In Eriksson’s The Night of Fire (Minotaur, Nov.), retired Swedish police inspector Ann Lindell probes a fatal arson.

How has Lindell changed over the years?

When I created her, back in 1999, I had mainly written about men, and I wanted a change of perspective. It was a challenge to see whether I could succeed in portraying a female protagonist. Over the years, she became more disillusioned with her role as one of the good guys. She saw that the earlier ties between the police and the general public had broken. And her personal life became more complicated as well: she became a single mother after a one-night stand, and sank into alcoholism and social isolation. In my new book, I wanted her to be happy. In order to do that she had to change her job and leave her previous life. Because I love cheese, and local food production is an ever-more popular trend in Sweden, I made her a cheesemaker, so that she could work with something practical, where the brain and the hands work together.

Unlike a lot of Scandinavian noir, this work is set in the countryside. Why?

It enabled me to portray people who live on the fringe, socially, geographically, and economically. While living in the periphery can lead to ignorance, it can also lead to the opposite: a deep understanding of many aspects of life.

Does the city hold any attraction for you?

The hustle and bustle of the city and its enticing anonymity has its lure for me as well, but never the fashionable life. This is reflected in my writing, where I often put a lot more effort into developing the characters in my novels, rather than the plot. I never have a plan when I write my crime fiction, a strategy that is unthinkable for most writers.

In what way, if any, did your work as a gardener shape how you write fiction?

Working with your hands, like digging, sowing, or harvesting, is an activity that intellectuals tend to underestimate and often are unable to comprehend. I make room for these things, with their obvious influence on a person’s choices in life and views on what constitutes a valuable and respectable line of work. This in turn creates a respect for those who perform the so-called basic, simple jobs. Even more importantly perhaps, this simple environment is reflected in my sparse language.