receive messages, not send. Perhaps I will be all over the social media sites like a tornado once I have a new phone. This remains to be seen.

What are your plans for 2015?

Write, work, eat, pray, love. To be truthful I seriously doubt I will pray much. I also realised today that I really want to get drunk and dance. I have not had time to do that for way too long. So, pray can be replaced with drunken dancing. Write, work, eat, dance drunk, love.