"I base my writing around an ethical conflict. A novel takes many years to write, to keep myself intrigued for such a long time, I need to whirl around a problem, a moral dilemma, an existential question, I enjoy dwelling on it, delving into it. Seeing all the films about it, spending hours in libraries immersing myself and ultimately visiting the places I will be writing about. To shape my characters I pretend to be an actress. As someone once said: I have tasted from all the bottles in the bar but haven’t yet experienced that particular cocktail.
If I cant feel what my protagonists feel it wont come across as authentic. Therefore I can truly say that writing is my passion. It is as painful as it is wonderful.
Conventional jobs are fairly straightforward - a doctor heals, a lawyer strives for justice, a teacher educates and nurtures. Only writers and artists are free to ask questions without the responsibility of having to deliver answers. I am not looking for answers, I am fascinated by human ambivalence. I want to explore prejudices and taboos. It is seldom uncontroversial.
For instance one of the questions I pose in my novel All I Want, which is set in Ireland, is 'What do we need fathers for?' In my novel The Island, set on the pacific island of Pitcairn, I ask, 'Whom does paradise belong to? Who is entitled to impose their values on others?' In Roll Up! Roll Up! which revolves around the freak shows of the 1930s, I ask 'who do we feel obliged to exclude when we try to construct utopias?'
I currently live in Berlin. A city full of moral dilemmas. The recent past is still very present. Questions of guilt and shame, responsibility and the avoidance thereof and other related universal themes are never far below the surface. It is a most inspiring stop along my journey.
We look for quick fixes to eliminate pain, I believe life has to contain pain. The arts are a way of discovering our destructive potential as well as a cry for beauty and love. Some say that literature is an escape, a seduction or a place of comfort. For me it is a greenhouse in which I am growing.
Maybe fantasy is the key to empathy. Or is empathy the key to fantasy?
This is what the humanities are all about. To briefly experience the life of somebody else. This is what I try to provide through my writing."
Lotta Lundberg (b. 1961) has a degree in Political Science, writes a regular column for a Swedish daily (Svenska Dagbladet) and teaches creative writing.
During the cold war she worked as a tour guide behind the iron curtain. She has been tending a bar in Key Largo and in Limerick and was the chairwoman of the Womens Crises Centre in Uppsala.