In October the Dutch translation of A Nearly Normal Family (Een heel gewoon gezin, Swedish: En helt vanlig familj) by Swedish author Mattias Edvardsson was published by Luitingh-Sijthoff. We asked Mattias a few question.
You’re new to Dutch readers. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who Mattias Edvardsson?
I am a 42 year old husband and father of two daughters, living close to Lund in the southern part of Sweden called Skåne. I have been a teacher in Swedish and psychology for more than fifteen years, but since 2019 I am a full time writer.
Een heel gewoon gezin is your first translated book in The Netherlands. Is it your first novel or have you written more books?
I have written several books before, some for young children, for teenagers but also novels for adults. Een heel gewoon gezin was my international breakthrough and will be published in thirty three different languages.
Did the inspiration for Een heel gewoon gezin come from your job as a teacher? I can imagine that you deal with all sorts of families with different backgrounds etcetera.I was actually lying in bed one night trying to fall asleep. At this time my daughters were 3 and 6 years old. And I came to think about the situation in ten years or so when I will lie there in my bed and my daughters won´t be safely asleep in their bedrooms, but out with friends, downtown. And I think every parent can relate to that fear of not knowing when your child is coming home. Then I imagined my future teen daughter coming home way past midnight and me having the feeling that something was wrong. And what if my daughter was brought in by the police the next morning, accused of murdering a man, what would I say? How would I react? And how far would I go in stretching the truth to protect my daughter?
Do you ever come across families that are much different than what they appear to be? Maybe some of your characters are based on real life people or am I assuming too much?
As a teacher I have sometimes met parents who claimes that they know exactly everything about their teenagers. To me that is quite fascinating and something I wanted to explore in this novel. How much do parents really know about their teenagers lives?
I don’t think they excist, but what is a normal family to you?
I don´t think they exist either. Only on Instagram and other social media. People who are all happy and sunshine every day.
Your book is almost a thriller, would you agree? Would you consider writing a thriller?
In almost every country it is launched as a thriller. In Sweden we call it “Spänning”, which means suspense. But to be honest, I don’t really mind how a book is labeled. A god story is a good story, no matter what you call it.
How do you write? Do you have a certain routine? Are you someone who plots everything in advance or do you let your characters and story guide you?
When I have an idea I often start writing almost immediately. I have a vague idea of where the story is heading, but then I let the characters and their actions guide me as I get to know them better writing about them. I rewrite a lot!
In The Netherlands teenagers, young adults nowadays are more interested in social media and they don’t seem to read as much books anymore. In your job as a teacher, do you try to get your students to read more?
It is one of the main challenges for me as a teacher in Swedish and literature, but it’s a difficult task. You can’t force anyone to like reading, the motivation must come from inside.
Who is your favorite author and why? Do you read a lot yourself?
I read one or two books a week myself. I don’t really have one favourite author, but I can mention the Swedish authors Camilla Grebe and Stina Jackson who write brilliant crime fiction.
Do you have an explanation for the fact that Scandinavian authors are incredibly popular in The Netherlands?
I think The Netherlands and Scandinavia are very similar when it comes to culture and the way of being. Then we have the woods and mountains in Sweden, and the desolate landscapes, the darkness, which I believe appeals to many readers.
What is your favorite meal and do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share with us? Maybe something Swedish?
I love Italian food. Hope that’s okay too.
Salsiccia con pomodoro for 2 persons:
You need 3 or 4 salsiccias. Pull off the skin and cut the salsicias in small pieces. Fry them in olive oil together with two pieces of garlic. Add small cocktailtomatoes, basilika and oregano. Let it cook until the tomatoes become sauce. Serve with pasta and parmeggiano.
(met dank aan uitgeverij Luitingh-Sijthoff)
Vertaling: Miriam Bakker