I am delighted that FREDRIK BACKMAN is joining me on my blog today. Fredrik's latest book - My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises - was published by Sceptre Books on 4 June 2015.
I'm not really a person who gets ‘inspired’, I'm more of a person who ‘steals stuff’. A man called Ove literally started out with me standing in line at an Apple Store, behind a man in his prime years, who held an iPad in his hands and demanded to be told if this was a computer or not. The clerk, who as they always tend to be at Apple Stores was about 12 years old, couldn't quite hide his frustration. As the argument got out of hand, I stood there thinking ‘this would be a great first chapter of a novel’. So somewhere in Stockholm there is probably still a very angry man with an iPad, roaming the streets looking to hunt me down for royalties.
Where do your ideas come from?
I would say a combination of having a lot of free time and not having many friends as a child. My mother also claims it could have something to do with me eating candles when I was about four. Apparently it's bad for your brain or whatever. But I don't know where do any ideas come from? I think a lot, and I'm pretty bad at talking to people. This is my way of communicating.
Have your personal experiences influenced your writing and characters? And if so, how?
I think only a very select few writers, who are the geniuses of each generation, can write fiction that is totally separate from themselves. Most of us are, of course, not geniuses. Most of us, and me in particular, will never even come close, so we have to tell stories that are close to ourselves. We have to pour all our own trials and tribulations into each of our characters and feel everything that they felt and just do our very best to make them as real as possible. So to the question ‘if so, how?’, I answer ‘in every possible way’. Most stories are the sum of the experiences of the person trying to tell them. I can tell you a joke right now about two drunks in a boat, and tell you the same joke in 25 years. It might be a lot funnier then just because I will tell it differently when I'm 59 than when I'm 34. And you might hear it differently. Experience changes everything we do. Especially, I think, the way we tell stories.
Both of your books are funny, moving and heart-warming. What makes you laugh and what makes you cry?
Fun things and sad things. I have learned not to try to be intellectual about comedy and grief. When you laugh you laugh, when you cry you cry, I have no idea how that works but I'm pretty sure that if I don't do it when I write no one who reads it ever will either. Sometimes people ask me questions with the belief that I somehow know how to write something ‘commercially’ just because I sold a couple of books, but I really have no clue. It just so happens that a lot of the things I like are things that a couple of other people like as well. That's not really answering your question, is it? Sorry.
Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
A writer who never uses 10 words if he can use 12.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
Before I can sit down and write each morning, I have to throw a guitar, a can of conserved pineapples and three monkeys (any sort of monkey, I'm not picky) into a volcano. It's just a thing. But other than that: Nothing at all.
Do you plot out the whole book before you start or just start writing and see where it leads you?
Both. To ‘plot out’ is what I would call ‘thinking’. And a book is thoughts and words. I don't know how to do anything at all with just one of them. But I guess this falls in line with me not being a great writer, technically. I think there are a lot of astounding writers who possess a great language and can just sit down and jam with their sentences like a musician, but I'm not nearly as good as that. So I think a lot before I start writing. But then of course a novel takes several months or even years to finish, and if you don't have a single NEW idea during all that time you are in desperate need of a holiday. So my answer is: Both. Always both. Like a good drink it is all in the mix. And the ice. And the company.
What do you consider to be the hardest part of your writing?
Answering questions about writing. Other than that, it's the constant struggle with self-confidence. But everyone who tries to be creative of course deals with that. I don't think anyone who is altogether sure of themselves has ever produced anything really good at all. If you're totally sure of yourself, you have nothing left to prove. Doubting is almost always the first step.
Do you read? If so, who are your favourite authors?
I do, quite a bit. I think one has to, to become better at writing. Musicians have to listen to music, artists have to watch other artists’ art… It's just the way you learn. My favourite author would be Astrid Lindgren. During my childhood, her books were like puddles of mud that I could jump around in without shoes and socks on. I wouldn't be writing at all if it wasn't for her.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would be the title?
'This is gonna take a while'
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Write. Then you're not ‘aspiring’ anymore and that's a really good first step. Other than that I don't think anyone should take my advice because I honestly don't really know what I'm doing.
And lastly, why should people read My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises?
They shouldn't. It's not very good.
About Fredrik Backman
Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger, columnist and author. His debut novel A Man Called Ove has been a number one bestseller across Scandinavia. It has now sold over one million copies. Fredrik's second novel, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises, also went straight to number one in Sweden on publication in 2014.
Follow Fredrik Backman on Twitter - @Backmanland
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises
Published by Sceptre Books (4 June 2015)
Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy. Standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa runs to her grandmother's stories, to the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas. There. everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.
So when Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologising to people she has hurt, it marks the beginning of Elsa's greatest adventure. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attach dogs, and totally ordinary old crones - but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.
Click here to read my review.