Interview by Carl Marsh - June 2015
Thank you for writing a book about someone who wants everyone to read more books; its kind of what I do with this website.
Thank you; it's such a great website too. I've read many of the interviews there, saying such beautiful things about books and reading.
I appreciate the kind words Katarina, it is nice to know I am doing some good with what I do about trying to get more people reading. With that in mind, why do you think people should read more?
There should be no ‘should’ involved in reading. That being said, I defy anyone to find a better way than reading to both escape from the world - and discover it.
A lot of debut fiction novels are written with a slight hint of autobiographical content in them, so with this book Katarina, which characters/locations/storylines are real, or based on your own personal experiences?
I didn’t set out to make Sara like me; in fact, I thought I had managed to do the opposite. She has no life and very few friends; whatever she has experienced is through books. She’s quiet, and in the beginning at least, unsure of herself. Definitely not me. But when I tried to explain to my friends and family that she was ‘not’ me, they all sort of looked away, and then they said “no, no, of course not” much too quickly! So I think there is a lot of Sara in me.
That being said, I have friends. And a life. Sort of.
And then there are other, less obvious, examples. I think the thing with writing is that your own dreams and hopes and fears tend to sneak into it. I share Andy’s enthusiasm for new projects; I fear that like Caroline I will wake up one day and being all responsible with no sex life; I wish one day to be as loyal as George.
With you working in a bookshop yourself in the past, you must have read a lot of books, so I can only assume that with all those books mentioned in the novel, those read by the main protagonist Sara, you yourself must have read them all?
I have indeed: all Sara's views on books are my own, and most of Amy's.
I could quote lots of authors & books mentioned in the book, however, if possible, and probably not judging by the amount of books you have read! Are there any that you would class as your best reads, and why?
I could tell you, but very likely I would then have to stalk you for weeks demanding that you update the list. Sort of like the protagonist in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, when he’s finally asked about his top five-songs, and then have to chase the poor journalist to make changes.
No doubt it was it your love of reading that made you want to write a novel about someone who loves books, but how hard was it get the novel published?
Oh, I have an impressive collection of rejection slips by now. In fact, I don't think there's a single publisher in Sweden that hasn’t at some point rejected the book. But it needed to be done; the novel simply needed to get better.
It is a refreshing change to see more books like yours being translated from Swedish into English, as normally it is crime fiction genre books. There must be a mountain of great novels still not translated into English; this is criminal in my eyes. This must annoy you and your fellow Scandinavian writers, perhaps even wanting to start a Crusade?
Not at all, which I think shows a depressing lack of fighting spirit in me. I am more likely to think of all the great English and American books out there and wonder why they need any more. But that's probably because I can read the Swedish books anyway. What enrages me are those great books in French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Russian, Chinese and so forth not being translated. It's a depressing thought - so many stories and worlds not open to us.
Is there any advice you can give to anyone who wishes to write a book themselves?
Get rejected. It'll improve your story to re-write it, and it will make publication, when it does happen, all the more fun.
What did you hope to achieve from writing this book, and what would you hope readers take from it?
I wanted them - I still want them - to get to know Amy and George and Caroline and Tom and all the rest. And I want them to put the book down with a smile. And if they pick up some recommendations on great books along the way, well, my work here is done.
Is there anything in life Katarina that makes you sad?
People spending so much time and energy pretending to be normal, when they could be interesting instead. Making small talk about the weather or work or any such safe topic, when most of us are strange enough to be in a Carl Hiaasen-novel.
Privilege. Not just material inequalities (although it should be impossible for any human being to reconcile themselves with having too much, when people who could have been saved are dying). But emotional, psychological privilege as well – thinking that our own way of looking at life is the only reasonable one, refusing to acknowledge that we are as biased as anyone else. White men who don’t think we need another story about a women of colour because they’ve read one; straight people who notice the one gay character in a book but not the hundreds or thousands of straight ones; and so on.
I bet there are many things that make you happy though?
Roads; the way they just keep going, urging you to follow them just a little while longer. Trees; the way many of them will last longer than us but keep changing. Flowers, to a lesser extent, because they tend to die when you have an idle author with a watering can in the household. The scent of a new book. Learning something new.
So what’s next for you, writing more books/etc?
My second novel is being published in Sweden in August; it’s on its way to the printers as we speak. It’s about Anette, a 38 year old, single mom, living in a (fictional) small town in Sweden, working at a local grocery store, and still having a lot of me in her.
If you were an animal, what would it be and why? And perhaps Sara from the book, what would she also be?
There’s a scene in my new book, where the main character talks with her friend about possible topics on a date, and they think of that very question. The friend then makes her promise, should the question arise, to answer it with a firm: musk ox. So I feel honour-bound to answer the same.
For Sara, I think perhaps a prairie dog, peeking up over the edge of a book?