• Kajsa Sagebrand

Interview: Josefine Hektor, being a young journalist and debut author

Name: Josefine Hektor Age: 23

Profession: Journalist and debut author

Location: Skövde, Sweden

Josefine, for those who do not know you, can you please describe yourself in 3 sentences. I would like to say that I'm an enthusiastic person who finds joy in ridiculously insignificant things. I've been accused of appearing older than I am as long as I can remember, which I hope is a way of saying that I seem grounded (and not aged...) Besides that; I'm an ambitious small-talker in her twenties who loves to write stories, meet people and check celebrities' height online.

Explain your perfect morning! Since I'm an evening person who refuses to sleep in, I would most likely wake up to my alarm somewhere between 8 and 9 am. It kind of stresses me if I don't make the most of my days, so I rather wake up early feeling knocked, than having my day ruined by being a slugabed. Then I would make myself some strong coffee and slow-cooked, scrambled eggs, eat it in front of the TV and then get rid of as many boring things on my to-do-list as possible. My perfect morning is simply doing as much as I can, with a sleepy pace and sense of calm (if that makes sense?) so the rest of the day can continue in the tailwind.

Who's your role model? As humans - my parents. Since I know them inside and out, I genuinely admire their strength and courage. Both of them got their university-degrees at the age of 50+, and it inspires me to see how enthusiastic they are about their work and how much they care for the people they meet in their profession. And as a writer and woman, I would choose Caitlin Moran. I really admire her way of describing things as they are, with down-to-earth metaphors and a lack of fear for what people think.

What is your all-time favorite song? I'm sorry, but that's simply not possible to answer for a person who has to check the menu BEFORE going to restaurants since I know my company will be annoyed by my struggle to make decisions. Last week it was" Betty Davies Eyes," now it's" The look of love," and next week, it will probably be some other catchy song from the 80s. It's ranging.

What would you say to your 15-year-old self? Trust your guts, (it will turn out being right most of the time), be a little bit kinder to yourself (you ́re way better than you think) and stop using chamomile shampoo immediately. (It won't make you blonde, your hair will literally just start falling off.)

First up, tell us about your book Sömmerskorna!

First of all, it's a classic crime novel and puzzle deck with two parallel stories intertwined. One of them takes place among the women at a sewing factory at the end of the 60s, an era when the whole textile industry was in a deep crisis, and a lot of those female workers were literally tossed away when the factories went under. At that breaking point, two seamstresses disappear without a trace, and that's the link to the present story where one of their bodies is being found. In that part, the readers get to follow my main character, who's violent, socially excluded, and problematic, a young woman who's struggling with almost every part of her life. She gets a temporary job as a cleaner at the same sewing factory, but fifty years later, and realizes that the history is stuck in the walls, and some people might know more about what happened to those seamstresses than they actually will admit.

How has your process been from starting to write to become an author? Has your mind always been set to become an author and create?

One should never underestimate the power of encouraging teachers. One old gentleman in primary school told me that I wasn't just good at writing. He said he thought I was really good. And from that moment, writing has always felt like my thing. A form of expression that I've been comfortable with that has carried me through so many phases, both good and bad, and in many ways, given me self-confidence. I started to write for the local newspaper as early as in 8th grade. When I got my first real full-time job as a journalist after my graduation, I immediately felt hooked by the enormous variety of stories that I came across, the puls of the present, and the playful possibility to formulate daily. Almost five years later, it's a passion that keeps growing, and therefore it wasn't that much of a choice to let my long-term book-project see the light of day. I've always had a love for crime novels and all kind of nordic noir, probably because I can't stand unexplained phenomena, so when I, at the age of 15, found this historical document about the textile crisis at the library, it attracted my inner longing to write a novel on my own. And from that moment, the manuscript has been my innermost secret and a certain part of my everyday life. It's just been something I've been working on while others solve sudoku or play tennis, so I wasn't really that focused on becoming an author until it was done, and I suddenly realized that I had done something that could please others.

What does it take to become an author and start your own company? How do you get in contact with a book publisher? Tell us about your journey!

The big challenge is really not how to write a book. It's to tell your self-criticism to be quiet, put your doubt aside and start seeing those couple of hundred pages of your own imagination as a product. I went to the library, wrote every single publisher with a book at the crime-shelf on a note, sent the manuscript to all of them, and then waited a couple of painfully slow months until Visto contacted me. The following months were a blur of proofreading and decision-making. The fact that I was prepared that it's a tough industry and that no one will ever market my book more wholeheartedly than I will, made it an easy choice to start my own company after a couple of months on the market. Sooner or later, most authors come to the point where it's necessary, and even if my publisher handles most of the distribution for me at the moment, I think it's comforting to be fully in charge and take care of my own economy.

