Christine Gabriel Interview: “I love everything about dark fiction”

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This week I invited Christine Gabriel to talk me through her work and how she has come to define a unique writing style that appeals to her vast readership, including Iron Man. 

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards darker fiction?

Great question! What most people don’t know about me is that I can successfully write in multi genres. Dark fiction is what I chose to put out as my debut novel. I love everything about dark fiction, and how you can entwine it with reality to the point that you can’t determine what’s real, and what’s fiction. It’s so much fun!

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to publishing your work?

I’ve been in the marketing field for almost 15 years. With my marketing knowledge, I was able to approach publishing houses with what I could do for them. They loved that I could help market my own book, along with their own efforts.

Then I signed with a publishing house – which shall remain nameless – and was terribly disappointed by their marketing/communication efforts, so I recovered my rights, and decided to move on.

One afternoon, I happened to be surfing Twitter, and saw PitMad was trending. Curious what Pitmad was, I decided to investigate. That’s when Pandamoon Publishing caught my eye. I sent them an email and have since been with them for over 5 years! What a happy ending, right?

Tell me all about the Crimson Chronicles series. What was your inspiration?

A good friend of mine, Stephanie Gerold, had asked me if I would write her a book about vampires. I gave her a firm no. Vampires were way overplayed at this point. Well, she kept asking, and I finally caved in. I agreed to write her a book – but without vampires (Shh, I did put ONE vampire in the book, just for her, and darn it, he ended up being everyone’s favourite character.)
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How do you draw on your own experience when writing?

I was bullied all through high school, so I spent quite a bit of time in my bedroom, writing amazing stories I could escape into. I use a lot of that experience in my writing. If I’m having a rough day, or if writer’s block hits, I think back to those dark moments in my life. I use those experiences in a positive way to help me write better and write more. It’s such a rush when you see the shock on your old classmate’s faces when they see you, and how you’ve changed. They’re even more shocked when they see what you’ve accomplished – especially when they told you would amount to nothing.

Have you done any other work that you are particularly proud of?

I’m currently working on a Women’s Fiction novel titled Real Men Don’t Cry. This book has made me go through an entire box of Kleenex already, and I haven’t even finished it yet. It’s going to be a good one.

What’s next for the Crimson Chronicles series? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?

There are quite a few exciting things happening with the Crimson Chronicles Series. Though I can’t release any information yet, just know it’s super exciting, and fans will love it! One thing I can share with you is that Crimson Forest will be available as an audio book this fall!

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

There are a few new books I’m super excited to see released this year. Meg Bonney will be releasing her second book in the Everly series – Rosewood Burning. Her first book was phenomenal.

Another book I’m looking forward to is Nola Nash’s debut novel, Crescent City Moon. I’m a huge fan of New Orleans, and voodoo – so this book is right up my alley!

Anything you’d like to add?

I love connecting with my readers and fans. Interacting with them is what makes this worth it for me. If I can help someone escape their reality, even if just for a short period of time, that’s why I write. I do this for you guys!

Many thanks for answering my questions, it has been a pleasure having you on my blog.

 

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The Retreat Review: A Real Nail Biter With a Gripping Finale

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As part of author Mark Edwards’ book tour I review The Retreat, a haunting thriller that really stays with you.

I’ll level with you here: this isn’t the sort of book I’d usually read. From the cover, it looks like the kind of book I wouldn’t even think twice about if I saw it in Tesco’s or Waterstone’s while I was browsing the latest best sellers in search of a new favourite.

After all, heartbroken mothers and missing children have been done to death. I always hate the overly sentimental thrillers, and from my first impression of it The Retreat was exactly that. However, once you move past the age-old premise you find a riveting thriller that packs a punch and leaves you with more questions than answers.

The novel centres around Julia Marsh, a heartbroken woman who has spent the last two years grieving the tragic accident that lead to her husband drowning in front of her in a local river. Her eight-year-old daughter Lily is still missing, following the incident, and is presumed dead.

