Interview: Linda Olsson

One of the things I really like about writing this blog is the variety of approach involved with writing a novel. Some writers are very time oriented, some very matter of fact, others get emotional when they write, while others get involved with their characters to the point where they feel real. There is no right or wrong way to be, of course. Whatever works for that individual writer is what they should do. Still, it’s always refreshing to me to hear that a writer gets at least a little bit involved with their character. It means they care about them and to me, perhaps, means the story will be just that much better.

Linda Olsson is one writer who gets involved with her characters. She has penned Astrid and Veronika and Sonata for Miriam: A Novel, and both books have wonderfully unique and real characters. I know you’re going to enjoy hearing about her writing process and what she’s working on next.


Tell us a bit about your latest book. What inspired you to write this story?

For some time, I thought there was something seriously wrong with me. I saw my characters as I would see real people. Now I know there are other authors who experience the same thing. So, for me there is no such thing as something that inspired me to write the story of Adam Anker, Sonata for Miriam, other than Adam himself. He appeared in my life just like a real person and we slowly got to know each other. It took me was surprised and I felt challenged when I realised I was to write a story with a man as the main character. And a man who was a musician. I am not musical and I can’t read music or play an instrument. Adam is a violinist and composer. Luckily, I have friends who are professional musicians and I was able to refer to them when I needed. Then it became clear to me that Adam had a Polish-Jewish background. I am not Jewish and there were moments when I felt that this story was not for me to write. But the deeper I delved into Adam’s life, the more comfort I had from meetings with people who were able to lead me along and guide me. And encourage me.

You have talked about the friendship you shared with both your grandmothers. How has this carried over into your writing?

Oh, I am not sure exactly how. They have both influenced me as a human being. I would not be the person I am without them. In that sense they have influenced me in everything I do, including writing. I think perhaps that some of the women in my novels have borrowed traits from these two women. Writers are magpies, I think. They steal character traits. Our characters are composites of all the people we have ever known or met, including ourselves. And my grandmothers have left deeper imprints than any other people I have met.

Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?

I thought that completing a second novel would give me a sense of comfort. Enable me to finally look at myself as a proper author. Relax a little. But that’s not what happened. Instead I feel more vulnerable than ever. As if the third novel will be the one that makes or breaks me as an author. At the same time, the novel I am writing now feels closer to me than either of the other two. I really want to write this one.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

Just one??? There are so many… Nikolai Gogol’s ‘The Overcoat’ made a deep impression on me when I first read it and has held up each time I have returned to it. Good texts grow with you, I think. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray is one of the most complex interesting novels ever written. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness can be read again and again and you will see not just the text in a new light, but the world.

Favorite authors?

See above. And Alice Munro, Paul Auster, August Strindberg, Franz Kafka…

Book you’re currently reading?

The Woman From Hamburg by Hanna Krall.

Any type of writing ritual you have?

Only the absence of rituals.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

Believe in it? I live it every day. I am sure discipline would work wonders, but I am incapable of it. So, I just wait in hope for another moment of inspiration. The thought that it might never happen again is terrifying.

In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?

That the text moves readers. Initiates a process in the reader’s brain and heart.

Advice for other writers?

Dig deep and be brave. And apply your creativity also in finding a publisher.

Where can we learn more about you? But that’s controlled by me, of course. I am not sure where you get objective information. My friends are very loyal.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for inviting me to do this!

Photo: Cathrin Simon

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