Hello Cecilia Ekbäck, thank you for accept to do this interview. Could you shortly introduce yourself?
I come from a small town in the north of Sweden. My parents come from Lapland. During my teens, I worked as a journalist and after university I specialised in marketing. I worked for over twenty years for a multinational and lived in the UK, Russia, Germany, France, Portugal and the Middle East.
Today, I’m a mum of 5-year old twins. We live in Canmore, Canada, and since two years I am writing full time. I like crossfit, to run and ski. I read. I cook.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No, but books have always been a big part of my life. I began reading when I was 4 – or at least that is how the story goes in our family. I read like I was short of time – never the same book twice. I read all the books in my parents’ bookshelves, our neighbours’ bookshelves, my teachers’ bookshelves... (it was a small community). When I was 6 my parents began leaving me in the local library after school and pick me up at closing time. You could borrow 10 books a week. I was the only one allowed to borrow as many as I wanted. And I was allowed into the adult section…
I wrote too, but I did not think I would ever be a writer.
Are there any authors that you would name as influences?
It’s not really an author, but a book: the Bible! I was raised in the Pentecostal faith and reading the Bible was a part of life from a very young age. Me, I was an Old Testament reader – the stories, the violence, the moral dilemmas! I think this is partly why I have grown to love thrillers and crime writing so much. Though few beat the Bible.
I also do read the writings of a number of Swedish thinkers (Ylva Eggehorn, Olof Wikström, Tomas Sjödin) and find inspiration therein.
What is your favourite book? Why?
My absolute favourite book it is WOLF HALL. Hilary Mantel is amazing. You can take her books, pick any page and just step into her world. She is remarkable. I don’t know how many times I have read that book.
What inspires you to write?
Life – with all its joys and griefs. Things that happen to me. Things I see happening to others. I guess, in a way, I am trying to make sense of life for myself.
I have read your first book, “Wolf Winter”, and I love it, is one of my favourites. And other people can think the same. How do you feel with that?
First, thank you so much! I feel so honoured and very scared. I feel a great responsibility to my eventual readers.
What did you think, or how did you feel, when you finish your first book?
When I finished my first book, I felt nothing. I had given everything. I was exhausted. I thought ‘that was that.’ I never expected it to sell.
Could you tell us a bit about your book "Wolf Winter"?
The expression ‘wolf winter’ in Swedish (vargavinter) refers to an unusually bitter and long winter, but it is also used to describe the darkest of times in a human being’s life – the kind of period that imprints on you that you are mortal and, at the end of the day, always alone.
My father was my best friend. The period preceding and just after his death was my wolf winter. As he lay dying, I interviewed him about his life. He died and I continued speaking, with my grandmother, her sister, their friends, my mother... WOLF WINTER came out of those conversations. Thus the book was not as much an idea I had carried around with me for a long time, as a reaction, or a riposte, to a life event. I became very interested in ‘place’ – setting – in the largest sense of the word and the impact it had on people, versus ‘heritage’ – how many things do we not chose, but that are just there, in us, inherited from generations and generations.
WOLF WINTER is a book about a mountain and a settler family arriving there from Finland. Not long after arriving the daughters find a dead man on the mountain. The mother in the family just can’t let be and she keeps asking questions even though the other settlers demand that she stop.
And what is about "In the month of the midnight sun"?
IN THE MONTH OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN is a very loose sequal to WOLF WINTER. It is set 130 years later on the same mountain. Three men has been murdered and a Sami man stands accused. A geologist, Magnus, travels north to find out what happened. A young woman is sent with him – sent away from Stockholm for misbehaving. And for the two of them, nothing will ever quite be the same again.
What's the next step in your writing career?
I am working on book number 3. I am not quite done with Blackasen Mountain yet… Or perhaps it is not done with me. I am keen to push myself with this next book skills wise. I have so much to learn!
Talk us a bit about your writing habits.
Right now my writing process can be summarised in one single word: FRAGMENTED. With young twins, there is a lot of interruptions and a lot of noise.
I try to live in the present – when I am with my daughters, I don’t do emails or spend time on social sites. Likewise, when I sit down to write, or when I travel for promotions, I know I have provided well for them and I try not to worry about them or have a bad conscience (easier said than done!).
I am very disciplined with my time because I don’t have much of it. I used to say that ‘you can do anything you want if you work hard enough,’ and that almost killed me. Now I repeat to myself: ‘you are a limited human being.’ Some things just have to go.
I normally write between 4am and 6 before they wake up and whilst my mind is quiet. Then, once they have left for kindergarten, I edit and research.
What's your advice to an aspiring novelist?
I live by this quote: "Write a little every day, without hope, without despair.' (Isak Dinesen)
"Write a little every day..."
To manage to live in the world your writing creates - thus making it come alive - you have to visit every day. Goals such as word count seems less helpful to me as the writing waxes and wanes and there are periods which are very productive quantitively and others – more reflective ones – which are as productive qualitatively. But the writing must be revisited daily.
The moment you start writing “to be published”, you have lost it. You must remain true to yourself, to what you have inside you and not look at what people will like or at what will sell. This becomes so clear once you know you are going to be published. There is so much noise and if you let yourself get distracted by it, your writing peters out in the same pace as your confidence.
Writing is hard, but you must trust in ‘the muse,’ or in your subconscious who is at it all the time even when you don’t sit at your desk. When you get stuck, go for a walk, cook a lovely meal or play with your children. The answer will come when it’s ready.
You are from Sweden, and you live in Canada, but what is your favourite place in the world?
I adore Canmore where we live now, but I think my absolute favourite place is Paris – both as a person and as a reader. Perhaps it is my memories of being young there, perhaps it is the ‘joie de vivre’ which I still feel Paris has. I just love going there, walking the streets, sitting in cafes, seeing the people. It inspires me.
Finally, I always request a phrase to the interviewee. What is your phrase? It can be anything.
I think it has to be the one I mentioned before – I am a limited human being.
And this is the finish, so thank you for this interview, it has been a real pleasure.
Bueno, espero que os haya gustado la entrevista, si preferís leerla en español próximamente la tendréis traducida. Decidme en los comentarios qué os ha parecido, si os ha gustado y si queréis leer el primer libro de esta gran autora.