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Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:38
Mikael Niemi was born in 1959, grew up in Pajala, Sweden and still lives there. His first novel for adults, Popular Music, was awarded the August Prize and was made into a film in 2004. It has sold over a million copies worldwide and has been translated into thirty languages. Among his published books are two collections of poetry – Nasblod under hogmassan (Nosebleed during Morning Service; 1998) and Anglar med mausergevar (Angels with Mausers; 1989) – and a young adult novel, Kyrkdjävulen (The Church Devil) (1994). His latest book is Astrotruckers.
Mark Thwaite: What gave you the idea for Astrotruckers?
Mikael Niemi: I have always had a big interest for outer space. As a young boy, I loved Jules Verne, and had a lot of fantasies going to other planets. When I was studying in a technical college, I wrote a paper about "Science and outer space", and studied a lot of physics. Is there anything more beautiful than a black midnight sky full of stars?
MT: How long did it take you to write it?
MN: About 2-3 years. During that time I had other projects in between.
MT: How do you write? Longhand or directly onto a computer, straight off or with lots and lots of editing?
MN: I always write by hand, actually many authors still do. Then I re-write the text on my computor, and start editing it. I edit a lot, I am a perfectionist, enjoying searching for this perfect word, and even more when I find it. In Astrotruckers, I tried hard not to plan my text, but to just look for the "flow", like when I write poetry.
MT: What were the principle challenges of writing Astrotruckers and how did you overcome them?
MN: I tried to be more anarchistic in my writing, more wild, more playful and to be less polite, less structured, less boring. This is very difficult for a polite, structured and boring person like me. But the scenery helped me. In outer space no one can hear you cry, and that gives you a big sense of freedom.
MN: A good laugh is what make life worth living. How can we defeat death, pain, boredom, unjustice in our world, if not by a big laugh. Rabelais is one of my favourites, like Mark Twain, Woody Allen and of course the "Monty Pythons"! I am not trying to be funny in my writing, but when the text is getting funny, I usually keep it.
MT: What do you do when you are not writing?
MN: I am a dedicated cross-country skiier. Here in Pajala in north Scandinavia we get the winter in october-november, and have snow until late april. After a day of writing, I love to get out in the skiing track in the deep forest. In a winter I do more than thousand kilometers. My biggest goal is Vasaloppet, the worlds biggest skiing cometition in the first sunday of march, 90 kilometers in one day. I did that six times, a surrealistic experience, to ski among tens of thousands other skiiers, you really feel like an ant!
Then I play music, piano, accordion, guitar, just for myself. And play with my three children, 10, 7 and 4 years old.
MT: Did you have an idea in your mind of your "ideal" reader? Did you write specifically for them?
MN: Yes, but I have not just one "reader". Inside me, I see a group of persons, 5-10 perhaps, sitting around a kitchen table, drinking coffee, telling stories. And after listening, I take the word and starts telling. Here in the north we still have a strong oral tradition. Even though I am writing, I still feel like I am telling, talking, using my mouth and voice, and that my readers are listening, not reading.
MT: What are you working on now?
MN: I never ever talk about my coming projects. Never open the egg to look for the chicken, another author said once.
MT: Who is your favourite writer? What is/are your favourite book(s)?
MN: I have many. Joseph Heller, Jack London, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the siberian poet Yutzenkov.
My favourite book is by a Swedish writer, P. O. Enquist, Musikanternas uttag. A wonderful historic novel.
MT: Do you have any tips for the aspiring writer!?
MN: I quote something I heard another author said about this: "Be attentive, openminded and thoroughly rested".
I can add stubborn. Never give up, I was writing for ten years until my first book was published.
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