Monday, 25 January 2016

Interview with Katarina Bivald from 'The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend'

Last week I had the absolute pleasure of being a part of Sourcebooks' blog tour for the amazing The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. I absolutely loved the book so you can imagine how excited I was when I got to send Katarina Bivald some questions about the book itself and the importance of bookstores.

 Sara is a woman who has very much sought an escape from her own life in books but then she suddenly finds herself in rural America, alone. How did you come up with this initial set-up?

Gradually. Since it was my first book, I had no idea what I was doing. So in the very first draft, Amy was alive. I knew I would have wanted a pen pal like Amy, I knew I wanted to visit a small American town and be welcome there, and I knew I wanted to spend hours on a porch with a woman like Amy. So what could possibly be wrong with the set-up?

And yet, I had the troublesome feeling that it didn’t really work. In fact, nothing actually happened. Sara traveled to the US, she met Amy, they talked and then they drove places. My god, did they drive! Back and forth, from one scene to the next, where absolutely nothing happened, and then they drove back, and talked.

So one evening I was talking to my sister about it, how the “beginning” of the novel didn’t really work, and then we just sort of looked at each other, and my sister said: “Amy has to die. You have to kill Amy.” It was the most difficult decision of the book, but one of many examples on how writing basically just means being very, very mean to your characters.

For me, one of my favorite things about the book was the way in which Sara slowly finds herself and her own strength, partially through the books around her. Do you think books have that power to bring us closer to ourselves?

Yes, and to life and to other people: it brings us closer to our emotions, which leads to all the others, I think, if we’re open to it. 

What I loved about The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend was the clear love for small, independent bookstores. I myself absolutely love them as well. Do you think they’re a dying breed or is there a place and a need for them in our fast-paced world?

I definitely think there’s a place for them, especially in our fast-paced world. I love internet bookstore as well (being Swedish, it’s easy to love Amazon: all the books I buy from there aren’t sold in any independent bookstores in Sweden), the way I can find almost any book I look for by a simple search engines, but real, physical bookstores, they’re the ones that can surprise us. It’s there we find the books we didn’t know we were looking for.

I have a life-long love affair with the poems of Siegfried Sassoon, who wrote haunting and sarcastic and moving and funny poems during the World War One. I find my first edition of a collection of his war poems while in London with my sister, naturally visiting a bookstore. She wanted to find poetry books. I browsed in the section while waiting for her, and there it was, this one little, slim volume, The War Poems. I had never heard of him. And I ask you, where, except in a bookstore, would a fourteen year old Swedish girl in the 90ies find herself with a book about World War One poems? 

You really introduce the reader to the different people in Broken Wheel and their problems. Was it important to you to, for example, be able to address the issues such as alcoholism and racism in your book?

Yes, in a way, because I wanted my characters to be human, and find community; and community is impossible I think if we don’t also acknowledge the problems we’re experiencing. 

And finally, the impossible question: what is your favourite book?

I cannot answer that. I would have to harass you to change my answer every time I thought of a book I should have said, and then you would have to spend hours everyday updating an old blog post you no longer cared about, until you came to resent my very name and cringe every time you saw that dreaded email-address in your inbox: from Katarina Bivald… “Oh no!” you would say. “Not again! It’s been years. No one cares.”

Drop by Katarina's website or check out The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend yourself!

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