Introducing Berit Gardner

My new murder mystery serie has just been published in Sweden, introducing Berit Gardner, a Swedish-English writer who solves murder when she should be writing.

Berit E.V. Gardner is a forty-something writer who comes to Cornwall to escape the unexpected success of her last novel – and the relentless calls from her agent, asking her to capitalise on it. 

Her father was a constant dreamer from England; her mother, a constantly disappointed woman from Sweden. Her mother chose her very prosaic first name, Berit, and her father chose her grandiose middle names, Elizabeth Victoria, and they probably should have realised right then and there that the marriage wouldn’t work. Berit moved from Sweden to London when she was twenty, searching for books and literature. She has been writing ever since, publishing novels that garnered a moderate amount of literary praise and respectable but unexciting sales numbers. 

Or, at least that’s how it used to be. Her last novel met with unexpected success, and as her agent implores her to write a sequel, and fast, Berit Gardner is suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. For the first time in her life, her head is completely silent. No chatting voices, no imaginary friends,
no half-formed ideas lurking in the shadows, waiting their turn. Nothing. 

In desperation, she spends all her royalties on a small cottage in a worn-down village in inland Cornwall, and moves there without ever having seen it. She’s certain she’ll find ideas and inspiration here. She can practically taste it in the names: Wisteria Cottage. Albert Lane. Great Diddling. As the book begins, she is standing in her kitchen, ironing her shirt, getting ready for a tea party where she hopes to get to know the locals and eavesdrop on all their conversations. 

May I introduce you to my Henny?

I have always said that the best thing about being a writer is that it’s a socially acceptable way of having imaginary friends as an adult. And when your book gets published, that’s when the real magic happen – it’s like having imaginary friends that other people can suddenly see and talk to and, well, hopefully, like.

Nothing pleases me more than when a readers likes someone in my story. It’s the deep satisfaction of introducing friends to each other and watch them hit it off. Of course, nothing is mor agonzing than when readers really don’t like someone in your books. You know that the person is great, but someone else is just not seeing it, and it’s obviously your fault for not getting the person across better. My very first review for The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, in a local Swedish newspaper, called Tom “the most boring love interest in the history of world literature. He makes Madame Bovarys husband seem like a veritable Don Juan.”

This was approximately six years ago and the memory obviously hasn’t faded.

So it’s a nervous time, when your book is suddenly out there for everyone to meet, and even more so this time, I think, because Henny means so very much to me. She’s brave, much braver than I am, and she loves without safety nets or limits. She’s a loyal friend. She looks at the world with open eyes, but without falling into cynicism. And  of course she dies, in the very first chapter. It makes loving more difficult, but not, for Henny, impossible.

So without further ado, may I introduce you to Henny, an old and very dear friend to me? I hope she will be as friendly a ghost in your life as she has been in mine!

You can buy it here, but of course – please consider buying your copy at a local bookshop to support our amazing independent bookshops! Or find it at your local library, or borrow it from a friend, or listen to it as audiobooks, or any other way you like to find your imaginary friends.

Book sniffing!
Have you ever seen such a beautiful sight?

A certain kind of immortality

Years ago, I stumbled across a new edition of The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. The edition was celebrating that it was 50 years since the original publication of this modern day classic. I had only a vague concept what the book was like, but the edition was beautiful: small and compact in an unusual size, and an even more unusual colour: a sort of muted gold colour, very understated, very elegant.

I don’t think Jane Jacobs was like that at all, but that’s just me.

I think I thought something along the line of: “Ey, American cities. Might be good research for me” or just “Ey, I like American cities. Let’s buy it”. And then I put it in my bookshelves and went about my days, as happens, quite often, especially with books that “might be good research”. Anyway, I moved recently, so there’s a lot of shifting about of books, and there it was again, still classically beautiful.

This time I read it, and what a find it is! Not only is Jane Jacobs deliciously savage to all the smart men that had gone before her and everything they had ever written or thought or done in city planning, she’s also a great writer, and equally interesting, she seems instinctively likeable as a person. Her book is full of reflection of human life and cities; of a certain realistic but never pessimistic view of human beings and our, err, humanity. She has a acute sense of class and racial justice. I feel like she and I would probably see eye to eye on a number of topics, and I’m fascinating about all the things we might not agree on. I wonder what else she could have on besides city planning, and would have loved to hear her view on politics in general, or literature, or anywhere where there is taken for granted-truths and common sense ignored.

As always, I’m fascinating by how it feels like I am communicating with the author, even when she’s no longer alive, and decades after the wrote down the thoughts I am now reading. Some writers are just begging to be sat down over a cup of coffee or a beer or a drink (gin, definitely, in the case of Helen Hanff of 84, Charing Cross Road). And that, I think, is a great kind of immortality – befriending people long after they’ve gone. Albeit befriending them in a rather one sided-way.

Which writers have spoken to you lately?

Booklist review of Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins

I’ve always loved libraries, and generously forgiven them for their somewhat unreasonable demand that I return the books to them. And I like them even more now that The Booklist, a magazine published by the American Library Association, has said such kind words about Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins. Stephanie Turza of The Booklist said:

Embedded in small-town Oregon, Bivald’s (The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, 2016) second novel is full of the sorts of characters that loyal readers of Mary Alice Monroe and Richard Russo will adore. This cozy, never-maudlin exploration of life after death lets Henny see long-lost friends reunite, and feel the heartbreak of new love from a world just out of reach. Much like its heroine, Bivald’s charming, heartwarming, and thought-provoking novel will linger long after the last page is turned.

Full review to be published in the November 1 issue.

Just kidding, part 1: I would have loved them just as much if they didn’t like my book.

Just kidding, part 2: I never return library books.

Just kidding, part 3: Of course I do! I promise!

A New Autumn in Sweden

Dear Readers,

It’s been almost a year since I last updated this webpage, and I don’t know what to tell you, except, well, life. During this year I have moved, with all my books and bookshelves. I’ve bought more books than I can really keep track of. And my new book, Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins, have been translated into English! It’s going to be published in the US in January, and I can’t wait for you to meet my Henny.

Until then, it is autumn again, and as Sara would have said, no other season goes quite as good with books. Isn’t it splendid?

And, because I’m sure you want to see it, here’s the cover. Isn’t it splendid too?