The random wand of world bestsellers has touched Karin Smirnoff (Umeå, 1964), a small Swedish logging businesswoman who, after turning 50, decided to enroll in a degree in creative writing at the university and who made her debut very recently, in the 2018, achieving enormous success in her country with the character of Jana Kippo, a plastic artist turned domestic worker. The family of Stieg Larsson (his brother Joakim and his father Erland) and the literary agent Magdalena Hedlund have chosen her to continue the adventures of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, the Millennium series, which has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. world. Next Wednesday the 30th, Las garras del águila (Destiny/Columna) will be published, the seventh installment after the first three volumes written by Larsson (1954-2004), published between 2005 and 2007, and the second trilogy by David Lagercrantz (between 2015 and 2019). The author receives this newspaper at The Wood Hotel, in Skellefteå, in the north of the country, an establishment built out of wood not far from the twelve-house village where she lives.
Do you remember the day you were asked to continue Millennium?
It was at a party. The editor of Polaris -the new publisher that publishes the series- sat down with me to have a coffee and, like the one who doesn't want the thing, he asked me: 'Have you read the Millennium books?' 'Of course, everyone has read them.' 'And what do you think?' 'I love them, I'm a fan of Lisbeth Salander'. 'Would you like to continue them?'. Without hesitation, I answered yes. The weirdest thing was explaining it at my house when I got back at so many.
As a reader, what do you think of the previous six books?
I really like the first three, they are connected to each other, it was really different, Larsson told us something new. He's especially good with the characters, I remember them all perfectly, with their names, that's something we can't say about most novels. Later, David Lagercrantz took it up again and I lost interest a bit because I'm not a reader of the noir genre, out of curiosity I read the fourth and fifth but it's pure action, that Lisbeth Salander turned into a superhero who solves everything was not for me, was it not for me? where is your vulnerability? Lagercrantz did a good job, but his was a finite universe, it ends in his trilogy, so I don't start from there, I build something from scratch, connecting with the spirit of the first three.
She is in charge, as an author, of a machine that generates millions. Has she ceased to be a free writer?
I think I still am. I have brought the characters to my town, they are not in Stockholm. Of course, this is a big project, with a lot of people involved and a lot of people who aspire to make money. But, for me, it's just a stage. I can't do whatever I want, I can't kill Mikael or Lisbeth... but I can kill any other character. The real pressure for me is due dates: with three weeks left to send the book to the printer, I decided to rewrite half of it. It was horrible. The translated versions, like the one that is now coming to Spain, are more polished than the first Swedish edition.
His previous books –not translated into Spanish– also deal with violence...
It is a global theme that allows us to descend into the depths of people, into their darkness. Millennium approached it, yes, but from a man's point of view. I think that a man cannot really know what violence against us is. You have to be a woman to understand. If you've been hit by a man, you know things no one else knows. But it is not a feminist book.
I am, the book is not. If you are a woman, you are born a feminist. Sweden is also a world dominated by men. But it is not my thematic agenda as an author. Others do it much better, I am interested in portraying relationships between people.
I read that you yourself were a victim of bullying...
It is an experience that I have suffered, I know what I am talking about. But there are many other people around me with the same experiences, it is something very common. Who does not know or has suffered violence in childhood or by friends or men? Violence is unfortunately common, and not only criminal, there is a socially established violence that is even legal. It is very difficult, for example, to penetrate deeply into issues such as the profound violence that occurs within families.
In her book, Lisbeth Salander assumes responsibilities previously unthinkable...
He is left in charge, against his will, of a 13-year-old girl, Svala, the daughter of his dead stepbrother. She never wanted children, she is Lisbeth Salander and she doesn't have time to take care of a teenager, but somehow they build some kind of connection, we could call it a relationship.
You have declared in Sweden that you accepted the commission for Lisbeth Salander. What problem do you have with Mikael Blomkvist?
It is a one-dimensional type. He only does two things: go after women and work. Someone quite boring, in my opinion. I wanted to break that dynamic, so in my book, Millennium magazine doesn't exist, it has become a podcast. And he doesn't like podcasts, what he wants is to write reports, so he's unemployed. Millennium was his identity and now he has nothing, he is experiencing a total crisis, that is how my book begins, with him disoriented traveling north because his daughter Pernilla is going to marry an influential local politician. Blomkvist begins to reflect on himself: 'Who am I? What I'm going to do with my life? I have nothing: no wife, no family, just a bad relationship with a daughter I haven't taken care of for years. He is naked, and from there he has tried to reconstruct him, give him a personality that allows him to endure.
You have also been a journalist, like Larsson or Lagercrantz. What vision of the trade is there in the novel?
That of a local journalism, very based on small news such as a new nursery, an accident with a fallen tree... For Blomkvist, used to big scandals and investigations, this is a disaster, and he tries to make them understand that, if they look a little further than their noses, they have the same problems as in Stockholm, they just have to change their gaze. That's why he goes to the newsroom of the town newspaper, to try to help them.
Shall we talk about the role of eagles in the plot?
Without spoilers, let's say that, at the beginning, we see the Cleaner, a lonely man who lives on top of the mountain, who kills people and feeds human bodies to eagles. He cares a lot about these birds, who survive thanks to him.
Now you give life to Lisbeth Salander but here in Sweden they know her for being the mother of Jana Kippo. How is she?
They are similar! But Jana Kippo is more of a normal young girl, not a superhero. The books deal with her relationship with her twin brother, how she builds herself as a person after a past and environment of violence and alcoholism, how she goes from destruction to construction through art. I fantasize about Jana and Lisbeth spending a night together, why not?
Do you have a contract for three books?
Yes. This first one is about electricity, the second one deals with mining and the third one is about oil. They are all set in part in arctic or subarctic areas, where it is very cold, few people live, and nature is vulnerable. Large companies believe that they can exhaust resources and destroy the environment because no one lives there.
Does it age the characters?
Yes, but I don't talk about it. The novel is set in 2021, and I imagine that Lisbeth and Mikael are 40 and 60 years old, more or less. But it is not made explicit at any time, each reader can imagine what he wants.
Premiere supervillain, Marcus Branco.
My characters are based on people I've seen in real life. The real Branco is already dead, he is someone I knew in my childhood who only had a torso, no arms or legs. He would commit crimes and scare people, just to get attention. He wasn't bad, but he did bad things. I transformed that character into Branco, who is bad, really bad.