It’s easy to feel welcome in Norway when you’re an author. The country has a passion for books and reading that puts it at #2 in a comparison of world literacy levels (Finland is #1), so it’s not hard to understand why someone who makes their living by writing novels simply loves to visit.
My trip to Oslo this week was the second in recent years. I first visited in 2017, on the eve of publication of my last book, Her Nå Alltid (YOU ME EVERYTHING), where it was making its world debut. It was by definition a special moment, crowned by it later becoming a number one bestseller there.
Eighteen months on, I was thrilled to be invited on a return trip to promote my new book, Et Lite Stjerneteppe (MESSY, WONDERFUL US). I arrived on Monday with my husband Mark, in time for a beautiful dinner with the team from my publisher Bastion Forlag - Anja and André - and to prepare for a day of media interviews starting the following morning.
They all took place in The Grand Hotel, where we were lucky enough to be staying. It’s a gorgeous place, the annual host of the Nobel Peace Prize, which has also welcomed Michelle and Barack Obama as guests. It’s splendid and historic - somewhere Ibsen used to drop in for a tankard of beer twice a day - but with stylish, contemporary touches and quirky artwork too.
I spoke to journalists from publications such as Kamille, KK, Hjemmet and NTB, all of whom wanted to know how I came up with the idea for Et Lite Sjerneteppe, its emotional themes, plot twists and the Italian setting.
The novel is about an academic research scientist, Allie, who makes a discovery at her grandparents’ house that casts doubt on whether the man who raised her single-handedly is her real father. She hires a private detective to try to unravel her late mother’s tangled past and is led, with her best friend Ed, to Sirmione in Lake Garda. But, as the Italian sun beats down, the biggest secrets that emerge don’t merely concern the past, but Ed and Allie themselves.
I’ve already had a wonderful response from Norwegian readers on social media since it was published on Feb 1. This is always a huge relief to an author because, it doesn’t matter if your editor or agent believes it’s good; the only opinions that that really matter are those of readers.
After the interviews, I took part two photo shoots – the first with a news agency, during which Mark was asked to make himself useful (see pic). Then Cathrine from Bastion decided to take us out into the snow to make the most of the fact that Valentine’s day was imminent (as you can see from some of the pics, you can’t be prone to self-consciousness in this job).
Next was a visit to Bastion’s HQ, where I signed so many books that my hand nearly seized up and I made several video messages, attempting every time to improve my Norwegian pronunciation (I was told it was ‘charming’, which I suspect means I failed miserably!).
After a busy day and a quick change, Mark and I strolled down to the harbour in the snow and made ourselves cosy in one of the lovely restaurants, contemplating how much we love Norway and Norwegians for reasons that go beyond the fact that they buy lots of my books. Everyone we met was incredibly friendly and warm, with a dry sense of humour to which any Brit would feel an immediate affinity.
Our flight was early the next morning and I was sorry to be leaving after such a whirlwind trip, although the journey to the airport did bring one last surprise. I stepped onto the train and, as I was finding a seat, Mark tapped me on the arm and told me to look up. There was a big, beautiful poster advert for Et Lite Stjerneteppe – and the best possible end to my stay in what has become one of my favourite cities in the world.