Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Why Cecilia Ekbäck had to sleep with the lights on while writing The Midnight Sun

The author of The Midnight Sun answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Cecilia Ekbäck is the author of The Midnight Sun. (

A Nordic noir set in 1855, Cecilia Ekbäck's new book The Midnight Sun tells the story of a brutal mass murder in Sweden's Lapland mountains and the unlikely duo tasked with figuring out what happened.

Below, Cecilia Ekbäck answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A. 

1. Jalal Barzanji asks, "How did you feel when you finished your most recent book?"

Completely empty. I said "I should celebrate," and then didn't. I sort of just walked about in a daze. I had given it my all and I was spent. It took a few weeks before the joy came.

2. Russell Smith asks, "Have you ever confronted a snarky critic?"

No. When my first book was published I read all the reviews, but I stopped. I find the "noise" that come with reviews — both good and bad — is not helpful for writing and I really don't want to get caught in that space. I want it to be between me and the story. Nothing else. Nobody else.

3. Alan Bradley asks, "Does the act of writing ever have a physical effect on you? If so, describe it."

Yes. I find the act of writing quite draining and I come to a place every day where I hate every.single.word.I.type. That is the time, for me, to stop and go for a walk.

4. Lori Lansens asks, "If you could have dinner with one of your literary heroes, living or dead, who would it be? Where would you eat? What, besides books, would you talk about?"

I'd like to have dinner with Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound (they were friends so I choose two!) in Paris, somewhere in the Latin Quarter. I'd have a thousand questions to ask them: about their experiences, their lives, their writing, but hopefully I'd be wise enough to just sit and listen to whatever they talked about. Then, after dinner, I'd like to walk along the Seine and see Paris through their eyes.

5. Nazneen Sheikh asks, "Have you ever been frightened by what you write? How and why?"

Yes, writing The Midnight Sun, I frightened myself to the extent that I had to sleep with the lights on for more than two weeks. There was this character that took to evil in a way I hadn't expected him to. Until then I had assumed he was good. I wasn't quite sure what he would do next and he felt very real...

6. Dominique Fortier asks, "Can you remember the first book that made you want to write?"

The Bible. I grew up in a very religious environment and I read the Bible a lot. I was an Old Testament girl. Nothing is quite as cruel and scary and exciting as the stories in the Old Testament. My first published short story was an extension of one of the stories in the Bible.

7. Ausma Zehanat Khan asks, "If you write a particularly desirable character in your books, is that character based on a personal attraction you once had? Do you have a type that you think is most attractive to yourself or to readers?"

Once, yes. I had an idea of a character but couldn't quite get him right and then I remembered someone in my past (who never became more than a friend, but whom I did find very attractive) and I thought: yes, that is him. Part of his attraction, and the character's, was that he was unattainable. Otherwise, I don't really have types. The characters become who they need to be to tell the story.

8. Eden Robinson asks, "What was your worst and/or best experiences at readings?"

So far every reading has been a fantastically positive experience. As I am absolutely terrified beforehand — and I mean terrified-to-death — as long as I can open my mouth at the reading and say something that makes sense, I am swooning afterwards.


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