I have been chatting to Swedish writer and blogger Flora Wiström about writing tips and tricks, inspirational authors, and what it takes to tell a story.
Flora Wiström is a 22 year-old writer and blogger. Her debut novel, Stanna, is a moving love story set in Stockholm. Published in 2016, it tells the story of Ester, who works in an antique shop, and Eli, who has paint-stained hands and a dying mother. The novel asks – what do you do when love isn’t enough to save someone from falling apart?
Flora, describe your writer-self!
My writer-self is really not the same as my everyday self. I write in periods; sometimes I do it every day, and sometimes a month can go by without me writing anything. I’m also hard-working. I’ve decided to take my writing seriously.
Name three women writers who have inspired you?
At the moment, I am in Lisbon writing my second book. I spend a lot of time alone here, and I listen to the Swedish writer Bodil Malmsten almost all the time: when I go for a walk, do the laundry, cook my dinner… She is really good at making big problems more tangible, and she’s so funny and smart. I love her! Another Swedish writer that has inspired me a lot is Felicia Stenroth. And for the third – I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, her language and the stories, they are so… imposing. I feel like I learn a lot about the world when I read her work.
What did you learn while writing your first novel that helps you now?
Sometimes I look at my first novel and ask myself how the hell that happened – did I really write those 370 pages?! But it comforts me to know that I can actually do it. The hard part is to actually keep on writing after having finished the first 10% of a book. I don’t allow myself to think about how much work I have in front of me.
I think it’s important to remember that the writing process doesn’t just happen in front of your computer. It’s just as much about strolling the streets of your city, watching a series or just being around people. That’s when you see what life is really like.
What is different this time round – writing your second novel?
When I wrote Stanna, at times it was really difficult: the story is based on events from my own life, and this meant that people close to me could recognize themselves in the book. It’s fictional, but the close connection to true events made it more complicated. Some people could feel hurt, and I had to take the decision to go ahead anyway and tell my story. My second novel is a completely fictional story, which means that I can’t lean back on a real storyline, I have to make every little detail up myself.
What advice do you have to anyone who wants to be a writer?
Take your dream seriously: look for a writing class, physical or online, or an online community where you can get support from other aspiring writers. I have studied creative writing for almost three years, and I don’t think there is a stage where you feel like “I’m done – now I’m a writer!”. It’s a constant work-in-progress.
It’s also important to open up for input from others. You learn a lot when you let someone read your text and give you feedback! I try to remember that if I’m uncomfortable doing that, it doesn’t matter; what matters is that my writing improves.
Plus, read a lot of books – and dare to believe that you can write one yourself. I saw other young people write books and get them published, and I told myself that if they can do it, why wouldn’t I be able to?
For more, read this interview Flora did in 2016 with novelist and poet Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International. At Flora’s blog you can follow her life in Stockholm and her thoughts on relationships, veganism, anxiety, Scandi fashion – and everything in between.