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Bodø2024, a book about Norway without being there

By Press release March 24, 2022
Bodo 2024, book project Bodo 2024, book project Photo by Bodo2024

Bodø2024 has commissioned author Stef Penney to write a book set in Nordland, Northern Norway. The catch? She is not allowed to travel there. Instead, it is locals themselves who will provide Penney with inspiration for her book, sharing stories and tips remotely via mail and phone, and helping her with her research from Nordland.

Penney has no idea at this stage what the book will be about. The contributions she receives will be decisive in determining what kind of book she ultimately writes.

Stef Penney is an award-winning and best-selling Scottish author - her books have been translated into 30 languages. In 2006, she won the ‘Costa Book of the Year’, one of the UK's most prestigious literature awards, for her novel 'The Tenderness of Wolves', which was set in Canada. Penney received much praise for her landscape descriptions and her ability to create atmosphere – despite her never having been to Canada. She had done all research from her local library because she suffered from agoraphobia (fear of leaving home) at the time.

‘’In connection with Bodø2024, we wanted to get a foreign author to write a book about Nordland with a strong sense of place, as well as start a literature project that describes us "from outside". The choice naturally fell on Stef Penney, who agreed to write a book where the action takes place in Nordland - without travelling there", says Henrik Sand Dagfinrud Program Director, Bodø2024.

Locals in Nordland will be able to share their stories and tips for anything they could imagine described in the book. This could be details from their own lives, people (living or dead) who could make good characters for a novel, interesting places and historical events, and more. Penney will follow up the tips she finds the most interesting with a phone call or an email and she expects to have many interesting exchanges with the people taking part in the project.

Maybe someone’s great-great-grandmother can become a central character in the book. Or maybe a famous local landmark will become the backdrop for an important event in the book. Here, known and unknown local stories can be told to a large international audience. Will the book be an adventure from the Space Center on Andøya Island? A historical novel featuring the local Sami community? Crime at one of the Norwegian Hikers Association’s cabins in Lofoten? A love story from 1960s Bodø og Mosjøen? Maybe we’ll get a hero with a slight weakness for stockfish, or one who wears a Glimt football jersey?

They don’t know. Anything is possible!

Nordland as a backdrop for a new international bestseller? This is the first time a book will be written that way. So there is no right way to go about it, and we do not know exactly what to expect.

Quercus Books in London, part of the Hachette Group, one of the world’s largest publishing houses, will publish the English edition at the beginning of 2024, and the book will be translated into Norwegian later that year. Everyone whose contribution is retained for the project will be credited in the book.

‘’When the idea first came up, I thought, no way! The prospect of writing to a deadline, and of sharing any part of my (messy, unfathomable) writing process were both, initially, terrifying. But something about it wouldn’t let me go… The idea of people in another place coming up with their own stories and experiences is different and refreshing’’, says Stef Penney, author.


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