Norwegian author Natalie Normann is joining me today with a guest post explaining why she has always wanted to be published in English and just how it came about. Her novel Summer Island has just been published by One More Chapter.
My big dream has always been to be published in English. It sometimes felt like chasing the holy grail and a unicorn – except harder. But, it’s possible. I know that now.
I’m Norwegian. I’m not really biIingual in the sense that I grew up speaking English. I didn’t have English-speaking parents or lived in an English-speaking country. Nor was I particularly brilliant in languages in school. Learning English grew out of obsessive reading and pure desperation.
I can remember my first words in English. I must have been about four or five years old, and we were in Kingston, Jamaica. We were in a cafe, it was hot outside and I don’t know why I was sent to buy drinks. But I can remember walking up to the counter, and looking up a a women with the nicest smile on her face.
“Four cokes, please”, I said, looking back at my mum who was laughing. I was very pleased with myself. It was also the first time I realised that knowing other languages meant you could talk to someone who didn’t speak Norwegian.
And here comes the obsession and desperation.
As soon as I learned to read, I was off – I would read anything. The library in my hometown was my favourite place in the world, and I would go there at least two-three times a week to stock up on reading material. I would usually manage to read one book on my way from the library to the bus station. And yes, I have walked into a lightpost on more than one occasion.
When I was a thirteen, we moved to Benidorm in Spain and stayed for three years. I attended the Norwegian school there, which was fine, but it meant that I no longer had access to a proper library. Most of the books in the school library, I had read, most of them twice or more. And of course, I didn’t speak a word of Spanish.
Then one day, we stopped at a cafe in Benidorm run by an English woman. I still remember her name. Kay was really sweet and she gave me a bunch of short romances, like pocket novels. They were thin, printed on cheap paper and for some reason all set in hospitals in Germany. But there was a whole stack of them and they were not too difficult to understand, even with my school level English. I was happy.
I read these novels over and over again, using my battered school dictionary – there was no Kindle or Google translate back in the seventies. Later I got hold of Agatha Christie books, American romance novels; the type of books tourists would leave behind when they returned home. It did wonders for my language skills. Mostly I would read the book first, without checking any words, just to ‘inhale’ the story, then I would read it again with the dictionary.
To entertain myself while I struggled with reading these books, I started writing my own stories. Also, everything on the telly in Spain was dubbed in Spanish – except in musicals, they would speak Spanish, but sing in English, which was wonderfully absurd.
Because I had no idea what the actors was saying or even what the story was about, I would rewrite the movies as I imagined them. By doing this, I also picked up quite a bit of story telling, dialogue, character development and dramatisation without realising that was what I was doing. I had never seen a book on how to write. I didn’t even know they existed – no Google, remember.
Later when we returned to Norway – and to my favourite library – I discovered their English section. I would read everything, sometimes twice or more.
In the nineties I started writing together with an Indian writer. We wrote thrillers; Nordic Noir before it was a thing. We rewrote the books in English and sent them to UK agents. We lived in Cheltenham for a year, and while there, went to London and approached agents at their offices. (We asked first). It was fun and a bit crazy, and certainly an experience.
In 2007, I was able to go full-time as a writer. I write historical romance series in Norwegian, and to amuse myself, I would work on projects in English. Once in a while I would send out short stories, book proposals and the thrillers – we even had a couple of agents in those days.
Then in 2017, we moved to Wales, to stay for a couple of years. While we were there, I was picked up by One More Chapter, and found myself with a brief to write a contemporary romance in English, set in Norway.
I freaked out at least once a day. And then I reminded myself that this was so out of the ballpark, that the best I could do, was to have fun and get on with it. Also, to remember to breathe.
Although I might have to get a t-shirt with a unicorn holding the holy grail …
My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour. Summer Island is published by One More Chapter and available now as an ebook with the paperback to follow in September. You can order a Kindle copy here: Summer Island
From the back of the book
He never meant to stay.
He certainly never meant to fall in love…
Summer Island off the coast of Norway was the place London chef Jack Greene should have been from. He’s an outsider in the community that should have been his family, and now he’s setting foot on the strange land he has inherited for the first time.
Ninni Toft, his nearest neighbour, has come to the island to mend her broken heart. With her wild spirit and irrepressible enthusiasm, she shows city-boy Jack the simple pleasures of island life – and what it means to belong. To a place. To a people. To one person in particular…
Home is where the heart is, but is Jack’s heart with the career he left behind in London, or on the wind-swept shores of Summer Island, with Ninni?
About the author
Natalie Normann grew up in a shipping town on the west-coast of Norway and always wanted to be a writer. Actually, she wanted to smoke cigars and drink whiskey like Hemingway but settled for chocolate and the occasional glass of Baileys.
Her writing journey started with short stories in women’s magazines until her first book was published in 1995.
Summer Island is her first romance written in English.