28 June 2012
Some of the people in The Space in Between were simply names mentioned in a letter, or scribbled on the back of an old photograph or mentioned in passing by someone who knew someone who knew the person behind the name; others, especially Nina herself, were much more than just names. However, during the years of research and writing, I got to know all these people extremely well. They have filled both my waking and sleeping hours, and they have become an important part of my life. I got to know them, not only from the letters and the memories, but also from the perspective I gave them through my writing. Perhaps that is all that matters, and perhaps, at certain points, all the different perspectives - known and unknown - come together to accurately describe a person who is now only a name.
24 June 2012
Looking at the perspectives of the past while creating new perspectives - surely this must be basic to any kind of biographical/historical novel? I do not think that it is possible to avoid the addition of new perspectives. As soon as a writer decides to mention one particular event or one particular character instead of another event or character, his/her perspective is already colouring the perspectives that are already embedded in the actual historical narrative. The different types of perspective and the pull between them is something peculiar to this type of writing; fiction writing is not necessarily beholden to any kind of embedded perspectives as it relies almost completely on the perspective of the author.
21 June 2012
Although I do jot down notes on scraps of paper and in notebooks with interesting covers and beautiful paper, most of my writing is done on the computer. Although not at all romantic, the advantages are enormous. In 1983, I read an American article about personal computers, which were just beginning to hit the market. The writer of the article had not made up his mind as to whether or not they were merely a passing fad... So many years on, we all know that they were not a passing fad. It is, however, interesting to revisit perspectives from years back - perhaps it helps us put the present into a more balanced perspective.
18 June 2012
Someone asked me once how I wrote - did I write everything in longhand and then type it into the computer; did I have a special place to write; did I keep to a special routine... The question about where recalled something I once read about the author Roald Dahl. According to this particular biographer, Roald Dahl wrote in a garden shed at the bottom of his garden, a blanket around his shoulders and a board on his knees to act as a kind of a table. It probably follows that he wrote everything in longhand. I do not have a garden shed, at least, not a garden shed that lends itself to writing much less sitting. I have a computer in the back of what actually is the garage. The blanket sounds very romantic, but I have opted for a small heater instead and, in the summer, a fan. My cat - call her my co-writer if you like - sits on a cushion on a chair next to my elbow. She has been part of the book right from the start; I doubt that it would ever been completed without her unwavering consistency.
16 June 2012
15 June 2012
Nina, or Nikolina or Nika, was my mother-in-law, and I first met her only a few days after I met her son, Andris, and only a couple weeks after I had arrived in Sweden. Standing in the hallway of Nina's flat as Andris introduced me to his mother, I was somewhat overwhelmed by new sounds that I knew were not Swedish. I do not believe that I had ever heard Latvian spoken before that day. We had no common language, but Nina smiled and handed me a quartered green apple on a white plate. Somehow that apple on that particular plate must have been extremely significant as I have never forgotten it. Over the following months, she talked to me about books she had read; she told me about her brothers; she shared her memories of Latvia and her childhood - Andris translating all the while. Then I left Sweden and spent several months working in Germany. When I returned to Sweden, my very basic German made communication a little easier. Then Andris and I married; I eventually learnt Swedish and Nina and I were finally able to communicate without a translator.
13 June 2012
So, where was I? That's right - I was ready to write the book. Not without some trepidation, given the fact that a number of people connected with the story were still living. I was also wondering whether or not I would be able to successfully navigate around the many different perspectives of history. However, I decided that this was to be my story about Nina, and, on the strength of that decision, it was just a matter of turning on the computer. Admittedly, not quite as romantic as picking up a pen and dipping it in the inkwell but nevertheless...
09 June 2012
There were some gaps in the information about Nina. The information I had managed to collect - discussions with those who were close to her, my own memories, notebooks - told only part of the story, and it was becoming obvious that, although the book was a biography, there would have to be some elements of fiction. However, that said, the actual structure of the book is based on fact, and, for events occurring after 1944, I was able to rely heavily on letters written to and by Nina - thankfully, she kept drafts of most letters she wrote.
07 June 2012
Although I first thought of writing this book some twenty years ago, it took about fourteen years before I began to do something about it, and another three years before I actually began to write the book. There was SO much research: I knew very little about Latvia's position regarding either of the two world wars, and my understanding of the two Russian revolutions was incomplete. I also needed to gather together the facts about Nina's life... Given all the preparation, it was not until 2010 that I was anywhere near ready to start writing.