In my third novel, FOUR, there are some Swedish links – this post says a bit more about this.
If you look through the chapter listing you will see that one of the chapter titles is ‘Jag Älskar’. This, strictly speaking means ‘I love’ and is the title of a track on Bag of Trix by Roxette – which I discussed in my post ‘Old Bands, New Music‘. Having got Bag of Trix and found that some of the tracks were in Swedish, I thought it would be good to have one of these as the chapter title. In the end, the most obvious one to change was ‘Surrender’ which became ‘Jag Älskar’.
In case you have not spotted, all of the chapter titles in FOUR are Roxette songs. Most of these are particular favourites, although there were many others that I would have liked to include, but they didn’t fit either due to the number of chapters that I had or due to not finding a chapter that the title would fit with. By chance ‘Vulnerable’ was playing just as I was trying to pick a song title to use as the chapter title for that chapter and that one worked particularly well.
You may be asking about why I chose Roxette. Other than them being one of my favourite groups, the main reason was that as I was starting to plan FOUR and as I was finishing off my previous novel, Tokyo 20/20 Vision, Marie Fredriksson died (9 December 2019). It made sense at that point to use Roxette songs in the book. One of the ironies of using Roxette, however, is that (as mentioned in the title of one of their compilation albums) – they said ‘don’t bore us get to the chorus’ because I always feel that the main lyrics are so powerful and so using the titles rather than main lyrics doesn’t feel quite right.
Another Swedish link in the book comes in the form of some Swedish being spoken. At the time I was working on the novel (in fact it started before and has continued after also), I have been learning Swedish on Duolingo and so, as I knew that there would be the Roxette link, I thought it would be good to include a bit of Swedish. I was tempted to include sentences about moose or reindeer since they were amongst the first words I was taught (cliches and stereotypes appear to be alive and well in the world of Duolingo at times), but went for something that fitted a bit more naturally into a conversation.
Of course I needed someone to speak the Swedish, and although I had thought about having a Swedish speaker in one of the scenes in Miyazaki, in the end it worked much better to have a Swedish character in another setting. This became Kajsa Fredriksson. The surname was, naturally, chosen to remember Marie. As for Kajsa – this was a name that I liked since first hearing it when watching athletics and coming across the high jumper Kajsa Bergqvist many years ago.
Beyond FOUR, there are some additional Swedish links. My maternal grandmother was Swedish – which is why I chose to start learning Swedish on Duolingo (sadly this link isn’t sufficient for me to get Swedish citizenship and remain ‘European’ after Brexit). I think I even had Kajsa on a list of possible names for my daughter. Then, during the time I was working on FOUR, I did an interview for Swedish magazine about “Brända Brev” and the JL123 isho.
Although I have made two very brief visits to Sweden before, so long as COVID-19 doesn’t mess things up, I hope to making a brief visit to Stockholm in 2021. This will be my first visit to the capital and am looking forward to seeing it… and possibly even trying out some of my Swedish!