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Now living alone, Julia finds herself unable to move on, convinced that Lily is still alive. Despite this her pleas for help go unanswered by the authorities, who are convinced that Lily could not possibly be alive, and with dwindling resources Julia finds herself in a perilous position. Forced to find unconventional means of staying afloat, she gets more than she bargained for when she creates a writer’s retreat and invites complete strangers into her home and, by extension, her life.

Alternating between first and third person, past and present tense, the novel is a shock to the system, and each chapter is designed to leave you questioning everything you had previously thought.

This show-stopping novel is a tour de force that reaches its shocking climax and leaves the reader in both amazement and wonder. I found this incredibly hard to put down even once I’d finished, and had the ridiculous urge to start again just to keep the experience going. As such I would thoroughly recommend giving The Retreat a go, even if you’re not mad keen on psychological thrillers.

Jem Tugwell Interview: “I like to explore the blurring of people and technology”

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As we gear up for the Bank Holiday weekend, thriller writer Jem Tugwell discusses how technology is offering unique opportunities for creativity in crime fiction.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

I grew up reading the books my parent’s liked. Books like the Lord Peter Wimsey series and all the standalone Dick Francis books. I like thrillers with pace, action and good characterisation. When I had the time to start writing, I joined the City University Crime Writing MA, and one of the things the course teaches you is to write what you like to read. I try to follow this advice.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing?

I started working in IT in the City and eventually founded a software house with my wife. We built and ran it for 10 years before selling about 10 years ago. Since then I have written a book on Finance, we have built a house and I now have the time to scratch the writing itch that I have had for years. I don’t currently write full time, but this is the goal.

Please tell me about your books. What defines your writing style?

I like to explore the blurring of people and technology and how willing people are to give up privacy and control for convenience. My debut book, Proximity, explores the themes of embedded technology, a stretched health service and the health and safety nanny-state and paints a world that could easily be only a few years away. Is this world of unexpected consequences, utopia or dystopia? That’s a very personal decision.

Although Proximity does have a futuristic element to it, I would classify it as an alternate police procedural, rather than sci-fi – there are no spaceships, aliens, superheroes, etc. It’s more of a Black Mirror future set in a city.

Proximity opens 10 years after the compulsory introduction of embedded technology which provides convenient and secure messaging, connectivity, banking, and security: but it also knows exactly where you are all of the time. It controls the food you eat, and the risks you take. Proximity crimes, such as murders and muggings, are non-existent, and the police force has been downsized.

In this world, having a missing person is impossible, but this is the challenge presented to DI Clive Lussac and DC Zoe Jordan. With technology working against them, they have to solve a missing person case that escalates into a triple murder. Who can subvert the technology? Who can commit the ‘impossible’ crimes?

I tend to write shorter sentences to make for a faster read and try and put in enough description to fire the reader’s imagination, rather than describe everything in a prescriptive manner.

Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

I know it’s unfashionable to say it, but I am a plotter. I think it comes from my background in designing software and buildings where you make mistakes and waste time without a solid base. I will plot down to the scene or chapter level and make sure it all fits together before starting writing. A scene may just have a one sentence that describes its purpose, and that’s what I will use as inspiration when I write the scene.

I like writing from a first person point of view as it allows you to really get into a characters head and see their thoughts. Film, TV and theatre are usually third person stories and books are one of the few mediums that allows a first person story.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I try and read widely, usually crime but I also like some sci-fi and non-fiction. As I said before, I will always pick up a Reacher book, and will read Gerald Seymour, Wilbur Smith, Fredrick Forsyth books as well as debuts. I look for an interesting premise, something a bit different. I can read and reread The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin for its scale and imagination.

