A Presence of Absence (The Odense Series) – Sarah Surgey & Emma Vestrheim – #blogtour

A Presence of Absence Cover Low Res

I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour today for A Presence of Absence, written by Sarah Surgey and Emma Vestrheim.

The Odense Series is a new Nordic Noir/Brit Crime series that blends humanist stories and family drama with gritty crime in the central Danish city Odense.

British detective Simon Weller escapes the fallout from the recent suicide of his Danish wife, Vibeke and heads out to her home city of Odense. But once there he is paired up with a local detective, Jonas, who is also about to hit rock bottom in his home life and they must overcome their differences and personal problems to try and catch one of the worst serial killers Odense has seen in many years.

The case takes them back into past decades as history starts catching up with some of the local inhabitants.

When Simon realises that his wife’s suicide may not be all it seems and her name appears in the case, his integrity within the case is compromised, how far will he go to find out the truth of Vibeke’s past and hide it from his already troubled police partner?

Back home in London Simon’s family are struggling with their own web of lies and deceit and the family is falling apart.

With one family hiding a dark secret, the whole case is just about to reach breaking point.


Sarah Surgey is a 36 year old British feature writer for various magazines. She lives in the UK with her husband and 4 daughters. She has had an interest in all things Nordic for many years and has written about many genres within this subject for publication. Although British, she has Danish family and enjoys exploring Denmark and its culture whenever the opportunity arrives. Sarah was brought up with crime books and inevitably has always had crime story scenarios going around inside her head. After interviewing many famous authors for different magazines within the Nordic literary circle and always knowing the answer to her question of “why did you start writing?” she felt now was her time to get her stories out there, for people to read!

Emma Vestrheim is the owner and editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia, a Nordic film and television journal that analyses popular Nordic titles. Part of her work includes working with directors, actors and filmmakers, and her numerous interviews with the biggest names in Nordic film and television have given her a privileged access to what makes Nordic narratives so successful. Cinema Scandinavia publishes bimonthly and is available in major Nordic film libraries.


The Enlightened Book Cover

“Do you believe the Odense arson attack is the same as the ones you’ve seen up here?” Simon asked.

“I believe so. The evidence is very similar. Do you know about the arson attacks that happened in Norway back in the 1990’s?” Simon shook his head while sipping his tea, and Tor went on. “In the early nineties over fifty churches, in particular stave churches, were burnt to the ground across the country. They were carried out by heavy metal singers and bands. Some were convicted, some were not. They were extremists. They even threatened to put bombs inside Nidaroskirken. It died down for a while, but I think it’s connected to that. But more extreme this time, since we are seeing similar attacks in Sweden and Denmark.”

“How many churches have been burnt down so far?” Simon asked, “In Norway, I mean.”

“The arson attacks we see now are worse than the ones in the nineties. In the nineties, it was just a bunch of idiots burning down churches. Now we are seeing young girls light themselves on fire inside the churches. It’s much worse.” Tor took another sip of his coffee and glanced over at the university students. “The first attack was in Mære Church, outside Trondheim. A sixteen-year-old runaway lit herself on fire. The church is made of stone, though, so it didn’t burn down. Only three churches have burnt to the ground, and seven people have lit themselves on fire. In Sweden, one church burnt down but there were three victims, and now your girl in Denmark. Was the church completely destroyed?”

“No, it’s a brick church. Some interior damage but nothing too extreme. The girl was also a runaway, nineteen years old and missing for three months.” Simon said.

“Right. This afternoon I’ll take you to Mære Church. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the heavy metal scene in Trondheim. I think it’s happening by one of the bands here, but I can’t figure out which. That’s why I need a second opinion.”

“You don’t have a partner at the station?” Simon asked, thinking of Jonas back home. Jonas, who was stuck working in administration and wasn’t putting his mind to use. Simon wished he could’ve brought Jonas up to Trondheim with him, and felt as though Jonas was growing resentful over Simon’s special treatment.

“We are a small station, and Norway is a safe country” Tor smiled. Simon scoffed, and finished his tea.

“Well, let’s go to this church. Before it gets dark.” Simon said. Tor finished his black coffee. Standing up, Simon was taken aback by his height. Around 190 cm tall, Tor towered over the table. His slender but strong figure made the university students look over in curiosity, before hiding back into their books.

“Simon, we are in Norway in winter. It’s always dark.” Tor said, walking off. Simon followed, dragging his suitcase behind him”.

As a part of the blog tour today I am very lucky to be interviewing Sarah Surgey & Emma Vestrheim.

Hi girls, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Sarah: I am a freelance writer who has specialised in Nordic talents for the last few years, from authors to films and artists to designers.
Emma: I’m a film critic and writer on Scandinavian cinema. I attend film festivals, conduct interviews and write about contemporary Nordic film and television.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Sarah: For our ‘The Odense Series’ to be enjoyed by readers everywhere, it is an amazing feeling to know people are reading your work but for them to be enjoying it too, would be the ultimate reward.
Emma: It’s exciting creating a world that is completely different from real life; almost creating an escape. Blending elements we love about Nordic literature has been thrilling and interesting.

So, what have you written?
Sarah: We have written A Presence of Absence, which is the first in The Odense Series.
Emma: I’ve previously written short films, and A Presence of Absence is my first novel.

What is your most recent novel?
Emma: A Presence of Absence is the first novel we have written together and the one we are excited to be promoting!

