Bernadette Calonego - Vivid Nordic-style Thriller From the Canadian Atlantic

Bernadette Calonego - Vivid Nordic-style Thriller From the Canadian Atlantic

Bernadette Calonego was born in Switzerland and grew up on the shores of Lake Lucerne. She was just eleven years old when she published her first story, a fairy tale, in a Swiss newspaper. She went on to earn a teaching degree from the University of Fribourg. Calonego taught in England and Switzerland, then worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent with the Reuters news agency and a series of German language newspapers in Europe. After moving to Canada, she began writing fiction. Cries from the Cold is her sixth novel to be translated into English, following Stormy Cove, Under Dark Waters, The Zurich Conspiracy and the Stranger on the Ice. She splits her time between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Newfoundland where she lives in a tiny, isolated fishing village. Her stories are inspired by the wilderness and expeditions to the North. She is adventurous and loves hiking and taking pictures of icebergs, whales and the rugged coast. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Cries From the Cold.

Please give us a short introduction to what Cries From the Cold is about.

Calista Gates, a 35-year-old police detective from Vancouver, Is transferred to a small coastal village in Labrador which is part of the wild Canadian North. She is the survivor of a violent assault and has gone through a difficult healing process. Labrador is not on her map but her bosses leave her no choice. They want her to solve a cold case after the body of a young local woman who disappeared three years earlier has been found.

In remote Port Brendan, she has to stand her ground in a male-dominated team, and face the cold, ice and snow of the brutal Labrador winter. Soon after her arrival, another murder victim is found. Calista Gates's boss sets all his hopes on her to find the perpetrator, as the pressure is on to protect the people in Port Brendan.

As a profiler, Calista Gates suspects the murderer is familiar with the isolated village and its people and that the key to the crimes lies in Port Brendan`s secretive underbelly. But her time is running out fast and soon she becomes a target herself.


What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to write this?

I'm always inspired by locations: wild, isolated, mysterious places. In this case it is the rugged, wind-swept coast of Labrador which I know from my travels. I thought it would be interesting to send a big-city detective to this God-forsaken town in the middle of a bone-chilling winter. I can relate to the challenges she faces because of my own experiences in Canada's North.


Tell us more about Calista Gates. What makes her so special?

Calista Gates is a very talented detective in the Major Crimes Unit in Vancouver and on her way up when a violent assault leaves her with a devastating brain injury. Her career is disrupted, her marriage on the rocks, her recovery fragile. But she is a fighter and she loves her job. She is smart, fast, strong, compassionate and vulnerable at the same time. I also wanted her to be down-to-earth, not an addict or deeply troubled. She has six siblings whom she adores, and her parents, Greek immigrants, gave her not only a strong work ethic but also security and love.

Why did you pick the remote fishing town of Port Brendan as the backdrop for your story?

I have traveled at intervals in Labrador. I also know life in a small coastal town. Every year, I spend several months in such a remote fishing community in northern Newfoundland (not far from Labrador) because I met a man there and fell in love. The dynamics in these insular settlements are very interesting. Believe me, I know how culture shock feels. People live in each other's pockets, however a lot of things are swept under the carpet. They can resurface when it is least expected, and not always in a good way.


Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

I don´t know whether you can call it a secret skill but as a member of a local animal rescue group, I foster stray cats and find homes for them. I have also initiated a spay-and-neuter program in our isolated area. The next veterinary clinic is five hours away. Another skill: photography.

Why murder mystery? What drew you to the genre?

I find the structure of a murder mystery is very helpful to tell a story. There is a murder, a plot which drives the action, there is the investigation to find the perpetrator, there are red herrings and suspects and the solution at the end. I would find it difficult to write a “normal” novel without these ingredients.

And I love to read murder mysteries myself!

Interesting cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.

I envisioned a cover that invokes the cold, the ice, the desolation, the loneliness of the Canadian winter. I chose blue and white as the main colors. The woman on the cover walks on a frozen lake which is also a metaphor: She walks on thin ice - and who knows what lurks underneath?


Readers say this story is fast-paced. How did you pull this off?

By telling the story from the perspective of several people. By keeping the chapters on the shorter side. By having cliffhangers at the end of almost all the chapters. By letting the readers look over the investigators' shoulders. By pushing the investigation forward and have it concluded within a few days.

Cries from the Cold also includes some local customs and history. Why did you find this important to write about?

Labrador is still exotic to many people (who might not even have heard of this region). It has a captivating history and is the home territory of Inuit and Innu Indians. I`m fascinated by foreign territories myself, and the local traditions and features make a story more authentic.


What was your greatest challenge when writing Cries From the Cold?

I wanted to paint a realistic portrait of the local people, without being condescending or unfair. And I wanted to create Calista Gates as a character whom readers will find fascinating and real.

This is book one of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How will the other books in the series tie in with this one?

As the first book in the series, it can be read as a standalone but I cannot guarantee that readers will not want to continue with the series (smile). The actual case is neatly solved but I also put some bait at the end of the book. There is one minor thread that will tie over to the next book.

Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?

I write in the morning; in the afternoon I do my research or market my books and answer e-mails. I'm definitely not a night owl. When I start a new book, I know the location but I only have a vague idea what the plot will be. The ideas and the characters come to me while writing. I'm not worried, they always do! When I have a problem and need a solution, I think about it. And all of a sudden, I know how to proceed. Personally, I don`t know writer`s block. When I was a journalist, I had to write whether I felt like it or not. That gave me a routine which is still ingrained in me.

What are you working on right now?

On book three of the Calista Gates series. Book two will be published before Christmas 2021. Stay tuned!

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

I have a website with a blog (and a contact address on it):

My readers can subscribe to a monthly newsletter about my life in the wilds.

I`m also active on Facebook, Instagram and GoodReads.

I would love to hear from my readers and I will always respond to their messages.