What is your full name?
Karin Anna Alvtegen.
When and where were you born and raised?
How does it feel to write about subjects such as shame, deceit and guilt?
I’m very interested in human psychology. Since I, myself, suffered from a deep depression and panic attacks in 1996, I know from experience how strongly our psyche affects our consciousness and our behaviour. The older I get, and the more I learn, the more I am convinced that we, ourselves, in many respects can affect how we feel by how we choose to think. However, sometimes certain conditions and other things make us loose track and require help.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it sometimes feels rough during my writing. I rarely work with depicting surroundings in my texts, but rather always find myself in the mind of the character I’m writing about, and at times that strongly affects me. However, since these books also aim to bring understanding into why my characters feel and act the way they do, I always end up feeling good afterwards. That’s when it sometimes feels like I’ve learned something important.
Where do you like writing most?
I have an office at home. Sometimes I go away for four to five days and I completely reverse day and night and write from lunch until at night. These usually end up being very productive days. I’ve realized that I shouldn’t take my creativity for granted. Instead, I try to give it the best possible conditions required to keep it flowing. That’s why I clear out my calendar when I start writing a new book, and keep it empty until I’m all done. Only my closest family members are allowed to demand my time. In other words, I become quite isolated during my periods of writing and that gives me the chance to stay in the minds of my characters; something that more and more is becoming a prerequisite for my telling their story. Naturally, I set my standards higher for every new book I begin to write, and I don’t write a word until I have a sufficiently interesting idea that has developed in my mind. It can take seven to eight months of just thinking, and when I finally start writing a large part of the story is already planned out in my mind.
What’s the background to the title "Shame" (Skam)?
"Guilt" (Skuld), "Missing" (Saknad), and "Betrayal" (Svek). Strangely enough it was more or less a coincidence that the titles of my first three books all begin with the letter "S". Being that it had ended up this way, I started wondering whether or not there was any other word beginning with an "S" that could be interesting in this context. Somebody mentioned shame and it was just the word I had been waiting for. Shame is an incredibly interesting subject, a universal feeling that exists in all cultures. However, the reasons for why it arises vary. I started reading about and investigating the concept of shame, and as I read and thought about it I realized what it was that I believe to be the ultimate form of shame; the feeling of not having been loved by one’s parents. From there, I started weaving together the tale I wanted to tell.
What do you enjoy the most: writing film scripts or books?
Writing books versus film scripts is really two completely different things. In books one can describe people’s thoughts, backgrounds, and moods, page after page. In a script everything should preferably be drawn out in images. One has to think in a different way when writing. Another difference is that I have complete control over a book. Down to the last comma, I am responsible for the result. In the making of a film, many people are involved and one has to be able to compromise, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
What do you, yourself read?
I often read specialist/technical books or biographies. When I write, I don’t read any non-fiction at all, partially because I have a hard time following another story, and partially because I don’t want to affect my own use of language.
What inspires you?
A short news-item in a paper, conversations with people, apartment buildings with illuminated windows, walks in the cemetery, and personal thoughts.
What makes you happy?
Have you taken any writing courses?
No, I haven’t taken any writing courses or other writing instruction. I follow no rules or guidelines whatsoever, and try to constantly surprise myself in order to keep my writing enjoyable. My ambition is to try to write something different and that’s why I don’t really have a desire to learn how one is supposed to write. It starts with an idea or two. These ideas then begin to develop somewhere inside my head and grow to become more clearly detailed. I never write a synopsis for my books, and when I finally do begin to write (which can take up to a year from when a first, minute idea has begun to form) I pretty much have the whole story set in my mind: a beginning and an end, and in between that a multitude of semi goals. Often, unexpected things occur on one’s path through the story. Sometimes even new characters that I haven’t helped create, materialize. In the end, it is always these characters that prove invaluable to the story. I often refer to this as the "divine moment" when something like that happens. It is when the subconscious treads forward and takes over the creative process.
I always write in chronological order, from the first page to the last. Nobody besides my husband is allowed to read a single word before I’m ready. To begin writing a new book is, for me, like taking off on a long journey. I know where I’m going but not how I’m going to get there. During my work I am driven forward by pure desire to return home, but not until the book is complete do I know that I made it back in one piece.
Will there be more books starting with "S"?
That will probably be hard. It can’t become a goal in itself that the books must begin with an "S". However, my sons have helpfully suggested "Snot" as the next title, but I am a little sceptical...
Which type of readers do you write for?
During the writing itself I only write for myself and for my own personal satisfaction. If I were to sit and think about my potential readers while writing, I wouldn’t get much work done. I don’t believe that I can change the world through my books, but if I can get one person or another to ponder over concepts of empathy and respect for the human kind, then I’m more than satisfied. Because I become all the more convinced that in order to change the big things in the world, we must start by changing the small things.