This week we have a special feature: an interview with the author! Karin Tidbeck is both a writer and a sewist, and has shared some of both of those worlds with us. Read on for more!
|Credit: Patrik Åkervinda 2020
1. Welcome Karin, and thank you for taking the time to do this interview for the Literary Sewing Circle! Can you tell us a bit about how you came to write Amatka? What was the genesis of this novel?
Thanks for having me! So, Amatka took a very long time to write because the process was very meandering. It started out as a series of dream notes that took place in specific environments, and I realized the notes could be organized into a continent of sorts. I found that it could best be expressed through poetry, so eventually I ended up with a poetry collection. It didn't sell. I then decided to write short prose based on some of the poems, and a story eventually took shape. I think the whole process from first dream note to final manuscript was about eight years. I didn't work on it all the time - it had a lot of shelf time between attempts - but that's about the time it took.
2. The ending of Amatka is ambiguous, and because of that it really stayed in my mind. Did you intend this kind of unsettling conclusion, or did it arise naturally from the writing and the themes of the novel?
The ending came organically, like most other parts of the novel. In order to figure out the ending, I had to rely on the characters - everything that ever happens in the book is a direct result of who the characters are. To me, the ending isn't ambiguous at all, but then the readers don't live in my brain. I think it might seem ambiguous because by then, the story is told by an unreliable narrator. Or maybe it's because it doesn't end with tying everything up in a neat package. It was the only way it could end, though.
3. You translate your own works from Swedish to English -- is the experience of writing/rewriting in each language different for you? Does it change the way you create or perceive your own work?
It's not as big an issue as it was when I first started translating my work into English. These days I write almost exclusively in English. Amatka is a translation from Swedish, though, and the first major translation I made. It was difficult, because my feel for English isn't as instinctive as my Swedish is. At first it was kind of like writing with mittens on; there's a barrier between you and really feeling the language. These days I would say when writing in English, I do it with surgical gloves on. So things have definitely improved, but I don't think I will ever have the same primal connection to English. As for how it changes my creative process, I'm not sure. I'm standing in the middle of it, and it's hard to take a step outside since I live in my own brain. Maybe someday some linguist will come along and explain it to me.
4. I know that you are also a sewist. Can you tell us a little more about your sewing life - how long have you sewn, and what are some of your favourite creations?
I made my first dress out of an old sheet when I was about 13. I come from a family of sewists; my maternal grandmother made the clothes for the entire family, and she usually didn't use patterns. She was some kind of sewing savant: she would spread out the fabric on the floor, look at it for a while, then start cutting. I don't know how she did it. My mother is a sewist and a knitter. She has made two folk costumes from scratch, and knitted countless sweaters, mittens and socks. She also does embroidery in a way that I have never learned - flat stitching and stuff. So, it was natural for me to get into crafts. I got my first sewing machine when I was 15, a Husqvarna that I still own and use. We work very well together. On it, I have made gothic dresses (in my teens), an enormous amount of LARP costumes, and everyday wear. Some of my favorite garments are a pencil skirt that looks fabulous but was hell to sew (stretchy wool mix!), a crane-patterned kimono that I finished recently, and a pair of absolutely enormous balloon pants in bright orange chiffon that I made for a futuristic LARP. Maybe also the jacket that went with it, which had a pink fur bodice and sleeves cut from a yellow raincoat.
|photo © Karin Tidbeck
5. You've shared some of your cross-stitch projects on your blog as well. What drew you to cross-stitch? It can be so subversive in the ways that it's used now, and I feel like your projects really capitalize on this ability.
Cross-stitching requires so little effort and the results are great. It's meditative and all I have to think about is counting stitches. So I do that for relaxation, while listening to audiobooks or podcasts. I learned cross-stitch in crafts class when I was about 10, but I only returned to it maybe five years ago. It's just a nice kind of art to do with your hands. I'm currently working on a small linen doily that I got from a friend. I'm filling it with creative insults in Swedish, embroidered in all directions, so that everyone around the table can feel offended.
|photo © Karin Tidbeck
6. Do you see a connection between the way that the world needs continuous remaking through language in Amatka, and your own habits of making, both as a writer and a sewist?
This is a great question! I haven't thought about things in quite that way. But it's true that I'm obsessed with the processes of making and unmaking, be it words or music or things. My basic idea for Amatka came from dreams, as I've previously said - and that's where the idea mainly came from. That the world of Amatka is at its core mutable and ephemeral, and what it would do to a society that tried to survive in such a world.
7. Your new book has just been released in North America - do you want to tell us a little bit about The Memory Theater? Are you working on anything else that you'd like to share right now?
The Memory Theater starts out in a place called The Gardens, where time has no meaning and a group of nobles throw endless parties, served by stolen children. One of these nobles will leave, and two children will chase her through the multiverse. There are witches and librarians and a theater troupe; there's love, chosen family and grief. And some cows. More than I intended to put in there, I think.
Thank you for sharing some of your writing and sewing journeys with us, Karin! We hope you'll enjoy seeing the projects we make inspired by your writing.
You can find more about Karin here: