Submitted by Lina Nordmeer (Visit Lina’s web site here)
Pål H. Christiansen, the author of “The Scoundrel days of Hobo Highbrow”
L: Hei Pål, that’s how you greet each other in beautiful Norway, don’t you?
P: Hei Lina, yes, that’s what you would say if you met me in the middle of Karl Johansgate in Oslo.
L: I’d like to ask you a few questions about your novel “Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow” and about your musical preference…
P: Go ahead. I’m ready!
L: How did you actually come to the idea to write a novel that has quite a lot to do with a-ha, especially Pål Waaktaar-Savoy?
P: I was writing this new novel about my character Hobo Highbrow, who appeared for the first time in my first novel “Harry var ikke ved sine fulle fem” in 1989, and just at these times I also had some vague ideas about writing an essay or something about a-ha. Actually I had an encounter with Pål and Lauren similar to the one described in the book back in 1992, but I did not realize it was them before later, just like Hobo does in the book. This incident kept going in the back of my head for years, and then I realized that making Hobo a fan of a-ha and Pål was perfect for my story. Pål was the obvious choice of the three guys of several reasons; he was the “writer” in a-ha, he had written quite a lot about love and had his well-known life with Lauren, and had also recently become a father by then. All this suited very well with the story I was about to write about Hobo and Helle.
L: Would you also follow a star in real life like Hobo did in your novel?
P: I’ll doubt so. Although I did some research when I wrote the novel, most of the writing is based on what I’ve read in newspapers and magazines. I haven’t even spotted the exact location of Pål’s house in Oslo yet. I always forget the address when I’m driving through that area. A couple of years os so after the book was published, I was shopping with my wife at ROOM at Vinderen, where Pål used to sit in the café now and then, and where I let Hobo spot him in the novel. Pål’s habit of going to ROOM was something I had read somewhere, and then I used it in my writing. But this day Pål and Lauren suddenly sat there like in the book, and I felt a little ashamed about the whole thing. I think I asked them about whether the whole book-thing had bothered them. What could they say other than no?
L: As we meet each other through Facebook due to my interest in your novel, I also began to write my own book “Move To Oslo”, and I have asked you whether you could give me a few tips… I was still a rookie, afterall… What did you think about that, was that funny or do you get such requests from other authors sometimes, about giving them advice?
P: You are absolutely not the first one that has asked me about advice. I don’t find that strange, but of course there is a limit to how deep I can go into writing projects I am presented to. You were very eager and it turned out that you were actually writing a lot, so I gave some advice, some simple things I felt could strengthen your novel.
L: What did you think when I asked you about including your character Hobo Highbrow in my own novel as well?
P: I was a little insecure at the start, because I had no idea how this could end, and our projects are quite different, I must say. Your novel is fan fiction with a heavy romantic touch, while my novel isn’t really fan fiction, but a novel about a writer in sort of a crisis, a writer that suddenly starts behaving as an obsessed fan. But after some consideration I decided not to take myself so seriously and just see what happened. Actually it’s just fun to see my character walking around in another writer’s novel.
L: Did you ever have characters from other novels play a role in your own books, or experienced other authors asking you to borrow one of your characters for your own novels? What is your opinion about this idea?
P: I haven’t been asked before, I think. This kind of intertextuality, where one openly plays or interacts with other texts, has always been a part of my own writing. I can use both characters from other writers work and even parts of other texts built into my own. In my novel “Kongens Lov” I introduce a character from the schoolbooks we used to read in the sixties, Ola-Ola, and I also put bits of text from the same books into the story. These schoolbooks are written by Torbjørn Egner, by the way.
L: Is Hobo Highbrow well written in “Move To Oslo” or is he missing some character traits?
P: I think my most important general advice to you in the beginning of your work with your novel was to use dialogue much more than you did. When you started writing dialogue you got a lot more life into it. Hobo is not very important in “Move To Oslo”, but you have given him some important things to do. Your version of Hobo is much less talkative than my Hobo, which means he doesn’t speak all the bullshit and play around with words like he does in “The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow”.
L: Do you recognize any similarities between Hobo’s character and yourself? Or do you find any similar traits between me and my novel-character Tatjana Sandberg?
P: There will always be a bit of yourself in every character. I used to say that Hobo is a small part of me blowed up many times. The daydreaming part of Hobo’s personality is like the remains of the fourteen year old in the forty year old, dreaming about being a rock star before the mirror. What I can recognize in you and Tatjana must be that you both seem to be very determined to fulfill your dreams.
L: How did it feel to finally meet each other in person in Oslo, after all that lengthy correspondence through chat and e-mail?
P: It was great meeting you and I found it easy to talk and relaxing.
L: To be honest, I found it totally exciting. I was pretty nervous…
P: It didn’t show. May be that was the reason I found you much less whimsical and chaotic than Tatjana?
L: Did you become a bigger fan of the band after having written your book, and going through all the research and regular contact with me about a-ha and Morten Harket, or do you rather feel the need for a little more distance from all that?
P: I’ve been an admirer of a-ha since their breakthrough, and this hasn’t changed much I think. But before I published “Drømmer om storhet” in 2002 I had never been to a concert, didn’t have all their records and didn’t know any a-ha fans or even people who liked them. Being an a-ha fan was something almost no one talked about out loud in Norway among artists and writers at that time. The reception of the novel, and a-ha’s ongoing comeback, made the following years a bit more a-ha-ish for me, yes. But now I’ve taken a step back and concentrate on other things. But still I think they are the greatest Norwegian pop (and rock) band ever.
L: Can you imagine writing a sequel to your novel… and maybe have some kind of a link in your story with my character Tatjana as well?
P: I have some plans for a second part, but Tatjanas appearance there is an idea I realize you are trying to smuggle into my head just in this moment. I think I will answer: No comments!
L: I thank you for your time and your honest answers. I have found our cooperation very exciting and it was really nice to work with you !
Tags: Fan Interviews, Pål Christiansen