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Sarah: We actually have two. A British Detective named Simon Weller and a Danish officer named Jonas Norgaard. Simon’s Danish wife, Vibeke, has committed suicide and grief have enveloped his life. To try and work through his struggles he heads out to her hometown, Odense, from their house in London, where simon ends up being paired with Jonas to track down a killer who is taking revenge.
Emma: In a way, these characters are unique embodiments of British and Danish culture. We wanted to make sure the reader felt like these characters came from that part of the world, and we wanted to highlight particular quirks about each character.

What genre are your books?
Sarah: Crime fiction Nordic Noir blended with Brit Crime

What draws you to this genre?
Sarah: Mystery, human instinct and how it deals with crisis and fear and suspense
Emma: Scandinavia is a very safe part of the world, and it’s great to be able to create these gritty crimes in very dull cities!

When did you decide to become a writer?
Sarah: Ooh, i have always written from as far back as i can remember, I guess it isn’t until you start writing for other people that you are called a writer? And then when your writings become stories or specialised you are called an author!
Emma: I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid, and I tend to write for the screen.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
Sarah: Well, I have 4 daughters so my time to write is really as and when. 5am in the morning whilst everyone is asleep or 10pm at night. I grab time when I can because i know it’s a luxury.
Emma: I work all day, every day, on my Nordic film journal, Cinema Scandinavia, but try to escape to the literary world for an hour or two. I prefer to work early in the mornings!

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
Sarah: We had 80,000 words in our mind and were not far off from that!
Emma: Not really, it’s more about creating a moment, a scene, or a setting. If my brain
isn’t wanting to write much, there’s not a lot I can do there! Rather than fill a quota, I just document whatever comes to mind.

Where do your ideas come from?
Sarah: Everywhere and anywhere. Other people talking, dreams, real life, books or just digging really really deep into our imaginations.
Emma: So many things. A lot of little pieces of the novel that I wrote come from wherever I was and whatever was happening when I wrote that paragraph (imaginative, I know!). I also visited Odense and did some location scouting to try and get a better feel of the city. For example, when Simon walks around once he gets to the city, that’s exactly how I walked around once I got there. When he mocks the Odense Palace, it’s exactly what I thought of it! And some of Jonas’ character traits come from my Scandinavian husband, so there’s a lot of personal elements in the story.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
Sarah: We have a rough outline and a more concrete plot but in all honesty we are really open to seeing where the book and our writing takes us.
Emma: I’m a little pragmatic about my approach and like to know exactly where something is heading before I write it down, but through this writing process I’ve found that’s not always the case and once you’re in the character’s minds you can go in a completely different direction.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Sarah: From start to finish around eight months but then you need to factor in for promoting it so you are looking a year in total.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Sarah: Immensely. It becomes your life and kind of has to be, you have to know your characters inside out. I can picture them in my mind, how they grew up and what they will become and for me I was never that involved in my writing like that until we wrote this book.
Emma: I think writing this book has prepared me for the second one, which I’m so excited to write as a lot of it takes place in Norway and involves Norse Mythology, the Northern Lights, and that very northern feel I love so much. Practically, I’ve learned to prepare stories better, and creatively I’ve learned to accept the characters journeys.

Do you read much and if so which writers inspire you?
Sarah: I read all the time from Agatha Christie (my youngest is now called Agatha) to Jussi Adler-Olsen. I am also drawn towards strong women writers and books which involve a foreign land so I can escape.
Emma: I don’t read too much; I’ve read all of the books by Jo Nesbø and love Australian fiction (I’m Australian), as well as a good drama story. I’m also a huge fan of Harry Potter and re-read the books once a year.

What is your favourite book and why?
Sarah: Anyone of Agatha Christie’s. They are timeless and ingenious, I can’t fault them.
Emma: The Bat by Jo Nesbø or The Snowman by Jo Nesbø. I also really liked Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, and am currently reading Lion by Saroo Brierley. I read a lot of books that have been turned into films!

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Sarah: Jean de Florette. The story is both beautiful and sad, I would of kept to the story but would be very tempted to give a happier ending.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Sarah: Go for it. Be prepared for knock backs and rejections every step of the way, but pick yourself back up because you will stand stronger than if someone else helps you up!
Emma: The world is changing, and these days it’s not about finding an agent or a publisher but getting out there and promoting yourself and your work. There are so many channels to publish and promote your novel yourself, so hit the emails and get in touch with as many people as possible. Also, never say no to any opportunity. No matter how small or silly it may seem, you never know where these things end up.

If you would like to follow the Presence of Absence Blog Tour, you can do so at the following dates:

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Amazon USA:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon Australia:  https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon Canada:  https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon Germany:  https://www.amazon.de/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon France:  https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon Spain:  https://www.amazon.es/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon Italy:  https://www.amazon.it/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon Netherlands:  https://www.amazon.nl/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon Japan:  https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon Brazil:  https://www.amazon.com.br/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon Mexico:  https://www.amazon.com.mx/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon India:  https://www.amazon.in/dp/B06XFS75LT

Amazon USA:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1520771770
Amazon UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1520771770
Amazon Germany:  https://www.amazon.de/dp/1520771770
Amazon France:  https://www.amazon.fr/dp/1520771770
Amazon Spain:  https://www.amazon.es/dp/1520771770
Amazon Italy:  https://www.amazon.it/dp/1520771770
Amazon Japan:  https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/1520771770

Also available from our website: http://theodenseseries.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheOdenseSeries
Twitter: https://twitter.com/OdenseSeries
Instagram: Sarah: https://www.instagram.com/the_wormcatcher/ Emma: https://www.instagram.com/emmavestrheim169/
Blog tour hashtag: #theodenseseries & #blogtour
Website: www.theodenseseries.com


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