I shy away from gratuitous sex scenes, horror, and over described books. I’ve read a lot of physiological thrillers recently and have decided that I don’t really want to read three pages on the protagonist’s trip to the supermarket unless it is key to the plot.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I would have loved to meet and work with Spike Milligan. I always loved his sense of humour and I can imagine many a happy hour talking drivel and going off at tangents. As I mentioned before I love the Lee Child Reacher books so a collaboration with Lee would be an amazing learning experience of style and structure and plot. I think there might be quite a long queue for this.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

It’s very simple. Finish Proximity and get it published. I’m open to offers!

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

I can read almost any writing style without a problem, but holes in the plot and key story points that are driven by coincidence drive me mad. I have a big pile of different books that I bought and haven’t got around to reading yet.

I really like the sound of The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave when it comes out.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you, Hannah, for interviewing me for the blog. As a new, unpublished author, trying to finish my book, find an agent and publisher, it is refreshing and motivating to be given the opportunity.

Thanks for taking the time, it’s been a pleasure hearing from you. You can find out more about Jem HERE.

Julie Reichwein Interview: “I hope that I can shine a light on how truly awful being a victim is”

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Fresh from the success of her latest book, I caught up with Julie Reichman to learn more about writing thrillers in the Me Too era.  

How did you come to define your writing style? What drew you towards psychological thrillers?

I like many authors am an avid reader. I would say that literary agent, Paula S. Munier, who wrote a few great books on writing a story that sells helped me more than anything. Paula Hawkin’s,The Girl on the Train, spoke to me as far as writing style. I loved how she broke the chapters down into first person for each individual character. I felt like you really got to know the characters and that’s what I wanted for my book. I also like psychological thrillers because I feel like I am good at assessing people. My background isn’t of police work, but I’ve watched enough shows and read enough books to pick up general points but not the truly technical end of it. I am however very good at creating fictional characters based on psychological research, and I enjoy studying criminal psychology.

Tell me about how your background and how you draw on it to create your books?

My background is one of being self-employed for most of my life. I’ve dealt with people for my entire career, so I’ve met many interesting types of people. I’m also an avid traveler and love to learn about people in different cultures, so I feel I have a large pool of entertaining characters to draw on.

Talk me through your novel Fire & Fury. How is it influenced by other works?

I didn’t set out for it to be referred to Tarantino style, but I will say that people are busy in their lives. They’re worn out when they get home, so they don’t want to read something that doesn’t draw them in quickly and hold their attention. I’m the same. My goal was to keep the story moving at a fast pace without sacrificing the story, the characterization, or the plot. Apparently, I hit the mark because all of the professional book reviews that have come in have said I wrote a gripping, compelling, full-bore, relentless story with strong characterization. This obviously makes me happy to read. The two authors who influenced me the most in the writing of this book were Paula Hawkins and Stephen King.

What is the novel’s relevance in the Me Too era and how do you believe that readers relate to it?

I chose this story to tell because I became interested in learning about sexual assailants and the criminology of it because of an incident that happened to me in college. I was stalked by the mailman and came within feet of being raped or killed, but I was saved by my dog and the fact I was on the line with 911. The stalker took off. In 1982, there were no stalking laws, so I had to move. A few years later, it happened again. Again I had to move. So sexual assault has always been something I’ve been interested in and I wanted to do a story about it. The murdered girl in my story was inspired by someone I know. While she wasn’t murdered, the reaction of her family destroyed her, and I wanted to understand more about it. As I read up on it, I learned that children who are sexually molested by a parent are often isolated because the mother turns against them and so do their siblings. The abused child is abandoned by her family. The wife sees her as a mistress and the siblings are jealous because of the attention the father pays to the molested daughter. The abused child then abuses substances and spirals out of control by getting into bad relationships. My story tries to bridge a modern day rape where a powerful man rapes women he feels he can intimidate with a cold case of a girl who was sexually abused by her father and enters into debasing relationships which culminates in her death. The Detective quickly learns both cases are connected. I live in Santa Fe, which is a multi- cultural town and so I wanted to bring race into it as a factor as well because women of color are more likely to be raped than Caucasian women.

