Last week I did one of those ubiquitous Internet quizzes: “Which Christmas Movie Character Are You?” I was impressed when it pegged me as Kevin McCallister, the boy in Home Alone. “No one special thing defines Christmas for you; you enjoy the whole package.” My first Christmas as a published author began back in August when I opened the box full of books with my name on the cover. The look of wonder and joy on my face was not unlike Kevin’s when his Mom walks through the door at the end of the film.
This holiday season really started for me last month at Iceland Noir, a weekend celebration of crime fiction. I attended the inaugural festival last year after meeting Icelandic author Yrsa Sigudardottir at Bouchercon in Albany. “We’re almost neighbors,” I joked, mentioning I lived in Amsterdam. “Then you should come to Reykjavik,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. Although my debut psychological thriller would not be published until the following year, I had a feeling Iceland might be an interesting place to begin exploring interest on the European side of the pond.
What’s not to love about a country with a holiday tradition of giving books as gifts? There’s even an Icelandic word for it: Jolabokaflod, which translates literally as Christmas book flood. Crime novels are extremely popular, perhaps because the crime rate is so low – or because the winter nights are so long. Curling up in front of the fire on Christmas Eve with a new thriller is a national pastime. Iceland Noir may be a small festival, but great gifts often come in small packages.
Don’t get me wrong. Clearly, larger events like ThrillerFest are invaluable. Attending in 2012, a rough first draft tucked anxiously under my arm, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning – even as I learned how much I still needed to learn. Without plunging into the deep end, pitching to agents and experiencing the full four days of magic and mayhem, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Certainly not a member of the 2014-15 ITW Debut Authors Class!
But events in a more intimate setting make it easy to connect with other authors, bloggers, and the all-important readers. Rather than racing from one panel to another, there’s more time to continue discussions, ask specific questions, or compare notes on the creative process. Not only was I on a New Blood panel of debut authors, I also had the honor of reading with local authors of the Icelandic Crime Syndicate in a packed nightclub. And was thrilled to have my book accepted by the Reykjavik City Library.
Last year Yrsa gave me a copy of her bone-chilling thriller I Remember You. This year I gave her a gift of Calvin’s Head. Whether she reads it or not on Christmas Eve, I’m delighted to add an Icelandic tradition to my own home alone holidays.
For more information about Iceland Noir: http://www.icelandnoir.com/
David Swatling grew up in rural New York, studied theatre, and moved to Amsterdam in 1985. He produced arts & culture documentaries for Radio Netherlands and is three-time winner of the NLGJA Excellence in Journalism Award, among other international honors. His suspense novel Calvin’s Head is published by Bold Strokes Books. His short story “Poet’s Walk” appeared in the inaugural issue of Chase the Moon. He writes about arts and LGBTQ issues at: davidswatling.wordpress.comLife in Amsterdam isn’t all windmills and tulips when you’re homeless. Jason Dekker lives in a jeep with his dog, Calvin, on the outskirts of the city. A thesis on Van Gogh brought him to the Netherlands and the love of Dutch artist Willy Hart convinced him to stay. But Willy is gone and Dekker is on the brink of a total meltdown. On a sunny summer morning in the park, Calvin sniffs out the victim of a grisly murder. Dekker sees the opportunity for a risky strategy that might solve their problems. Unfortunately, it puts them directly in the sights of the calculating stone-cold killer, Gadget. Their paths are destined to collide, but nothing goes according to plan when they end up together in an attic sex-dungeon. Identities shift and events careen out of control, much to the bewilderment of one ever-watchful canine. Oscar Wilde wrote that each man kills the thing he loves. He didn’t mean it literally. Or did he?