There are a few ingredients that are necessary to become an award-winning writer. One of them is skill. Good writers are skilled writers. Wordsmiths, if you will—with the knowledge of how to use words as tools to communicate ideas and tell stories. Another thing that is necessary is passion. One must possess an intense desire or enthusiasm for writing that will fuel your way forward. Kristin Charlotte Horn Talgø has both ingredients in abundance, so her success as a writer is guaranteed. I had the opportunity and pleasure to interview Kristin recently and learn a little bit about the Norwegian native and her new book, Escaping The Caves.
IM: Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and when you realized you wanted to be a writer.
KT: I’m from Oslo, Norway, and am currently studying journalism. It took me less than a week into the first semester to realize that I’m not meant to be a hard-core news journalist, but I very much enjoy writing features and I’d like to give literary journalism a try.
I have a bachelor in Social Work. This was something I decided to do when I found myself at a point in my life where I realized that I’d taken a few wrong turns and suddenly had little or no idea who I was, where I was or where I was going. My mom is a social worker and following in her footsteps seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t. Mom is one of the best people that I know, but we are very different in many ways. I finished my degree, mostly because I hate unfinished projects, and the reason why I’m telling you this is because that confirmed what I already knew: I want to write.
That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and all I’m ever going to want to do. So, the upside of spending three years doing something I didn’t want to is that it made me realize how incredibly important it is to stay true to yourself and listen to that little voice inside of you that says, this isn’t you. Look here, this is what you’re meant to do. Do that. Write.
I knew I wanted to be a writer since I could write. I wrote my first story when I was seven and kept writing through my childhood and teens, but I didn’t take it seriously until I was nineteen. That’s when I wrote my first book, though not a very good one! Since then I’ve kept writing. I attended a Creative Writing course at the University of Edinburgh in the summer of 2010, and that really made the difference. To meet other writers who took writing seriously, teachers who took me as a writer seriously, that was a real eye-opener. That was the first time I realized that there were plenty of other people out there who had the same passion and ambitions as me, and who didn’t think I was odd or unrealistic for wanting to write. To them, wanting to write was a natural as wanting to eat. It was amazing to finally meet others, to know I wasn’t the only one. It meant everything to me to meet people who encouraged me and believed in me as a writer. I felt like I’d come home. That was the summer I came out of the closet as a writer and I haven’t looked back since.
IM: Who or what most influenced you as a writer?
KT: All the books I read growing up. They ranged from obscure, unknown novels to acclaimed classics, but the ones I enjoyed the most usually had an element of the supernatural about them. The books that grabbed me the most and have had the strongest influence on me as a writer are the ones where there are no limits to the imagination. Where there isn’t a set of rules that you have to follow, but where you can make up your own world, entirely as you see fit. I like that feeling of endless possibilities.
That being said, Stephen King is probably the writer who has influenced me as a writer the most. I started reading his books when I was about thirteen, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I greatly admire him as an author, and his ability to describe events and emotions using the exact right words and the exact right amount of them. Not to mention his ability to create characters, not based on descriptions, but on how they act and how they speak. I love the way a lot of his books are all connected somehow, a whole universe filled with different stories, worlds within worlds. There are times when I’ve skipped pages in his books, when the story has become too gory and gruesome for my taste, but I think he’s at his best when he writes about the simple things in his stories. The human condition and the way people connect and communicate with each other, or fail to. Despite writing horror, Stephen King has written some of the best love stories, in my opinion!
IM: What is your motivation to write and keep on writing?
KT: I love to write. To me, it’s not a question of if I should write, but how and when I will fit into my day. I read a book once, where the protagonist says that writing is something she has to do in order to feel like herself, like showering or brushing her teeth. That’s what writing is to me. I don’t feel like myself when I don’t write. I get grumpy and uncomfortable in my own skin. When I write, that itch—that sense of irritation—disappears. When I write, I feel completely at ease and at peace with myself. It’s one of those rare moments when I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, or do anything else, than exactly what I’m doing right then and there.
