Barnes & Noble Galleria, Edina, MN

I fell in love with Barnes & Noble Edina before the event even started. You might remember me picking up som cosy crime from Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Ohio? One of them was Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I was immediately fascinated by the premise, and the courage of the author. would definitely not have been brave enough to bring back Sherlock Homes and pair him with a feminist fifteen year old, eventually to marry him off to her.

There’s at least thirteen books in the serie, so now I am hunting them down in bookshops across the US. This often happens when I travel. For example, in Ireland I stumbled over a used copy of Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy, and fell in love right away. Fortunately for me, her books had just been reprinted, and they appear in no particular order, so I just bought eight or ten or twelwe and looked myself in a hotel room. I don’t remember exactly how many I bought in Dublin, but I do remember I had to constantly leave them behind because they didn’t fit in my suitcase. And in London only a year or two ago I read a book by Julia Quinn, and then I had to find the other books in the Bridgerton-serie, of course (while frantically sending text messages to Simona Ahrnstedt about it; my romance-writer friend).

And now it’s Laurie King’s Mary Russel. It’s a struggle, reading a serie when you’re on the road. The challenge of course is backlist: older books written by an author or in a serie. Not all bookshops have them. They might have the last book or the first book, and if they’re big, they might even have a few in between, but the chance of finding, say, number three in the serie? Or number five? You have to develop a determination bordering on obsession bordering on addiction to manage it. Oh well, who am I kidding? Crossing all borders well into addiction.

I mention these number because Barnes & Noble Galleria managed to find both for me.

I was visiting another Barnes & Nobles to sign some stock and asked about it, and the very kind woman took it upon herself to call all the bookshops close by to see if anyone had number three. The Galleria-one did.

“Thta’s great”, said Lathea. “Because we’re going there tomorrow. We can get it then.”
And then she saw my face, which must have been both incredulous and shocked.
“Or today!” she said, very quickly. “Let’s go today!”

Of course, by next day, when the event was, I already needed number five. And they had it!

Ps. The event was lovely too!

I really had a great time, and got to speak a lot of Swedish
Number five!!

Interview on MPR with Euan Kerr

I was interviewed on MPR News by Euan Kerr, and he was charming. I made a good impression right from the start, with my serious preparation for the interview: he found me standing outside in the sun, smoking.

“No, no, you finish it”, he said, smiling. “I’m European, so I understand.”
This of course made me wonder what exactly he did understand. From what I’ve seen so far, very few people in Minnesota smoke, so maybe that was it. Or it might just have been a comment on me standing with my face towards the sun, as were I a lizard that needed sunshine to regulate my body temperature. He was from Scotland, so he should understand.
Apparently, he had first came here as a teacher on a summer camp, teaching archery. “Very boring, archery”, he said matter-of-factly.
“I think it sounds very exciting”, I said while trying to smoke faster.
“Five, six hours a day of teaching kids archery is very boring. Or boring, at best. Then someone walks in front of another’s bow and arrow and you age ten years in two seconds.”
“So boredom intersected with heart attacks?”
“That’s archery for you.”

Anyway, I continued to impress. The format called for me to read something from my book, for around four minutes. “I know just the scene”, I said, and then proceeded to look for it.

And look for it.

And so on, for an embarrasingly long time. I was looking for the scene where Sara re-organizes the bookshop and changes the categories. It’s fun. I’ve read it before, so I thought it might be good, lenght-wise. It’s just that the darn scene had somehow disappeared from the book. It was the only explanation I could think of for not being there, somewhere between when Sara opens the bookshop and when she sets out to convince Hope that Broken Wheel is a very literary town.

“Well, I guess you might not have worked with this edition before”, Euan said very generously as I was desperately turning pages.

But I managed to find it eventually, and the interview was great fun, and you can listen to both the interview and my reading from the mysteriously missing scene here:

In which I give Lathea a heartattack

I grew up with very bad dad jokes, and they have definitely rubbed off on me. So yesterday I told what I thought was an innocent but bad one to Lathea. It turned out slightly better than anticipated, or worse, depending on who of us you ask.

This is the background: my tour ends on May 24th in Denver. That is the last event. Then I am staying a night at the hotel in Denver, booked by my publisher, and on Saturday 28th my publisher have booked my last flight to Portland, Oregon, where I will stay on for a bit to do some reasearch. That leaves three nights in Denver. My plan was to just find an hotel, read, rest, so that when I get to Oregon I’m in good shape for some work. As for hotel-bookings, I always book them at the last possibly minute. It limits the available options, hence making decisions easier.

However, I had forgotten that in my publisher’s system, and Lathea’s schedule, there suddenly appeared three un-booked, mysterously empty nights in Denver, when they didn’t know where their confused Swedish author would be.

“Have you booked an hotel yet?” asked Lathea, some days ago, possibly a full two weeks before they would be needed.
“Duh, no”, said I. Two weeks! Really.
Then I realized that this was not only about me. “This is making you nervous, isn’t it?” I asked her sympathetically.
“A little bit, yes”, Lathea lied, while freaking out internally.
“I’ll book the hotel. Don’t worry. I’ll get right to it. And if nothing else I can always sleep at the train station.”
“Not funny, Katarina”, said Lathea, which should have kept me from making my next joke, but didn’t.

So I booked the hotel. I like Lathea. She’s taking a rare week off next week, and I didn’t want it to be ruined by worry over her Swedish author sleeping on train stations.