What have you learned by being a young entrepreneur and owning your own brand and business?

I am still very much in the learning process, but beyond all the practical parts of creating something out of nothing, I think I've learned to be more patient. It might sound like a cliché, but it's a journey, and it's so easy to be frustrated when you've put a lot of effort into something, and then the turnout is out of your control. I was surprised when some magazines wanted to make interviews about the book months after it was released, which shows that one leads to the other and that a lot of opportunities come along the way.

You and I went to the same high school in Sweden five years ago. What has changed in your life since high school?

I think a lot of the externals are the same, but I've changed. For instance, I've backpacked in southeast Asia, interrailed in Europe, and traveled along the Australian east coast, and those months abroad really pushed me into new situations I ́d never thought I could manage. I've also been through some really challenging times with sickness and sorrow among my closest during these five years, but the toughest battle was, of course, surviving a brain tumor two years ago. It literally swept me off my feet and reset the time in many ways. Physically I've recovered and have no longer any after-effects, but it paused my life for a while, and when I look back at where I was in high school, I realize that I was way more fragile then. And since I've learned the hard way that it's impossible to know what's to come, I think I've become more of a doer.

Today, five years later, are you in a place you thought you would be, and what were you dreaming about for the future? Have your dreams and vision changed?

I would say that my direction is the same. I was determined to work as a journalist, even if I thought I would have to get a proper degree to get a full-time job. I'm still planning to study at some point, but I'm very lucky to be where I am, to learn from my colleagues, and getting valuable experience. And when it comes to my writing, I think I've redefined my goals since the book was released. Suddenly I see it as the first of many, instead of one isolated project. So I'm still heading in the same direction, but I'm" hungry" in a more present and realistic way.

Where do you find peace and time for writing, and where do you find inspiration? When and where do you write as best?

I don't have any requirements, and actually, I think that's the main reason why I finished the book. I see my writing as a sort of workout. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how I'm dressed or where I do those terrible burpees, as long as I do them. Because that glimpse of inspiration rarely happens in the late evening when I do most of my writing. I often come across ideas or thoughts in completely different situations. I save them as notes on my phone, so I don't have to wait for them to pop up at the right time. It can be the body language of someone on the bus, clever lyrics, or just some moody clouds. I'm like a dishcloth, and subconsciously these detached thoughts grow together and become an idea worth a chapter. Then it's all about gluing my ass to the chair.

The ongoing pandemic has affected everyone worldwide in different ways. How has it affected your writing? Has it given you more time to create or problems by publishing your book?

It's double because, in one way, it's perfect for releasing a book when most people are spending more time at home than they usually do. On the other hand, it kind of ruined my schedule totally. After I dropped the book in August, the plan was to visit several libraries, as well as book-circles and bookshops to promote it. But for certain reasons, everything got canceled, and in this new reality where every author is competing about the same space at the digital platforms, it's hard to reach out. At the same time, it's enormously thrilling to watch the book make its way from the couch as well. I wish the pandemic had given me more time to write on my second book, and in theory, it should have, but I'm lucky to have a job that's pretty much the same despite these strange circumstances. Also, I think I was hit by some sort of light post-book-birth-depression this fall. After eight years of hard work, all there was left was a simple book. It's weird to describe, but the doorstep to start writing again was somehow higher after the book was released, but luckily I'm past that stage now.

What is your vision for being an author and a journalist? What makes you want to create and write, what does it give you personally?

For me, it's a combination of the unconditional love of stories and a never-ending stream of ideas that motivates me. I can't stand the thought of not using them for anything concrete, and I also realize that if I'm not speaking the minds of my characters, no one else will either. I think it's pretty much the same when it comes to my job as a journalist. It's a privilege to be said something, to be trusted with someone's story, and I see it as my duty to tell others about it.

Looking back when you started the process of publishing your book and creating your company, what are your biggest learnings, and what would your best tips be?

Accept and move on, respect that everything requires a big effort when you do it for the first time. Every struggle is a possibility to learn, and it always pays off later on. Being in the process of writing the follow-up to" Sömmerskorna," it seems very clear to me that I'm now avoiding those beginner's mistakes because I've already been there and done that. So that's my best tip; embrace your side-steps.

Thank you so much for taking your time! Where can we find more about you and your book?

Thank YOU for having me! You can always find out more about my book" Sömmerskorna" at josefinehektor.com and my journey towards the second book (fingers crossed) on Instagram, @josefinehektor.