I’m a writer of memoir, mysteries, fiction, and travel books on Lapland and women and the sea (The Pirate Queen). My travel essays have appeared in Smithsonian, Slate, and American Scholar, as well as many other publications. I’m Irish and Swedish, but a translator of Norwegian and Danish. I’ve written under the names Barbara Wilson (my father’s adoptive name) and Barbara Sjoholm (which means sea island). I answer to both. I grew up as a Christian Scientist in California and wrote about it in Blue Windows. I have an Irish passport, courtesy a grandfather from County Cork, but travel mainly now in Scandinavia. I live by the Salish Sea in Port Townsend, Washington.
From 2001 to 2004 I spent three winters in northern Scandinavia, writing journalism and the book The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland. In the process I became fascinated by the landscape and culture of the Sami people and in the life of Emilie Demant Hatt, a Danish ethnographer and artist who lived among the Swedish Sami in the first decades of the twentieth-century. I translated her marvelous narrative, With the Lapps in the High Mountains: A Woman among the Sami 1907-8, and am currently finishing a full-length book about her and her relationship to Johan Turi, the Sami hunter and writer whose book she translated and published in 1910. Demant Hatt and her youthful romance with the composer Carl Nielsen is also the subject of a pair of historical novels I’ve just published: Fossil Island and its sequel The Former World.
A long-time ago I co-founded Seal Press and was a publisher and editor there for many years. I’ve also written two series of mysteries with lesbian sleuths, Pam Nilsen, a printer in Seattle, and the globe-trotting translator Cassandra Reilly. Gaudi Afternoon, with Cassandra, and set in Barcelona, was awarded a Lambda and a British Crime Writers Award and made into a film with Judy Davis and Marcia Gay Harden.
I like reading almost everything, especially fiction from other parts of the world. I belong to a translation reading book group, which has introduced me to the work of Elena Ferrante, Gail Hareven, Scholastique Mukasonga, and many other wonderful and sometimes challenging writers. I still love detective fiction or any novel with a mystery at its heart. I blog about Scandinavia at Lapponia (http://barbarasjoholm.blogspot.com/).