“So I booked an hotel”, I told her yesterday. “I sent you an email about it, but didn’t forward the actual confirmation.”
She looked at me. “Then how will I know you’ve actually booked an hotel?”
That’s her level of organizastion, and how much she trust me. I just couldn’t resist.
“Relax”, I said. “I’ve booked it. The nights were between the 21st and 26th, right?”

See. A typical dad joke. Bad. Obvious. Warranting only the weakest of laughter.

Except Lathea wasn’t laughing. This in itself is not surprising when it comes to dad jokes, but Lathea is polite and professional. She always laughs at my jokes. She’s might be paid extra to do it. So I glanced at her just in time to see a series of horrified emotions flitting across her face. I could see her thoughts as she had them, all mixed up, each worse than the previous. They went something like this:

– I’m a professional. I can think of a diplomatic way to tell my author that she’s an idiot
– Oh my God, I can’t believe she can’t even make a hotel reservation
– Oh wait. Yes, I can
– It’s more than a week from now, we can change the reservation
– It’s probably easier if I just do it myself. I’ll print her a new damn schedule, and just do all the bookings…
– Oh good God, before I leave for my vacation. But that’s all right, I don’t have to sleep
– She’ll still call me in the middle of the night during my vacation from the bench of a trainstation, won’t she?
– She’s an idiot
- Lathea, you’re a professional, you can’t say that

By this time I was of course stroking her arm, telling her: “there, there, it was only a joke. I’m sorry, I’m sorry” so the thought process gave way for a laughter that was part hysterical and part relief.
“You got me there”, she said, five minutes afterwards, still laughing shakily.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry”, I said.

I guess my bad dad joke hit slightly closer to the truth than I had imagined. I forgot that: a, she’s worked with authors for a long time and b, by this time she knows me.

“I’m suffering from PLASD”, she said. “Post Lost Author Stress Syndrome.”
“There, there”, I said. “There’s always therapy.”

I enclose this photo from the good old days, when we were still friends and she still liked me.

A Swedish Day in Excelsior, Minnesota

It’s interesting that I had to travel all the way to Excelsior, Minnesota to meet fellow-Swedish author Fredrik Backman, but so it was. We participated in a Swedish event, and it was the first time I ever heard him speak. He was of course hilarious; anyone who’s read his books or his blog knows this.

Among other things he joked about the possibility that he would one day write a book with aliens in it, and I couldn’t help but ask: will the aliens be actively aggressive like Ove, or passively aggressive like Britt-Marie? Both, he answered.

So now I can’t stop thinking about it. Just imagine what an alien-filled novel by Fredrik Backman would be like! I hope he writes it one day, although I have promised myself not to email him constantly asking him whether or not he’s started on it yet.

There were Swedish cookies, of course. And a dog! The event was led by Pamela, a wonderful woman who somehow managed to keep both of us in check, gently moving the conversation along. Before she asked us how to pronounce our names (a common question, Bivald not being an easy one to say) and added: “I’m probably the only one at the event who doesn’t have Swedish ancestors.”

Possibly the only one in the state, I thought. An interesting side-note: there used to be a lot of people with German ancestors in Minneapolis and Minnesota, but most of them disappeared or turned Scandinavian during the first or second World War. It’s a strangely sad story,

Anyway. It was also very interesting to meet a Swedish writer abroad. I came with Lathea, my keeper, and he came with his entourage, that is, his agent and his publicity-person, and it was very much like to dogs on a leash greeting each other.

“How’s your tour going?” he asked. “How long will you be here for?”
“Oh, about three weeks”, I answered. “How about you, when are you leaving?”

And then Fredriks publicity person said: “Fredrik! They’re waiting for you!” and then Lathea came up to me and said, “Katarina, time to work” and then naturally we both did what they said.

And I got a signed copy of My grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry, the book Backman said meant the most to him.

Fredrik Backman!

“We could have gone to Vegas, but no, she wanted to come here”

I am writing this at Hampton Inn just outside Alb.. oh, hell, you know where I am. I was just outside for a coffee break, where I ran into this marvelous woman who was apparantely traveling with what I now assume is her sisters or cousins or relatives.

“We could have gone to Vegas, you know, but no, she wanted to come here. She wanted to go to bingo. ‘Cause there’s no bingo in Vegas, right? But she wanted calm, I guess, and Vegas is not that. It’s her birthday, so we all came here. One of us is from California, and another from Arkansas, and well, all over the place.”
“Do you always travel together for birthdays, then?”
“Since our mother passed away. We have very few deaths in our family. People live to their eighties or nineties. Our mother was eighty when she passed, but it still came as a surprise. So we decided we needed to start celibrating birthdays. But there’s a whole lot of them coming up in the next month. Can’t travel on all of them. But people just choose a month, and we go there. When it’s my turn, we’re going to Canada, and they’ll have to come, because I came here.”
“Where in Canada?”
“Niagara Falls. But it has to be the Canadian side. My birthday is in October, but you can’t go there then. But the minute the snow disappears, we’re off. And I’m gonna give them lots of advance warning and time to plan. At least six months.”
“That’s nice of y…”
“Give them no excuses. They can bring their husbands if they like.”

After that she talked for a while about insurance and Obama care, and then my cigarette was finished, and she said: “well off you go. Have a nice one” barely without interrupting her monologue. She might have continued without me, I don’t know.