When I read Katarina Bivald’s, The Reader’s of Broken Wheel Recommend, I had no expectations so I was completely delighted to find it compelling, thought provoking and entirely satisfying. (Go here, for my full goodreads review) I’m thrilled to interview Katarina for Writer’s Rumpus!
Kirstine Call: I adore your book, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. How did your work in a book shop influence the story?
Katrina Bivald: When I first decided to include a bookshop in the story, I thought it would be mainly about the books. After all, I used to consider customers a rude interruption of my reading. But when I started writing, I realized that what I remembered from my years in a bookshop was just as much about the people that passed through it. They were often strange, sometimes profoundly uninterested in books, and all so very… human. I started thinking about what a bookshop can do for a town and the people in it.
KC: Your debut book is a book for book lovers. Is it autobiographical?
KB: Everything I write is somehow autobiographical – I’m not a good enough writer to make up stories and emotions entirely. But the plot isn’t: when I started writing the book I had never even been to Iowa, let alone gone there to visit a person I had never met and eventually starting a bookshop. Sara is much braver than me.
KC: What is your process and how long did it take you to complete the book?
KB: I think it’s fair to say that with this my first book I did not have a process. I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, I still don’t. My process is a mixture of inspiration and dread, hubris and self doubt, sporadic research, sudden ideas and editing. Lots and lots of editing.
KC: Do you have a writing schedule?
KB: This is an honest account of a typical writing day:
08.00 I wake up, reluctantly.
08.00 – 09.00 Drink first cup of coffee in bed. Send first of many text messages to a friend with a regular office job. Fail to understand why he does not answer immediately.
09.00 – 09.30 Have shower. Drink more coffee (if desperate; combine the two and bring the coffee cup into the shower. Avoid mixing it with soap).
09.30 Begin honest day’s work
09.32 Check email, Facebook and Twitter
09.33 Send second text message to friend with office job. Accept the sad
09.34 Send text message to fellow writer friend. Receive answer immediately.
09.36 Definitely writing now.
09.39 Take stroll around apartment. Pick up watering can so as to have something legitimate to do. Overwater all plants (progressively fewer as the novel moves along, since apparently too much water kills said plants. Or so my sister tells me).
10.00 Bring out large paper, chart the plot and/or the character
10.45 Think about the big questions in life that you have just charted re your plot or character. E.g.: the possibility to find love, how we really know what we dream about, loss of children etc. Send text message about this to friend with office job. Receive a reply, but analyze whether something in the tone feels a bit forced.
11.10 Email writer-friend about self-doubt. Receive reply immediately. None of us can write and should find a day job.
11.15 Puh! False alarm. I’m invincible and amazing and will probably be first writer of feel good-novels to win the Nobel Prize.
11.20 Ooooooh. New email from writer-friend with a link to an article about writing.
11.30 Time to write.
14.00 Exhausted. Watch television series for “research”.
KC: How do you choose what to write about?
KB: I’m not an experienced enough writer to “choose” what I write about. I get an idea, usually quite vague and usually when I’m working on something else, at which point I am convinced it’s the greatest idea ever and that the book will practically write itself. Sadly, it never does. So I develop it, try to think of more small ideas within the bigger one, and then figure out what I’m writing about after I’ve done it.
KC: What is your favorite story that you’ve written, and why?
KB: I am very fond of everything that I am not writing on at the moment. That being said, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend will always have a special place in my heart, because everything about writing it – the characters, the town, the plot – came as such a wonderful surprise.
KC: What are your other projects?
KB: My second novel, Life, Motorcycles and Other Impossible Projects, came out in Sweden this fall. I am currently working on my third book.
KC: What is your favorite book, and why?
KB: It’s like Rob Fleming in High Fidelity, who have waited all his life to be asked what his top five songs are, and when a journalist finally asks him he forgets so many of the best songs that he has to start harassing her. And I try to avoid that.
KC: What is the best response you’ve gotten from a reader of your book?
KB: I am incredibly grateful for all the heartwarming little messages I’ve received from readers from all over the world: handwritten notes, postcards from the corn fields of Iowa, email in French (I can’t read French, so I have no idea what Google translate made of my reply), even a phone call from a male truck driver who’d read my book and wanted to discuss it. I think that kindness from readers and people you’ve never even met is thing that keeps most writers going.
KC: What is your advice for aspiring authors?
KB: Don’t wait for “perfect” to happen. Don’t wait for the perfect idea, the perfect characters, the perfect writing styles, the perfect scenes. Nothing is perfect, in life or writing. You just have to get out there and do it anyway.
Katarina Bivald grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Today she lives outside of Stockholm, Sweden, with her sister and as many bookshelves she can get by her. She’scurrently trying to persuade her sister that having a shelf for winter jackets and shoes is completely unneccessary. There should be enough space for a book shelf or two instead. Limited success so far. Apparantly, her sister is also stubbornly refusing to even discuss using the bath room to store books.
Katarina Bivald sometimes claims that she still hasn’t decided whether she prefers books or people but, as we all know, people are a non-starter. Even if you do like them, they’re better in books. Only possible problem: reading a great book and having noone to recommend it to.