Author Visit: Fredrik Backman

Guess what people. Today is an exciting day because I’ve got the marvellous Fredrik Backman – author of the wonderful A Man Called Ove and the shiny brand new My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises - here to chat about all things bookish. Hurrah!
I know, right, how very exciting.

Fredrik! Hello!  Thank-you so much for stopping by my little corner of the blogosphere; grab a coffee and a piece of cake and make yourself at home – in fact it’s imaginary cake, take two pieces. TAKE THE WHOLE CAKE.
Before we get started, let’s warm up with a quick fire round.

Ready, steady, GO:

  1. Coffee, tea or…?
I'll have some "or". Sounds delicious. 

  1. Favourite film?
My wife says that I can't answer any film questions from anyone anymore because "the only films Fredrik likes are films where Kevin Costner plays baseball!". 

  1. Favourite book?
Brother Lionheart, by Astrid Lindgren.
  1. Summer or winter?
Which one is it that keeps coming in Game of Thrones? I'll have the other one.

  1. Favourite Colour?

  1. Last thing you ate?

  1. Dream holiday destination?
Cheese. Or I mean...well...a baseball stadium where Kevin Costner is would be splendid.

  1. If you could jump to any point in history, who would you have dinner with?
My kids. At a point in history where they don't throw food at me. Any point will do fine.

  1. How do you like your steak?
In my mouth.

  1. What are your pet peeves?
My what? 

I do love that bit! Anyway, on to the proper bookish fun stuff! 

Let’s get started. 

Firstly, I’ve read A Man Called Ove (and I loved it) but for anyone who’s yet to get acquainted with the book, can you tell us a little bit about it and about Ove?

He's a 59 years old man who drives a Saab and who is a bit a annoyed with the fact that people can't read signs anymore.

And how about My Grandmother Sends Her Regards… which is on my To Read pile (near the top, don’t worry!) The blurb for that made me do a happy dance because a storytelling Granny sounds remarkably like my own childhood! Tell us a little bit about it. 

It's about a grandmother and her granddaughter and a secret land they have built together called The Land of almost awake, that you can only travel to by almost falling asleep. It has a few made up animals in it and swords and stuff. My wife read it and told my publisher that "this is what happens when you let Fredrik sit in his office for 6 months without going there and ask him what he's doing. I warned you!".

Where did the idea for Granny’s story come from?

I didn't have a lot of friends growing up. I don't have a lot of friends now. It gives me a lot of free time. Plus, there's always alcohol.

Which of the books did you find easiest to write, and why?

I've never considered writing "easy" or "hard". I consider it "fun". 

And is the answer to that question the same as the answer to ‘which is your favourite’ and if not, which is your favourite? & I hope that doesn’t make you feel like I’m asking you to choose a favourite child! 

I would have no problems choosing my favorite child. I like the little one who still thinks I'm cool.

If either of the books was a DVD what would the special features be - are there any scenes that ended up ‘on the cutting room floor’ that you can share? 

In A man called Ove, in my first draft, the cat didn't appear until chapter 14. It was my cat loving editor, god bless him, who felt so strongly about the cat and worried that the other cat of the book (Ernest, who belongs to Oves father in law) stole the thunder of the REAL catstar of the story. So my editor and me ended up having a huge fight and he almost threw flowers at me and in the end I wrote an alternate version where the cat enters in chapter 2. And it was of course a lot better. Just don't tell my editor. He still thinks he owes me one.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is such an excellent title. Did the title come first, or last, or at some point in the middle?

It came pretty early on. My publisher hated it. We spent six months of emailing about different versions they wanted to cut it down. It started with "can we call it 'Grandma' or "Grandma's sorry' or something like that?' and ended up six months later with "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN WE AT LEAST GET RID OF THE WORD 'MY' SO THERE*S ROOM FOR A BLOODY ILLUSTRATION ON THE COVER!!!???". I said no. I don't have a publisher at the moment. Apparently I'm "hard to work with". 

Tell us about how you write: do you prefer a loud room or a quiet room; is your manuscript typed or handwritten, do you write during set hours or as the word comes, and at home or some place else? What works best?

Well, I have children. I don't really have any of those preferences. I write when I'm allowed. Sometimes I write on a computer in my office but more often I write on the backside of restaurant menus when we're on family holidays or in texts to myself on my phone while sitting on the bathroom floor waiting for someone to finish their epic Spiderman vs Rainbow Dash death battle in the bathtub so that we can all go to bed. Sometimes I write by hand, which is wonderful, but that's a pleasure I treat myself like I would whisky or ice cream: When the rest of the family is asleep.  

What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

My third novel, "Britt-Marie was here", is out in Sweden, Denmark and Norway and set for release in Britain next summer. And I'm writing a couple of things that I don't really know that they are yet, but I think one might be a play and one might be a pretty strange series of short stories and one might just be a fairly good joke and might actually be a novel. We'll see.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk? (I have a Clanger on mine that makes a noise when you press its middle. I liberated it from the desk of my boss….)

I have an american football, and very often the fists of my terribly orderly friend Niklas that I share my office with who is trying to take the ball from me and throw it out the window because apparently I'm "fucking annoying!" when I throw it around the office sometimes hitting his computer screen and sometimes hitting him. He's not really a sports fan.

What’s the best writing tip you’ve been given?

"The best type of comedy is stupid but smart." Which, put in a simpler way, would mean that some things has to look really easy although they might be very hard to achieve. A laughter is a very spontaneous thing, so even if the joke took you weeks to construct a sentence around it always has to sound as if you thought of it just now and just wrote it down. That's comedy to me. I view storytelling much the same way. First you figure out all the really difficult stuff with characters and scenery and epic feelings and vital plot points, and then you have to find the easiest possible way to tell it all to a stranger. Because that's the only way it will sound believable. It's like when police investigators always say that you can spot a lie from a suspect because it's too well constructed, the details are too perfect and thought out. Truth doesn't really sound like that. that I think of it that really wasn't a simpler way to put this at all. 

What do you wish you got asked in these interviews but never do? 

What's your favorite kind of Ben & Jerry's? Well THANK YOU for asking. It's New York Super Fudge Chunk, thank you very much.

& because I’m always on the look out for new book recommendations, what are you reading right now?

"A band of misfits", by Andrew Baggarly. It's a book about the San Francisco Giants baseball team and their way to winning the world series.I'm also reading the instruction manual for our car because there's a light that keeps blinking and my wife refuses to tell me what it means because she claims I "need to learn to read a MANUAL!". As it happens she also refuses to drive the car or let me drive the kids in it while the light is blinking, so I'm guessing whatever she knows is not very good.

[If you haven’t read either of Fredrik’s novels then, well, you totally should. You can get hold of copies here. I’m tempted to provide my Dad with a copy of A Man Called Ove. I think he might like it]


Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger, columnist and author. His debut novel A MAN CALLED OVE has been a number 1 bestseller across Scandinavia.  It has now sold over 1 million copies. Fredrik's second novel, MY GRANDMOTHER SENDS HER REGARDS AND APOLOGISES, also went straight to number 1 in Sweden on publication in 2014.