What aspect of your books do you feel attracts your readers and makes your work so hard to put down?

I will let the reviewers answer this. “Author Julie Reichwein has put together a gripping, relentless, super fast psychological thriller and I wouldn’t expect less when it comes to… revenge! This novel is divided in 69 chapters and each one of them is allocated to a specific character at a time. I really enjoy this kind of organization as it strengthens characterization, we come to know each one of the characters really well – ie. their motives, thoughts, traumas, fears, backgrounds, etc.”

“And certainly she did a thorough research about the different characters, for instance, sexual assailants and their psychology. For the characters have very strong personalities and their souls are masterfully exposed in their sick, gritty, dirty and dark glory, sometimes their behaviors borders on the ridicule but I think it adds to their authenticity.

“Reichwein is very good also when it comes to describing scenes, she makes it look effortless as she uses the exact right amount of description – not wordy but also not lacking in detail, this will make the reader easily visualize the scene in his/her mind.”

Where do you find the inspiration for your work? Are there any specific exercises or tricks you use to get your creative juices flowing?

Every time I didn’t like a sentence or a paragraph or a page etc I would go back and reread, The Girl on the Train, or one of Stephen King’s books. I wanted it full- bore from start to finish, and I didn’t stop editing until I was 100% satisfied. I would also go back to Paula Munier’s book about the first 10 pages, and I would make sure I was keeping the story well-paced with strong characterization. When I was at the point that I was ready emotionally to kill some of the characters, I felt like my readers would be there, too.

If you could collaborate with any write, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Stephen King. I’m not a horror reader in general, but I am a Stephen King fan. He gets you into the story and the characters like no one else. He’s the true master.

What does the future have in store for you as a writer? Any upcoming projects you would be happy to share with me?

I have two more books that I have final edits to finish. Kilos & Killer Heels and Killer Heels- 1/2way to Hell.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

I just discovered Iris Yang’s Wings of a Flying Tiger. It’s a story about a wounded American pilot in China during WWII when Japan occupied the country. One cousin risked everything to help this pilot.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I tried to bring the true sordidness of sexual assault and the emotional devastation it causes to my story. Many crime writers address the issue from a clinical angle where I tried to address it from an emotional point of view. Not just from the abused but from the abuser as well. I hope that I can shine a light on how truly awful being a victim is, so that those fortunate enough to not have been victimized can understand the toll and emotional devastation of sexual assault.

Thanks Julie, it has been truly fascinating to here from you. You can find out more about Julie and her work HERE.

 

Check Out The Cover of Paul D. Brazill’s Latest Collection!

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Paul D. Brazill, who I interviewed previously, is launching a new collection of stories called Small Time Crimes through Near the Knuckle Press. The collection is due to be published in Summer of this year. The blurb is below:

‘Hit-men, con men, jewel thieves, career criminals, killers, crooks and cannibals. They all congregate between the pages of Paul D. Brazill’s Small Time Crimes- a brutal and blackly comic collection of short stories and flash fiction that views the world at its most askew.’
It promises to be a corker! You can check out more about the collection HERE.

The Last Straw Review: Another Strong Spy Thriller

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The second in the Pigeon Blood Red series, the first of which I recently reviewed, The Last Straw is another unique novel starring the first novel’s protagonist, Rico Sanders.

The book begins with a run-of-the-mill carjacking. An inner-city kid with no priors and no experience with a gun fumbled the ball, and the driver ended up dead.

A teenage girl witnessed the whole thing, and now a target has been placed on her back. The carjacker’s father, a notorious crime boss, is willing to move heaven and earth to prevent her from testifying, even if that means hiring a hit man to kill her.

Richard Sanders, better known as Rico, as the best in the business, was his first choice for the job; however, his scruples prevent him from carrying out the hit. As a result, the crime boss reluctantly turns to someone who has no such qualms, John D’Angelo. There was bad blood between him and Rico, so knowing that Rico had passed on the job, he eagerly accepted it.

