An Interview with Désirée Nordlund, author of Avia the Warrior, The Recreators and others…
What is your favourite Dragon in literature?
I think that must be Yevaud in ”A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula Le Guin. It was something about the dragons in her world that fascinated me. That they could talk the wizards’ language but often still preferred to just burn and kill. As I recall, that was the first dragon I ”met” in a book.
Another favorite is a dragon in a story my mother wrote, that had been banished by the other dragons because it had stumpy wings so it couldn’t fly. The hero of the story built him a set of wings but until the dragon had proven it would start helping the people in the valley instead of burning it down, the hero needed to sit on the dragon’s back to keep the wings working.
I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?
”The Recreators” because I started to write at that story when I was just a kid. It had been through many faces and shapes. And it all began with a map I draw on a large paper. Yes, it was inspired by the Earthsea-books, but my islands were bigger and totally different. And though the story had wizards it was another type of wizards and in time they were not wizards, but rather a form of demigods. I think that book will always have a special place in my heart because I started to write it so early in life.
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
My first ”novel” was just 36 pages and scared my dad because it was about two girls who died and fought to return to life. I was twelve and was not supposed to deal with the serious issues the story was about. Besides from sending it to a novel contest – which must have appeared odd for the judges since it, in reality, was a short story only – I never took that story further. My second project was about a queen and her lady-in-waiting year 812 somewhere in Europe. To be as young as I was I am surprised that there indeed was a great deal of conflict in the story, but it was far too romantic for my tastes today. I did a lot of research though and it was before the Internet. Yes, I am that old.
Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?
The simple answer is everything. There is little I recognize in my writing today from those early attempts for novels. On the other hand, ”The Recreators” became a novel at last and if I look at the first versions of that story, I can see that I am more focused on what I want to tell now than I was then. I am better at creating characters that are not clones of myself and still believable. I think years of life made their mark in my writing too.
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
I am full of stories. All the time. If I had the finances to write at full time I would probably be able to write more than one novel a year. I prefer to write, rewrite, rewrite and then let it fly. At least a month passes between rewrites where I work with other stories. What I write always get better with time, so of course what I write today will get better if I rewrite it a year later, but if I kept thinking like that I would never be able to release anything. I do the best I can at the stage I am right now. But I try not to dwell on them when I feel I am done. The idea as such can percolate for quite many years before I start writing, though. Since I have always a bunch of projects going, new ideas have to wait in line, so when I get there they have gained focus and shape somewhere back in my mind.
So what makes you write a story? What is important to you?
I would lie if I said I don’t have a message. I do. I think most good books have. But I also try to make people think and if they come up with another answer than I, then it is okay too since tolerance and understanding are two words that mean a lot to me. I always felt I was different and I never fully understood my fellow classmates in school. It took me far into adulthood to understand why. One thing was that I am an introvert, in a world where you were expected to be an extrovert. Understanding this and it was time to get down from the high horses I was on. I have still a hard time to accept that women in general like clothes and makeup and high heels by their own free will. I had sort of placed myself above all that and sneered at many typical female behaviors. It is nothing I am proud of. Many of my stories have their base in this journey and a strive to understand and accept everyone as they are.
I think there is too little understanding between people in general. It is so easy to just dismiss someone as rude or boring or nuts. I enjoy exploring those characters and face my own presumptions and ideas of what is right and wrong. It is quite amazing what you will find if you dare to flip a thought to the other side of the scale and see what happens.
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
I can write anywhere. It is the surroundings that don’t do well with me doing it, though. I used to sit at the kitchen table. You know, the center of the house, as a parent, small kids, it was a natural place to be. Until the kids got older and I got used to actually write a page without getting disturbed. Soon I became annoyed when I got disturbed. Then we agreed it was better if I wrote somewhere else, so I have a writing corner with a door I can close. As long as people don’t expect me to have a conversation, I can write in almost any environment, as long as there is no music. I cannot write to music. I can have music as inspiration, but not when I write.
