Friday, 19 June 2015

Interview with author Fredrik Backman



I usually tend to stick to the same authors when it comes to book releases I want to get as soon as they're out int he shops, but I recently discovered a new writer who with his unique novels has catapulted himself into my list of favourites: Fredrik Backman. It started when I read A Man Called Ove and my love for his quirky and amazingly layered characters grew even more exponentially when I finished his new book, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises a few weeks ago (review to follow).

So when I was contacted by his publicist with the opportunity to feature an interview with the author himself on my blog, I didn't have to think twice. My questions may be a bit a mundane and fangirly, but his answers are anything but; filled with his distinct flair for humour. Enjoy!

Hi Fredrik, thanks so much for stopping by my blog today! I absolutely adored A Man Called Ove, which was a perfect balance of humour, quirkiness and a heartwarming message. Did you deliberately put all these elements into the story to create your unique main character and his journey, or was this influenced heavily by your own humour and writing style?

It's a very long and complicated question...so...well...I didn't really plan ahead. I just tried to tell a story that I felt something about, and then I made my best to tell it as honest and entertaining as possible. And then I gave it to my wife, and she laughed maybe three times during the entire script, and I asked where she was in the story at the time and she told me and I went back and tried to write more stuff like that. That's where the dedication on the first page of the book comes from. "For Neda. It's always to make you laugh. Always."

Ove initially came across as a stereotypical grumpy old man yet as the story progressed and we, the readers, got to know him better it became evident that there was a far more complex and surprising character hiding underneath the stern exterior. Was this something that surprised you as well? Were there things that happened either in Ove's life or to one of the other characters that you didn't expect either when you started writing the novel?

Well...that's...these are hard questions. I don't plan everything out in a novel before I write it, but I wouldn't exactly say I just sit back and wait to be struck by inspiration either. So I don't think "surprised" would be the word I'd use, because that sounds a little bit like I had quite a bit of illegal drugs in me and sat down at a typewriter and woke up the next morning at the bottom of a pile of paper and just "WOOOOO! DID I WRITE THIS?". I've heard somewhere that's what Robert Louis Stevenson did with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and I'm really happy it worked out for him but I don't really do good with drugs. I'm a very anxious guy to begin with, and I get headaches very easily. So...no...I'm never really "surprised".

Wow, this answer really got out of hand. But...yeah, sometimes you take a different route halfway through a novel than you initially intended and maybe that's a bit surprising. In the first draft of A Man Called Ove the cat didn't appear until chapter 14, but my stubborn editor kept arguing that it should be the hero of the story, so in the end I changed it and wrote the cat from chapter 2. It changed the whole dynamic of the book, really, which I didn't really understand until the book was printed. So that was surprising. So yes. I should have just answered that from the beginning!

After the international success of A Man Called Ove, did you have a different approach when writing My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises?

No, because I had no idea it would be a success. Neither did my publisher. When they figured out that A Man Called Ove had started selling a lot of copies I had been writing my next novel in peace and quiet for 6 months. When they asked to see the script and I gave it to them they...well...they panicked a little bit. We had a lot of discussions about me using made up animals and swords and sending 7 year old girls to space (I didn't really, they misunderstood that part) and so on and so on. The sales department sent me a lot of emails asking me in different ways if I couldn't write an Ove 2 instead, but I kept answering "HOW!!!???".

In the end my wife told them that if they want me to behave they can't leave me alone for 6 months because then I will start having some "weird ideas", and that's why she won't leave me alone with the kids for "more than two hours, without calling the insurance company first". And by then I guess the publisher kind of realised it was too late to force me to write a new script altogether so they gave up and published the one I wanted to write.

So...your question was...oh yes! No! I didn't have a different approach with the second book, I just wrote something I liked and tried to get my wife to laugh and hoped that someone else would like it too. There's a Norwegian author called Erlend Loe who answered a question similar to this with "I can only write one book, the one I want to write". That's my general feeling. I also had some great advice from another writer when I published A Man Called Ove, which was to start writing my second novel before my first one started getting reviews. Because then I would be unaffected by them, regardless if they were good or bad. Probably some of the best advice I've ever gotten.

And what does an average writing day look like to you anyway? Do you have a strict routine or is every day different?

Noooo. I don't have routines. I have kids. And my wife has a real job with desks and power points and pants and stuff, so I'm in charge of seeing the kids to and from kindergarten and half of the time they have colds and then we stay home and watch god damn Frost a million times. So no, not that much a routine writer, I just write when I'm allowed. But what I have discovered, to be honest, is that it's not really important to set aside time for writing. It's more important to set aside time for thinking. Writing is fun, so one way or another I always find time for that.

Finally, even though My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises has only just had its UK release, are you already working on your third novel? If so, is there anything you can tell your readers about the story?

I'm working on my fourth, actually. My third one was released in Scandinavia last year. It's called Britt-Marie Was Here and is sort of a spin-off, focusing on the character of Britt-Marie who is a neighbor to Elsa in My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises. It's a lot about cleaning stuff. And football. A lot about football.

* * *

Thanks so much Fredrik for stopping by Page to Stage Reviews today! And readers, make sure you pick up his delightful novels; My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises was published in a beautiful hardback in early June and you can buy the novel from WaterstonesAmazon or your own preferred retailer, A Man Called Ove was published in paperback in May and you can get a copy from Waterstones, Amazon or your own favourite book shop!

1 comment:

  1. I've now read all 3 of his novels and all 3 are brilliant! I'm looking forward to the 4th!

    ReplyDelete

Share Button