Rico and the girl’s lawyer, Paul Elliott, form an uneasy alliance to try and protect her from the hit man. As the long-simmering feud between Rico and John D’Angelo reaches boiling point, bodies start to pile up in rapid succession, and old scores will be settled as the novel races through to its climactic conclusion.

Author Ed Duncan is a former lawyer, and as such his knowledge of the legal system is impeccable, and although at times the descriptions, particularly those of characters, are a little clunky, this is a fast paced novel that lends itself to easy reading. It is not a taxing novel, and as such it is perfect for summer, when you are reclining on the beach or bored waiting in an airport lounge.

Overall a great addition to the Pigeon Blood Red series, this is an exciting thriller that takes the reader on a round the world journey through to a climactic finale.

Christoffer Petersen Interview: “I think the setting for my books helps to define their style”

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As the Beast from the East continues to keep the UK cold and damp, I talk to someone who knows the true meaning of tough weather; Denmark based Arctic explorer Christoffer Petersen, whose novels are set against a backdrop of the harsh Greenlandic landscape. He talks to me about his books and how they are enhanced by their unique setting.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?

I think the setting for my books helps to define their style, especially the crime books. Before I lived in the Arctic, I read a lot of Jack London stories and became fascinated with how the environment was just as much a character as the characters themselves. It’s like the ring in The Lord of the Rings; it has a voice, and I’d like to think I capture that in my style of writing. Of course, I have to show it through my characters, something I did a lot with Fenna Brongaard in my Arctic thrillers, but less so with David Maratse in the crime books, as he is more in tune with the environment. He is Greenlandic, after all. I let Jack London influence my style of writing when I write short stories featuring Maratse.

I think I was forced into crime fiction when Maratse, a Greenlandic policeman, demanded his own series. That might sound silly, but when you spend enough time with your characters, it is easy to imagine them wanting something. Crime is the best genre for Maratse, and, during my time in Greenland, I had a lot to do with the police in the local communities where I lived, and I even worked at the Police Academy in Nuuk during my last year in Greenland. However, Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith is perhaps where my interest in crime books started. I read about Arkady Renko when I was in my teens, and the character and the writing, not least the setting, continues to be a big influence on me.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing full time?

I started out as an outdoor instructor and canoe guide, working in England, Scotland, Canada and the USA. I spent a few months each year for a few years as a sledge dog handler in Norway, England, and the USA, while working odd jobs, before I trained to be a teacher in Denmark and moved to Greenland in 2006. I had always tried to write, including terribly depressing poems in my early twenties, but it was in Greenland, particularly during the winter months of complete darkness, that I really started. I decided to learn how to write for a career by enrolling on the Master of Arts in Professional Writing at Falmouth University. I started studying by distance learning while in Greenland and graduated in 2015. The Ice Star was my final project together with an accompanying contextual essay where I studied environmental determinism in literature, looking specifically at how Mary Shelley used the Arctic to define her characters in Frankenstein. The MA gave me the academic foundation and tools to begin to write well, and that was when I knew I had to be a full-time writer. I have been working towards that ever since and decided to go for it in January this year.

Please tell me about your books. Why do you believe they have become so popular?

First, I love that the question suggests that my books have become popular. They are certainly selling, and there are lots of people leaving reviews on Goodreads. As to why they have become popular, I think that has a lot to do with the return of Nordic Noir, helped massively by the British interest in Danish crime fiction and series on television. Forbrydelsen (The Killing) has certainly boosted interest in the genre, along with more recent crime series set in Iceland. My books are on Amazon, and I am consistently listed alongside Icelandic writers such as Ragnar Jónasson and YrsaSigurðardóttir. The series Trapped is set in Iceland, and I think it always helps crime books when crime series on television capture the interest of viewers.

