Monday, 26 September 2016

Author Spotlight: Agnes Ravatn

Today it's my pleasure to be kicking off The Bird Tribunal blog tour with a spotlight feature for Norwegian author Agnes Ravatn.  I'll also be hosting a review from Louise for The Bird Tribunal, which has been translated into English by Rosie Hedger, on 8th October so make sure you pop back to read what Louise thought but first let's get to know a bit more about Agnes with a Q&A. . 

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is a Norwegian author and columnist. She made her literary d├ębut with the novel Week 53 in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing, Popular Reading and Operation Self-discipline, in which she recounts her experience with social media addiction, and how she overcame it. 

The Bird Tribunal won the cultural radio P2’s listener’s prize for this novel, a popular and important prize in Norway, in addition to The Youth’s Critic’s Prize. The Bird Tribunal was also made into a successful play, which premiered in Oslo in 2015

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey?
I am Agnes, 33 years old, and I live with my partner and our 18-month-old son son on a smallholding on the western coast of Norway. I wanted to be a writer from I was six, and my debut novel was published in 2007 while I was a student. I then got a job as a journalist/columnist and wrote three non-fiction books while working on my second novel, The Bird Tribunal. Today, I am working on my third novel.

If you had to give an elevator pitch for The Bird Tribunal, what would it be?
The Bird Tribunal is a chilling book packed with secrets, fatal attraction and amateur gardening!

The Bird Tribunal is an interesting title, how did it come about?
It refers to a dream or vision the male character, Bagge, has, and tells us that he has done something in the past that haunts him, and plays on his conscience.

Where did the inspiration come from to feature a TV presenter leaving her successful life behind and escaping to live a reclusive lifestyle in the middle of nowhere?
Heaven knows! I started writing the story without knowing who Allis, the protagonist, was, but she had just arrived at the house where she was starting work as a sort of housekeeper for the mysterious Bagge. I just knew she had to have experienced a great fall. And then, as I wrote, I started finding out more and more about her background, and her reasons for escaping the spotlight.

If you had to describe The Bird Tribunal in one sentence, what would it be?
I would prefer to quote somebody else, who called it ‘Rebecca, with fjords’. Spot on. 

Why did you choose to write in ‘New Norwegian’?
It's the language I learnt in school and the language I can be myself in.

Do you plot your novels in advance or is it more of an organic process?
I am not a planner, and I don't know how I would find the motivation to write if I was – not knowing where the story is going is the whole point of writing for me. My writing is driven by curiosity and discomfort, and if I plotted the story in advance, there would be very little in it for me.

Did your experience as a columnist help with regards to the whole writing/editing process of writing a fuller length novel?
To be honest, I think writing columns sucked most of the creative energy out of me, which is why The Bird Tribunal took me six years to finish! Having writing as your day job and writing novels at night is a horrible combination. Nowadays I combine writing with chopping wood and playing with my son, which is brilliant.

What essentials do you need close to hand when you are in writing mode?
Pen, paper, and toothpicks.

If you get a plot block during the initial writing phase, how do you work your way through it?
I shut off the internet connection and stare at the wall. 

Did you treat yourself to something special to celebrate your publishing deal with Orenda?
I was having lunch with a friend when my agent called and gave me the fantastic news, and we immediately celebrated with Prosecco. At least my friend did. I was breastfeeding every second at that time and was probably terrorised by the thought of forever damaging the baby's brain if I had a glass. It was great anyhow. 

Finally what can we expect from you next? 
I am currently working on a new novel, and I think it will be quite different from The Bird Tribunal, even though this one too can be characterised as  ‘domestic noir’. 

Two people in exile. Two secrets. As the past tightens its grip, there may be no escape... 

TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44- year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old m an she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough...
Rosie Hedger was born in Scotland and completed her MA (Hons) in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She has lived and worked in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and now lives in York where she works as a freelance translator. Rosie was a candidate in the British Centre for Literary Translation’s mentoring scheme for Norwegian in 2012, mentored by Don Bartlett.

Visit her at  on Twitter @rosie_hedger

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