'In the Wake' was a very bleak book. This relationship was not too good, the father and son. This time around, I wanted a father and a son who really loved each other, which would be visible on the first page and would still be there on the last page.
I'm a family-based person, even though we didn't exactly have a very happy family. I was never in any doubt that this was a centre of writing.
When a translation is very good, it is fascinating to see how the book changes and yet stays the same. I think 'Out Stealing Horses' sounds more American for Americans than it does in Norway, and still, it is all there, everything that I wrote. It's amazing.
At first I wanted to go to university, but I really didn't dare to. I was too self-conscious, being a working-class kid. It was really difficult. I was going to study history, but the professor asked me some questions I didn't understand, and I didn't dare to ask what they meant. I left university and went to work in the Post.
Living here where I live, on a farm way out in the countryside, in the woods, in fact, I have plenty of time to be alone, and I like it. I always have. I like my own company. And I am not the only one who feels this way; a high percentage of the Norwegian population feel as I do.
There is always this quarrel about what is preferable: the straight, naturalistic, epic storytelling or the modernistic, disjointed, slightly hermetic one. To me it does not matter, as long as it's good. I like both kinds. Although the common reader seems to prefer the first, which is to be expected, and who would blame her?
I come from a working-class family. They're the people I know and the people I love, I guess. I do not write about them for political reasons, but because, as I see it, most interesting things - social, political, emotional - take place there. It's a bottomless well for an author like me.
To tell you the truth, I don't edit much at all. Most times, when I have finished the first draft, that's the book. Of course, I work on the page I am on until I am happy with it. I might even say that I try to state the landscape.
When you are a sentence-based writer, they have to be good. They have to be really on the spot. Because when you don't have a plot, really, what shall you rely on? Just language. And sometimes I am so afraid of writing the wrong thing, I just sit and wait for the right thing to come.
In a household tragedy, you are very much aware of being alone. It is something that is possible to grasp, and that is why it hurts so much. Because you are alone. I know a little about this.
I do consider myself a Norwegian writer, or a Scandinavian writer, as my family tree reaches into both Denmark and Sweden. I don't think about it, of course, when I am writing.
I don't know if nature is a direct literary influence on my writing, but it is certainly important to me. I take great joy in writing about it. It is something I have taken with me from my childhood; the body exposed to the threat of the physical world and at the same time being at home in it.
1989 was such a very, very important year in Europe. The wall fell, the Soviet Union was crumbling, and so many things happened - in 15 minutes, the world changed.
I decided if I couldn't be a writer, my life would be miserable. I had this imaginary room of references to all the books I had read, a kind of bubble, in which I lived.
Philosophically I am, or at least have been, a follower of Sartre. I am very interested in the choices we make, or don't make, in life-defining matters. That moment of 'angst' and its consequences can be such a cruel thing.
I do not think of literature as something confessional or therapeutic. I make sentences in order to be precise about experiences and things. I am urged by many things and no things in particular.
I grew up in the city. Both my mother and father were factory workers, and I loved the life in the 'metro.' Everybody saw me as a very urban guy. And I was.
I was born in 1952, so obviously the sixties were important. That's when I came of age. It was also a revolutionary period, a complete break with the generation before us in terms of culture, literature, music, and in politics, of course. 1968 was an important year; I was 16, and the world became clear to me, visible, so to say.
I admire American literature, both contemporary and classic - 'Moby-Dick' is just about the best book in the world - and I admire British literature for its insistence on dealing with social class. It may have been an influence.
Some critics said, 'Hey, why are you writing historical novels?' I say they're not historical, they're contemporary, because people walking around who lived through this, even a little bit, they carry it inside. The contemporary isn't just what you can see now.