I’d like for people to get as much joy out reading my books as I do from writing them. But writing is probably also a way for me to deal with and process emotions and experiences. One of the advantages of being a writer is that no experience, no matter how painful or awkward, is a waste, because, if nothing else, it’ll make a good story one day, in one form or another.
Not to mention, good stories can have a great impact on people. At the very least, they can offer people a breathing space, a time-out from reality. I think writing can be way of escaping reality, but also, a way of interpreting it.
IM: Tell us about your book and what the experience was like working on it.
KT: Escaping the Caves is a futuristic novel set in a post-apocalyptic word. The world was overrun by monsters that nearly wiped out humanity. After a devastating war, it was left to a chosen few to keep the monsters confined to a set of caves. The task of keeping the monsters from once again roaming the earth has been passed down through the generations. It’s a small community governed by strict rules. There is no room for the people living there to show their pain and fear. If one person starts to crack up, it’s only a reminder that they’re all cracking up a little every day. Whoever decides to leave the community becomes an ‘outcast’. They’ve betrayed humanity and so are shunned in the outside world, as well.
Jess, a trained monster hunter turns her back on the family tradition. No longer wanting to live with the possibility of being killed by those monsters, or living with the ghosts of those who have, Jess leaves the only life she knows and travels across country to find herself. As she attempts to escape the death of her sister, and the ghosts that dwell inside her mind, Jess finds more than what she bargained for. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, even human ones…
I very much enjoyed writing this book. Once the idea for the book had been formed in my mind, the people, scenes, and dialog were quite clear to me. That being said, the story develops as I write it. I usually have a sense of where the story is headed, but I never really know what’s going to happen until I get there. That’s part of the fun. Discovering a story as I go along, discovering the twists and turns as I write them… It’s an exciting process, as I can sort of ‘feel’ the whole story at the back of my mind, but I have to dig it out, one word, one sentence, at the time. I like not knowing entirely where it’s headed; that way, anything is possible.
IM: How did the idea for your book emerge?
KT: It sounds corny, but the idea came from a dream I had. In the dream, I was having an argument with someone. I was desperate for that person to listen to me, to understand me, but when the person turned around, there was nothing but disdain and contempt on his face. We were standing on a street, people gathering to see what the commotion was about, and when I tried to seek their understanding and acceptance for my pain, I was met with the same distaste. In their eyes I was weak for crying, for revealing my hurt. In the distance, there was a huge, dark mountain range, stretching for as long as I could see. When I woke up, my mind automatically started building on it. The scene from the dream blended together with my imagination.
IM: How many books have you worked on to date and which is your favorite?
KT: I’ve written six books so far, and have just started the seventh. Escaping the Caves is the first one to be published and the first one I’ve attempted to publish. This one is probably my favorite as, by the time I wrote it, I’d already written four books. Writing those taught me a lot, so I had a better grasp of what I was doing when I wrote Escaping the Caves, than when I wrote the first one (when I was nineteen).
The first one I wrote will never be published as I consider it a trial run. The three after that are a trilogy that I’d like to continue working on, as I enjoy the world within them. I think it could really work once I’ve gotten it into shape. But after the editing process with Escaping the Caves, I didn’t feel like starting a new editing process right away, so instead, I’ve started a new book, to allow my imagination to run free for a while.
IM: What is your assessment of today’s independent writer industry and what do you think the industry needs?
KT: I think it’s great that there exists an independent writer industry filled with people who are genuinely passionate about genres that fall a little bit outside the mainstream industry. It seems to me they’re more willing to take on new, unknown writers and give them a chance, which are what people who are starting out as writers need. In my opinion, their main concern is to publish good books within their chosen genre, and not books that fit the current publishing ‘climate’. The book industry needs diversity and I think the independent writer industry provides that. The industry creates a writing environment for writers who might not otherwise have had a publication platform.
What the industry needs? Hmmm, I’m not sure how qualified I am to answer that, truth be told, but I definitely thinks it needs to keep doing what it is doing, to keep providing readers with alternative writers and different writing voices, new stories that might not otherwise see the light of day.
IM: In your opinion, how difficult is it for an independent writer to make a living today?
