“Rebecka” takes place in a world in which God’s existence isn’t questioned and people are aware of His influence on their lives, which could be considered controversial by some. Did you have any reservations regarding the subject matter while writing “Rebecka”?
Not when it came to religion, no. But then, writing about religion isn’t particularly controversial in Sweden. You’d have to go pretty far to stir things up. I didn’t consider this going very far. What I considered much more uncomfortable was the theme of abuse and the absence of redemption. Rebecka is a woman who experiences horrific abuse and never recovers, and her solution is to inflict the same horrors on someone else. To me that was much more difficult because of the risk of turning Rebecka into a stereotypical victim.
Did you study or research trauma theory while writing this piece, or did Rebecka’s psyche come to you naturally?
This was one of those rare stories that pretty much wrote itself. I didn’t do specific research, but I’ve always had an interest in psychological processes, so I did have some stuff in the backpack already.
Do you think a person’s ability to live and cope with psychological—or even physical—pain makes him or her a stronger individual?
I think there are a lot of clichés about trauma and how you’re supposed to respond to it. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” carries with it the expectation that if something doesn’t make you stronger, you’ve failed. Another one is that hardship is a gift/challenge/etc., that is, something you should be grateful for and have to learn from. While it’s true that a lot of people come through a trauma or an illness stronger, countless others are worn down or broken. Many live and cope with pain but do so as very fragile people. Are they strong? What is “strong,” for that matter?
Western culture has a very nasty victim-blaming streak and looks down on those who don’t emerge strong and proud from hardship. We want to live in a just world where pain happens for a reason—either because you deserve it, or because it’s a test. We can’t deal with the fact that horrible stuff can happen to anyone for no particular reason at all, and that any reason or lesson is entirely fabricated by ourselves.
Much of your work, “Rebecka” included, involves psychological horror and subtly unsettling worlds. What draws you to this particular brand of horror?
It’s how my brain works. I just take notes.
Having been published both in Sweden and the US, have you noticed any differences in how horror fiction is received in those countries?
I don’t know very much about horror’s status abroad, to be honest. My own fiction hasn’t been marketed as horror, except for a couple of appearances in horror-related anthologies. In Sweden, horror has enjoyed a status increase thanks to John Ajvide Lindqvist. His Let the Right One In opened the Swedish readership’s eyes to the fact that horror is actual literature.
Are you working on any projects currently, and if so would you mind telling us a bit about them?
I usually don’t talk much about prose under construction, but I can tell you about something else that’s really exciting and is called “In a Coded Reality.” I’ve joined a project by an experimental technology and theatre group, Scenlaboratoriet (The Stage Laboratory), on creating a neural feedback fairy tale. Basically it’s an interactive story where the participants interact with mind-reading (yes, mind-reading) robots (yes, robots) to affect the story’s content and outcome.
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