‘Nobody has ever written a book this way’: Bodø2024 launches a unique book project
Bodø European Capital of Culture 2024 has just commissioned Scottish author Stef Penney to write a book set in Nordland, Northern Norway. But Penney won’t be setting foot in the country. She will, however, get help along the way.
Stef Penney is a famous Scottish author – her books have been translated into 30 languages. In 2006, she won the ‘Costa Book of the Year’, one of the UK’s most prestigious literature awards, for her novel ‘The Tenderness of Wolves’.
The plot is set in Canada at the end of the 19th century, and the novel received fantastic reviews among critics when it was published. It was also a great success among the public, selling over 360,000 copies worldwide.
Penney received much praise for her landscape descriptions and her ability to create atmosphere. This despite the fact that the author suffers from agoraphobia (fear of leaving home), and it became known afterwards that she had never been to Canada. She had instead done all the research for the book from libraries in London!
Nordland as a backdrop for a new international bestseller?
‘In connection with Bodø2024, we wanted to get a foreign author to write a book about Nordland with a strong sense of place, as well as start a literature project that describes us “from outside”. The choice naturally fell on Stef Penney, who agreed to write a book where the action takes place in Nordland – without travelling there, precisely because of her agoraphobia’, explains Henrik Sand Dagfinrud, Program Director for Bodø2024.
But …. this time Stef Penney will get help during the process – from people in Nordland!
Anybody can contribute to the content of the book
People taking part in this project will be able to tip Stef Penney about people, places, events and much more – in fact anything they could imagine described in the book.
Maybe someone’s great-grand mother can become a central character in the book. Or maybe their old summer house by the sea will become the backdrop for an important event in the book. Here, known and unknown local stories can be told to a large international audience. Will the theme eventually be an adventure from the Space Center on Andøya Island in Vesterålen? A historical story from the Sami community on Hamarøy? Crime at one of the Norwegian Hikers Association’s cabins in Nordland? A love story from 1960s Bodø? Maybe we’ll get a hero who has a slight weakness for stockfish, or one who wears a Glimt-football suit?
We don’t know. Anything is possible.
‘When the idea first came up, I thought, no way! The prospect of writing to a deadline, and of sharing any part of my (messy, unfathomable) writing process were both, initially, terrifying. But something about it wouldn’t let me go…The idea of people in another place coming up with their own stories and experiences is different and refreshing’, says Stef Penney.
A world’s first
This is the first time ever a book will be written that way. So there is no right way to go about it, and we do not know exactly what to expect. Here, the process is as exciting as the result. And we expect a lot of interest in the project – also internationally.
Quercus Books in London, part of Hodder & Stoughton, one of the largest publishing groups in the UK, has already agreed to publish the English edition at the beginning of 2024, and the book will be translated into Norwegian during 2024. Everyone who contributes to the project will be credited in the book when it comes out.
For more information, photos or to arrange an interview with Stef Penney, please contact:
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