I am all digital. My handwriting is way too slow. I used to have writing journals on paper with all my research and ideas and from time to time I miss them, but so much of the research is on the Internet or digital photos and then I end up with things in two places, so I have decided to keep it all digital. It has its advantages, but I still want a digital corkboard where I can put things the way I want them. I have tried a few but they are all so much into sorting, and color coding and orderly straight columns. I want my own unsorted mess.
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
Here is a problematic area for me. I just have only one reliable beta-reader and though he gives me valuable feedback he is no good at details in language. My mom used to read everything I wrote (and she is not the kind of mom that praise everything I write) but she is not able to do so any longer. I have tried to find new beta-readers, but it has been troublesome. I have not found anyone that been able to give me honest, valuable feedback. I don’t want to wait a month and then get an ”it was good”. It is also a problem if it is another writer that beta-reads who want me to beta-read in return. If I don’t like that writer’s book at all, it may not be a good start of a beautiful friendship.
An editor is easier because you pay for a service. I think I have found a good one now, but it is a bit of trial and error that could be costly. It is no fun to publish hard work and get bad reviews because the language is bad. It is my mistake, absolutely. I take full responsibility for my texts. But I have learned that it is worth the money to pay an experienced editor and don’t be afraid to give directions.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
I used to thrive in second-hand comic book stores, but they hardly exist any longer. I remember going to those even as a kid with my dad. I have never experienced the same in a book store. Libraries though. They are the best places in the world, except for my home. It is the huge variety of books that attracts me. There are old books and books about any possible subject. You rarely find that in a book store. But the best thing of all is that if I find a book I love I don’t need to buy it but I can still read it.
These days I am an avid friend of ebooks, but it came as a surprise. I bought a kindle because the books were cheaper and to save the environment. A book I love, I keep forever, but there are plenty of books that were not so good to start with and it felt like a waste of paper and me not daring to buy new books. I honestly did not think I would l-o-v-e the kindle. But now I can have a whole bookshelf in my purse to no weight, the book does not get worn and torn, and I can read even if it is pretty dark around me, like when the bus goes into a tunnel or at night in bed.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?
I don’t have a favourite genre. I didn’t even know about the concept until I was in my upper teens. I think I favor a way to write rather than the genre. When I was younger, fantasy was what I read the most, but there was also Tom Clancy, Alister Maclane and Sherlock Holmes. In my late teens, I found Stephen King. And even later I found romance writers that I loved. I want to learn to know the people in the story and I want to know both sides of the coin like if it is a crime I want to understand the cop and the thief. I don’t think my taste has changed that much, but I come across more books I don’t like these days. When I was a kid mom bought my books through book clubs and on a recommendation. When that ended and I was on my own I explored more and these days there are so much to explore. I like the gamble of trying out authors I have not heard about if I get a good feeling for the story.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?
This is troublesome because there is not enough time to do it all. But I have to show myself and my books, try to sell them. Nothing is sold by itself. In that way, social media and the Internet is a good thing, because it made it possible for people like me to become independent writers. On the other hand, it is hard to be seen. A famous actor I follow on social media told about a book he loved and I am sure that the author sold a couple of hundred copies within 48 hours. Still, I can’t send copies to famous people and hope for the best. It would cost way too much.
I am on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. Instagram is where I am most comfortable. Twitter is more of an organized mess. I have less control over what I appear like there. Tumblr and Facebook are good examples of control, but I feel have less response there. Though my Facebook page has gained surprisingly much interest lately. Maybe I’ve done something right?
I spend more time trying to reach out and sell books than I do writing. That is sad. But I cannot tell for sure if I would have spent that time writing if my books were sold without my effort. Quite a few years I had a writing blog that did quite well, but though it gave me my first paid writing job it costed too much writing effort to maintain. It was not something I could pause when I was busy with something else. I need to keep my stress level down and my priorities right.
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?