One of the unexpected consequences of having your novels translated into different languages is that you gradually become overwhelmed with editions of your own books. Few of which you can actually read.
Me Before You, for example, has been sold into 28 different countries (this is not a humblebrag – bear with me). Most of those publishers send authors between 4 and 6 copies of the translated book. Which means that my office now resembles a US-Serbian-Germanic vanity publishing experiment. And my youngest son’s bedroom now holds more copies of my books than of his own. (I’ll return to this in another post)
The other consequence is that if you’re lucky, you occasionally get invited to said Other Country. And last week, for the first time, I went to Sweden. My publisher, the wonderful Pia Printz, comprises two childhood friends, who, several years ago, decided to throw in their respective jobs and set up a publishing company. Their first book, happily, was a little novel by David Nicholls called One Day.
My promotional schedule began pretty much as I touched down, starting with an interview with Swedish media personality Carina Nunstedt of the magazine ‘Books and Dreams’. As we travelled to the event, Pia and Anna asked me several times: “are you nervous?”. No, I reassured them. I do lots of talks. I’m fine.
And then I saw the massive theatre. And understood why they had insisted I have a glass of something first.
It’s quite something to speak in front of a 500-strong audience and know that host and audience are all accommodating your total inability to speak Swedish by listening to an interview conducted in their second language. I’m not sure my ‘tak’ and ‘heyhey’ would really have cut it. But they were tolerant and enthusiastic and before I knew it, I was taking my place back in the auditorium (and discovering that I had actually morphed into the Fifty Foot Woman).
And that was where it got really interesting. Because all the other interviews were conducted in Swedish. And far from being bored, I became fascinated by the participants’ body language, and by the significance of the odd words of English that filtered through. Which were oddly revealing.
Here, for example, is Camilla Henemark, ex-pop star and former mistress of the Swedish King. The audience was rapt. The only words I got from the interview (fill in the gaps with several minutes or so of imaginary Swedish) were: “ADHD…. dildo…. “ and “Mahatma Gandhi”. I would totally read her book.
These, on the other hand, are the only words I understood in 20 minutes of Peter Jöback, a Swedish singer huge in musical theatre: “Rehab…. Ave Maria… fucking flower!…. Elton John.”
There were the scarily fit blonde lookalikes whose book “Bodylicious” promised that you, with a little effort, could look like them. My sum total of their combined wisdom was: “New York…. superfoods…. hazelnuts…. pole dancer”. To be honest, I’m not sure any amount of hazelnuts and fixed poles could make me look like that, but they sure were purty to watch for 20 minutes.
And there was Julia Dufvenius, a Swedish actress who read an extract from EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, which is just beginning to swallow Sweden like it did everywhere
else. I have no idea what bit she read, but I can tell you that that woman could make a Lidl shopping bill sound erotic. I held out for a “Holy Cow!”, but there was not a word I understood. Mind you, judging from the slightly glazed expressions around me, I didn’t need to.
I can’t write about the rest of my Swedish trip without sounding like an overexcited travel junkie. But I loved Stockholm. I loved its food and its distinct style and architecture quite unlike the southern European cities I tend to visit.
It has the coolest doors!
And door knockers!
And chemists that advertise using dead stuffed crows!
It’s no coincidence that I’ve spent the entire weekend since returning home running our household contents out to the skip. And nobody made me eat herring.
So I’m praying that Livet Efter Dig sells well enough to allow me to come back again for the launch of The Girl You Left Behind. I have however included a picture to show that in matters of tourist tat, the Swedes are every bit as tasteless as we are.
I also need to come up with a better answer when my publishers next enquire as to the most famous Swedish celebrity I can think of. Did I come up with Strindberg? No. Or even Ulrika Jonsson? No. The first Megaswede to pop into my head was …
the chef from the Muppets. Heyhey!