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Kati Hiekkapelto was born in 1970 in Oulu, Finland. She wrote her first stories at the age of two and recorded them on cassette tapes. The main characters in these early tales were elephants, elves and little girls, so she's moved on a little from that. Kati worked as a local private detective between 1979 and 1982, and solved many serious crimes committed by her neighbours. By the age of twelve she had read all Agatha Christie's novels, and was sure that her mother is going to poison her. In 1984 she had a bad hairdresser experience and became a punker. She's been punker, environmental and human rights activist since then.Kati has studied Fine Arts in Liminka Art School and Special Education at the University of Jyvaskyla. The subject of her final thesis/dissertation was racist bullying in Finnish schools. She went on to work as a special-needs teacher for immigrant children. Today Kati is an international crime writer, punk singer and performance artist. Her books Kolibri (The Hummingbird) was published in Finland by Otava in 2013 and Suojattomat (The Defenceless) in 2014. To date, they have been translated into seven languages. The Hummingbird was shortlisted for the Petrona Award in the UK in 2015 and The Defenceless won the prize for the best Finnish Crime Novel of the Year 2014. The Defenceless was also one of the top ten bestselling books in Finland last year, across all genres. She lives and writes in her 200-year-old farmhouse in Hailuoto, an island in the Gulf of Bothnia, North Finland. In her free time she rehearses with her band, runs, hunts, picks berries and mushrooms, and gardens. During long, dark winter months she chops wood to heat her house, shovels snow and skis. Writing seems fairly easy, after all that.
Below is a Q&A with this author:
1. What was the inspiration for The Exiled?
Anna's hometown in Serbia, Magyarkanizsa; I was drawn to the Roma minority situation and an opportunity to explore Anna’s own troubled past.
2. You move from Finland to Serbia for this novel, yet the setting remains as atmospheric and vivid described as its predecessors. Do you know the country well?
I don’t know the whole country well, but the Hungarian parts in North Serbia I do. I lived in Magyarkanizsa for a year and visit there annually.
3. Once again the refugee crisis is a theme. Is this something that is close to your heart?
Refugees and migration has been close to my heart for over 20 years due to my studies at university, my work as a special needs teacher, and my personal life, too. I started writing about refugees long before the most recent crisis, and it seems fitting to continue, particularly as Anna was effectively a refugee herself when she moved to Finland.
4. You experienced the crisis first hand while you were researching the book. Can you describe what you saw, and what you felt?
I went three times to Serbia to do research for the book. The first was a year before the crisis, the second only couple days after the Hungarian-Serbian border was closed and wired, when Hungarian police had shot refugees with tear gas (I was able to get in through a little checkpoint 20 km east from the main crossing point) and most of the refugees had left towards the Croatian border. So I effectively saw the 'aftermath'. But I got first hand information and insights into how it was and felt when all those people began to appear. It was very interesting, but most of all shocking and sad.
5. Anna’s own family is implicated in a travesty of justice, making this story more personal, and we learn much more about her character. Why did you choose this storyline?
I knew I wanted to write more about Anna's past when I finished my first book, The Hummingbird. It felt more like a necessity to me than something I had chosen to do, and it provides some interesting insights in Anna as a character and, of course, her motivations.
6. The pace of this book is more languorous, yet the nail-biting tension is maintained throughout. How hard was it to achieve this?
I wanted to write a book that was a bit 'slower' than my previous two. In fact, I want each book to differ a little bit in pace, atmosphere, structure, etc. It makes writing more interesting. This time I decided that because Anna was having a summer vacation, I wanted the text reflect (among many other things) – the hot, relaxed Balkan summer days. How hard it was to keep a tension? Hmm. Writing is always hard.
7. Do you plot your books or do you let the story develop as you write?
For me, a story develops best while writing.
8. Tell us about your writing day.
Wake up, coffee, out for a walk or a run, shower, and then my desk. I work for couple hours, take a break, do some stretching and then I have lunch. Then it’s back to my desk for a couple more hours of work.
This would be ideal for me; however, the truth is that social media, emails and other work (columns, etc.) take sometimes too much time. Because of translations I have to travel quite a lot, too. It is amazing to have these opportunities, but it can be stressful too. I can’t write in airplanes and hotel rooms and it takes quite a time to get back to writing after hectic journeys. But I’m not complaining! If deadline is near I work couple more hours in the evening. And at night.
9. Has your international success come as a surprise?
Yes it has! Totally! I wrote my first book for me, to prove to myself that I could do it. Everything since has been an unexpected revelation.
10. What’s next?
Anna Fekete number four. I will say no more…
A compelling, assured and gutsy crime thriller set in Serbia among the refugee crisis. Anna returns to the borders of Hungary and Serbia for a holiday, there she finds herself in the middle of a dangerous investigation with chilling links to her own family. Kati Hiekkapelto allows information to wait, just out of sight, and then releases it to swirl, linger and provoke. Each new surprise ensured my opinion of Anna altered as I read, my attention was ensnared further, and I became completely absorbed by this tension filled read. With red herrings slipping through the story line, and an absolutely fascinating location, ‘The Exiled’ is a gripping and stimulating read. ~ Liz Robinson
Anna Fekete, who fled the Yugoslavian wars as a child, has just started working as a criminal investigator in a northern Finnish coastal town, when she is thrust into a rolling murder investigation. It doesn't help that her new partner, Esko, doesn't bother hiding his racist prejudices. Anna's work as a criminal investigator barely gets off the ground before she is thrust into a case that has riveted the nation. A young woman has been killed on a running trail, and a pendant depicting an Aztec god has been found in her possession. Another murder soon follows. All signs point to a serial killer. But can Anna catch the Hummingbird before he - or she - strikes again?
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