Friday, February 1, 2019


From pop artist in the group Cosmo4 to criminal investigator to author, Jenny Rogneby is the new Queen of Nordic Noir. Her latest mystery has already been swept up for movie rights by Le Grisbi Productions and DCM with John Lesher (Birdman, Fury, End of Watch) as the main producer. 

Thank you to Sue Trowbridge for translating Jenny's post from Swedish into English for Mystery Fanfare.

“At the right time, in the right place, with the right equipment” 

I had never given any thought to becoming an author. I didn’t mind writing, I had actually enjoyed it, even if I hadn’t written anything other than my graduation thesis, or reports in my professional life, but I had never known that I had a talent for writing. Because how do you know that you have talent if you have never tested it?

Several of my author colleagues have wanted to become writers since they were children. There was no such thing in my world. I was born in Ethiopia and came to Sweden as an adopted child when I was only a year old. I grew up in a small village in northern Sweden. Both of my white, Swedish parents worked for the army. For my dad, discipline was very important. If I came home one minute late for dinner, I got a scolding. He’d point to the clock and say, “Jenny, you should be on time, in the right place, with the right equipment.”

The winters were cold and there were often huge amounts of snow. For us children, winter sports were what counted, and I often went skiing and ice skating. I wanted to be an ice princess when I grew up. I had seen the beautiful figure skaters on TV performing elaborate pirouettes on the ice, and I practiced on the river outside my childhood home, which froze to thick ice every winter. There was just one problem: it was so cold. I was always freezing. Mom used to hold my brown fingers between her fair-skinned hands and warm me if she had come along, but finally it just didn't work, I was simply too cold. My parents put me in a ballet school for children instead. It was indoors, and suited me better. I was only four years old, but my interest in dance was awakened, and I decided I wanted to become a performer. After elementary school, I applied to train as a dancer in another city, and was accepted. I moved away from home when I was 15, and then to the capital city of Stockholm when I was 18 because I had been admitted to the Ballet Academy. At this time, I had started to sing as well, and eventually chose to move on to a vocational track for musical theater. I worked as a singer and dancer for many years after that. I released an album in Sweden and in Japan for the big record label JVC. I played for my largest audience as the opening act for Michael Jackson in Tallinn, Estonia, in front of a crowd of nearly 80,000 people.

I still had never thought of writing books. However, I had begun to open my eyes to the society around me. After all, I had moved from a small village to the capital, and there I began to see more clearly people whose lives had gone awry. The homeless, addicts and criminals on the streets. I started thinking about this. I was born in Ethiopia, one of the world's poorest countries, and I grew up in Sweden, one of the richest countries in the world, and yet there were people who did not have a home, and who ended up with lives of addiction and crime. I wanted to learn more about it, and I began studying at Stockholm University. I studied topics like sociology, psychology, social work, law and criminology, and trained as a criminologist. I worked for many years as a criminal investigator at the Police Authority in Stockholm City, and this is when I began approaching the life of an author.

At the police authority I investigated many different crimes, including robbery, abuse, kidnapping, rape, and murder. The job included interrogating witnesses, plaintiffs and suspects, as well as gathering evidence in preliminary investigations. My job as an investigator gave me many ideas and inspiration for stories. One day, a very odd character appeared in my head. A female police officer who violates the norms of how a woman, mother, and police are expected to behave. She can no longer cope with her predictable, stressed-out, everyday life with a husband, child, and job, and when she decides to change her life, she ends up on a very dangerous, criminal path. She begins to live a double life. During the days she investigates crimes; in the evenings and at night, she commits them.

My ideas about the character Leona Lindberg did not want to let go, and finally I realized that I had to write them down. I decided to try to write a book, and to really take it seriously. I took leave of absence from my job at the police for one year. During that time I was unemployed, I had no income, and I sold my apartment in Stockholm to make it work economically. So nothing would distract me, I moved abroad, to Malta, a small, beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterranean, where the climate is much milder than it is in Sweden. There, in the sun, I walked on the boardwalk by the sea, and thought about my story and my characters.

One year later, I had returned with my first manuscript. I had been told that it was almost impossible to get a book published, especially in my genre; the publishers get a lot of crime novels, and in Sweden, there are already many world-renowned crime writers. I didn't let that stop me, though I have to admit that I thought my chances were small. If I was lucky, maybe a small publisher would be interested. The publishing industry was completely unknown to me. I had no agent, didn't even know what they did, and I had no contacts with publishers. But I had my knowledge of crime, police work, and the justice system, and my manuscript with an odd character that I believed in. I submitted it to several publishers simultaneously to boost my chances, and then I kept my fingers crossed for good luck.

The publishers' websites stated that they needed three months to read submitted manuscripts, so I was hoping for answers sometime that summer. After just one week, however, a publisher called me and wanted to set up a meeting. That same afternoon, I heard from another publisher who was also interested. And so it went, until ten different publishers had gotten in touch with me. Everyone thought that my manuscript was something new, fresh, with a different kind of strong female main character who brought something new to the genre.

Suddenly, I was sitting in meetings with publishers, and I was able to select which one I wanted to publish my book. I chose one of Sweden's largest publishers, and the book has now become a series that has been published in 14 countries. The movie rights have been sold to Hollywood.

I could never have dreamed that I would one day become a full-time writer. I have just started writing the fifth book in the series about police officer Leona Lindberg, and I feel like I have probably succeeded with what my father told me: to be “at the right time, in the right place, with the right equipment.”

More about me and my books:

In the highly anticipated sequel to the internationally bestselling Swedish thriller, Leona: The Die is Cast, Detective Leona Lindberg, still reeling from her last earth shattering case, is back on the job. In ANY MEANS NECESSARY (Other Press paperback original; February 12, 2019; $16.99; ISBN: 978-1590518847 ), Leona, a completely corrupt detective who plays by her own rules, is in above her head with financial issues, but when a high stakes terrorism case like the one at hand arises, she is mysteriously asked to interview the suicide bomber who amazingly survived his own explosion. Why Leona, when this terrorism case should clearly be air marked for Sweden’s Security Service? 

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