Greenland is, of course, the setting for my books, and it is geographically close to Iceland. Both countries are stark, raw, beautiful, and fascinating. The challenging environment provides plenty of scope for isolation, survival, and murder. Crime books set in the Arctic are not new, but they are gaining in popularity.

However, I hope that Fenna’s story in particular is popular in part because of who she is. I wanted to create a strong independent woman that gets the job done, no matter how uneasy it makes her feel. She operates within a world of men, but it is her actions, not her sex, that defines her.

What defines your writing style? Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

I tend to experiment with my writing in the short stories, imagining how Jack London might approach writing crime novels. I have used the idea of the unnamed narrator in my short stories, but tend to stick to a close-third POV in my thrillers, and a more omniscient third person style in the Maratse crime novels. I remember being very impressed by John le Carré’s Tailor of Panama when the main character’s lie is revealed by another character, and the reader is left with the feeling of being left out for a page or two. I would be very happy if I could emulate that particular writing foil.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I mentioned Gorky Park, but I would be remiss if I didn’t name Peter Høeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow. These are two books that have seriously influenced me. Both authors set the bar very high. I’m not even close, even standing on tiptoes and reaching. I love John le Carré’s trilogy featuring George Smiley, I can easily get lost in Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy, and I absolutely loved Dan Simmons’ The Terror. I save Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series for those guilty pleasures, and when I really want to explore a strange new world, no-one does it better than China Miéville.

Now, you might ask, where are all the female writers? And more crime writers for that matter. Well, I don’t want to read too much crime for fear of being “inspired”. As for female writers, Ursula le Guinn’s Wizard of Earthsea was a game-changer of a book, and E. Annie Proulx’ The Shipping News changed my life and sent me on a quest to kayak alongside icebergs and whales in the Arctic. Proulx’ Brokeback Mountain is also a beautiful and universal love story – far better than the film. Sadly, I read less than I used to, now that I write as much as I do. When I need a break from words I see a lot of films.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I think this is the most difficult of your questions, Hannah. If the purpose was to learn through collaboration, then I think Wilbur Smith could teach me everything I need to know about writing long and exciting chase scenes through open terrain. Martin Cruz Smith could teach me about character, and Peter Høeg could inspire me lyrically. I’d like to sit by the wood burning stove in the cabin listening to Jack London mutter as he wrote, and I’d be pleased to add an idea here or there. I could learn so much from screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. Specifically, I would want to pick his brains about dialogue. Cormac McCarthy, because I read The Road, and then I read Blood Meridian and found a sentence at least one page long. I need to know how to do that. As for actual collaboration, Michael Ridpath, if you’re reading this, let’s collaborate.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

Actually, yes. I am in the process of writing a series featuring a Scottish-born Danish detective called Freja Hansen. It is set partly in the Scottish Highlands, and partly in the area of Denmark where I live called Sønderborg, in southern Denmark. The introductory short story is called Fell Runner and comes out in June.

I lived in Scotland for seven years, got my BA in Outdoor Education from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and met my Danish wife when working in Aviemore. My real surname is Scottish, so, it’s a bit like coming home to write about Freja solving crimes in the Scottish Highlands.

I do have more crime books in the Greenland crime series coming out later this year, and I am not quite done with Fenna’s story. So, more Arctic thrillers on the way, too.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?

Philip Pullman. I didn’t mention him earlier, but Northern Lights was yet another book that encouraged me to keep moving north to the Arctic. I bought La Belle Sauvage on pre-order – both digital and hardback – and I can’t wait for the next in the Book of Dust trilogy. Neal Asher has a new science fiction book coming out called The Soldier which I am excited about, and I have to keep an eye on the Icelanders. I am currently reading Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series.

Anything you’d like to add?

I really appreciate you taking the time and interest to ask me about my books and my writing. Thanks.

Thank you for speaking with me Christoffer, it has been a pleasure. You can find out more about Christoffer and his Arctic adventures HERE.