KT: F***ing difficult! Sorry, but yes, quite difficult, I think. Apart from the bestselling authors, I think it’s difficult for a lot of writers to make a living based only on writing books. As far as I can tell, you need to be able to sell quite a number of copies before actually making a decent profit from it. There are a lot of books being published and I think it’s probably difficult to make your own work stand out from the crowd; to make people choose your book over another. That doesn’t mean being an independent writer is a bad choice or that you can’t make a living as such, but I think it’s also important to be realistic about the industry and how it works. That being said, I think it’s important to take yourself, as a writer, and your work seriously. I’m a firm believer in hard work and that it’ll pay off if you stick to it and aren’t discouraged when things get difficult. Just because something’s hard at times doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time and effort.
IM: Do you use social media and how has it helped in getting the word out about your work?
KT: Once I got the publishing contract, I started a Facebook author page. Honestly, I’m not entirely comfortable using social media yet as a writer, probably because I feel exposed in some way, but I definitely see the value of it. There’s no point in publishing a book if no one knows you’re getting published! You need to get the word out there and I think social media is a great way to do that and connect with people. I’ve also started a website where I have a blog. That’s also a way of not just getting the word out about my work, but also a way for me to potentially reach out to people. I write about writing, books, and the publication, but in that mix, I also write a bit about myself and those small, nervous thoughts that are part of the writing process, and also simply part of being human.
Everything is still a bit new, but I think using social media is really the way of getting the word out about my work. We live in a digital age, people are online, so if you want to tell them ‘here’s my book!’, you need to be online. And while I’m new at this, I think it’s great. I’m from Norway, a small country a lot people outside of Scandinavia usually just confuse with Sweden, but even so, my book is getting published in Canada and people all over the world could read it. Social media and the internet open up possibilities for me as a writer that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
IM: What is the most important thing you hope to accomplish as a writer?
Kristin: The short version? For people to enjoy my books. It really is that simple and that difficult. If someone just reads my book on a plane and that gives them joy, then I truly feel I’ve done my job as a writer. Books mean the world to me and they can open up worlds I didn’t know existed. They can give a new perspective on things and they can make you feel like you’re not alone. I can read a book and, sometimes, just a sentence hits me. I’ll think, ‘I know exactly what that’s like!’ Books can be a way for people to connect with each other without ever meeting. Also, books are great, simply because of the simple pleasure they can bring. That feeling of getting lost in another world, getting sucked in and wanting to stay there, the way it opens up your own imagination… if I can give that to others, even for just a short time, than I will have accomplished everything I want as a writer.
IM: What are your future plans and where do you see your career in the next five years?
KT: To keep writing! Even if being a writer is difficult at times, at least when it comes to making a living of it, I can’t imagine not doing it and I don’t want to either. I have whole worlds swirling around my head and I want to put them all down on paper and share them with as many people as possible. To write is what I want to do in life, always has been, always will be. And life’s too short not to do what makes you truly, genuinely happy. Where my career will be in five years is hard to say, but I’ll find out when I get there. What I’m hoping for is, of course, for people to read my books and to enjoy them.
IM: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming an independent writer?
KT: Do it. There’s no reason why anyone who wants to be an independent writer shouldn’t do just that, as long as they’re prepared for a bumpy road. People always tell you that you need to work hard for the things you want in life, but that can never prepare you for just how hard you’ll need to work. If you want to be an independent writer, you’ll probably have to work twice as hard as you thought—and at least twice as hard as you’d like. But if that’s really what you want to do, then that’s just the price you’ll have to pay. You’re going to have to work hard in life no matter what you do, so you might as well work hard for the things you really want. If being a writer is what you really want, then all that hard work is worth it. At the end of the day, if that hard work means you get to do what you feel you’re meant to do in life… What’s there to think about?
I think it’s safe to say that we will always need good writers. There is always room for another good writer. Kristin Charlotte Horn Talgø is well on her way to carving out her space to be established as one of those good writers. Please support this creator.
Online Follow Up:
Learn more about our interviewer at: Everard J. McBain Jr.