How does it feel to be longlisted for the International Booker Prize 2023, and what would winning mean to you?
It is such an honour. I feel very grateful! And very lucky! Being longlisted is wonderful in itself - I don’t want to hope for more than that.
What were the inspirations behind the book? What made you want to tell this particular story?
Is Mother Dead is the title of the novel, but the question could just as well be: Can a mother die? I believe that a child’s mother or a child’s primary carer will, in one way or another, always live within the child, even when that child is an adult. Children are so dependent on their primary carers, and most people have conflicting emotions towards those on whom they depend. The novel is my attempt to investigate this complicated, ambivalent dynamic between a mother and an adult daughter who have been estranged for 30 years. Phew!
I have written a lot about mothers. Once I was asked: What are you writing about at the moment? And I said: I´m writing about a mother who drinks too much. Oh! they said and asked: Did your mother drink? No, I said, I drink!
My point is that the relationship between mother and child is a never-ending story. It changes during both their lives, and when you come to experience motherhood yourself, the perspective you have on your own mother naturally changes. Now I’m a grandmother as well! Life is a very interesting journey.
How long did it take to write the book, and what does your writing process look like? Do you type or write in longhand? Are there multiple drafts or sudden bursts of activity? Is the plot and structure intricately mapped out in advance?
I spent a year or maybe a year and a half writing this book. I never know the plot or the structure when I start a novel, my writing is a kind of investigation. I investigate a moral or ethical dilemma that troubles me, and I never know in advance what I will find out.
I spend quite a lot of time trying to discover what I call the voice of the novel. Once I have it, I can start working much more intensely. At the beginning of the process when I strive to express my ideas by messing around and writing perhaps just one sentence a day, I often become discouraged and frustrated. But when I find the right voice, I can write day and night for weeks. It is the best part of the writing process! I love it.
Where do you write? What does your working space look like?
Usually I write at home, but I can write everywhere, in cafés and bars, on planes and trains, or when I sit on my jetty by the sea. I normally write on my Mac, but I can also write by hand no matter where I am. I always carry a pen and paper just in case I have an idea or hear or read a sentence I can use in my work.
At the beginning of the process, when I am looking for the right voice, it helps to walk in the woods with my dog, look for mushrooms to pick, go for a swim with my dog. Or sit on the jetty with my dog, with books and pen and paper.