By Matthew John

Katarina West (author of Witchcraft Couture), studied at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London and the European University Institute in Florence, where she completed a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, Agents of Altruism. During those student years she started work as a journalist, and continued writing for various Finnish magazines and newspapers, writing on various topics from current events and humanitarian issues to celebrity interviews and short stories.

I had the great pleasure to interview the humorous and talented Katarina West, a week before her book launch tour for “Absolute Truth For Beginners” (which is from 6th – 31st of December, 2015).

Matthew John: Where did the original idea to write “Absolute Truth for Beginners” come from?
Katarina: The idea for this novel came so gradually and slowly that it is hard to say when the initial idea came, and how and why. Suffice it to say that it was Judith’s scientific work that was the inspiration for this story. For a long period I collected material on time – whether in physics, or philosophy, or just the history of clock-making. I knew I wanted to write something on the subject. But I didn’t know what it was. The characters came only later.

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Matthew: Who are your favourite writers and which writers have influenced you?
Katarina: It’s a tricky question, that of favourite authors, because the list is so long, and I’m always afraid that I’ll leave something out. Especially as I’m nearly omnivorous when it comes to reading. As for an author who has influenced me, if I had to choose one name, that would have to be Dostoyevsky. I read his Notes From Underground when I was sixteen. I read it several times in a period of four, five days, first in a haste and then slowly, underlining sentences, tasting each word. I had never read a book like that before. It was like falling in love. Later on I searched for a book that would have the same effect on me. In vain, unfortunately. Even Dostoyevsky’s more famous novels didn’t have that impact on me.

Matthew: What was the most surprising aspect or thing you have learnt while writing “Absolute Truth For Beginners” ?
Katarina: Maybe it was the way in which this novel transformed itself into a love story. It was something unplanned and spontaneous: Elisa and Judith’s affair was supposed to be just one of the many stories within this novel, but surprisingly, it took precedence over everything else, and became the heart of the story. It was as if this novel had a will and voice of its own, and it wanted to make that voice heard.

Katarina West - Absolute Truth, For Beginners
Matthew: The book focuses on subjects of science, mathematics and the TV industry. I know you have a PHD in science. How much of the content comes from your own knowledge? Or, if not what kind of research went into the writing process?
Katarina: Actually, I have a doctorate in social sciences, so I really am an ignoramus when it comes to mathematics and theoretical physics, especially to the kind of cutting-edge mathematics that is described in the novel. It started off as an intimidating experience, as I constructed Judith’s scientific theory and professional profile on my own, making tons of mistakes, and going astray almost continuously. Luckily I cooperated with a mathematician in the final stages of editing – and that, frankly, was one of the most fascinating aspects of the entire creative process. It was so intriguing to talk about my characters with a scientist who saw the world from such a different point of view. I’m a liberal arts person through and through, and hopeless with numbers.

Matthew: Your lead character is a lesbian. However you are married with kids, so presuming heterosexual. Why did you decide to create her as a lesbian? Was the sexuality of the character pivotal to the storyline?
Katarina: It’s funny that you say that, because actually even now, after completing this novel, I’m not quite sure if Elisa, my main character, was lesbian or not. She fell in love, madly and desperately, with an older woman, and this relationship changed her life. But when the novel ends Elisa is at a crossroads again, and she must choose. The novel won’t tell you what she will choose – it’s up to you to decide. I wanted to have it that way, because one big element of this novel was the coming-of-age story, that of searching for your identity and Life’s Big Truths; of becoming who you really are. Hence the title, Absolute Truth, For Beginners.

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Matthew: Most writers/artists, bring a part of themselves into their characters and stories. What aspect of you as a person is in the book?
Katarina: Several of them have something of me. Elisa is an insecure person, and she’s always putting herself down, and this excessive self-criticism is something I used to have too. It was something, in fact, that led me to write my debut novel, Witchcraft Couture. During the story she loses her earlier enthusiasm and passion to do academic research, and I went through a similar kind of crisis when I was writing my PhD. As a parent, I can identify with Auntie Fanny’s (who is Elisa’s aunt, but also her adoptive mother) worry that she hasn’t been good enough. Being a parent means that you’ve always got that nagging feeling, that you haven’t done enough, or you have done too much, or you’ve done the wrong things.

Matthew: There are many iconic writers of lesbian literature from Sarah Waters to Rita Mae Brown. Do you have any favourite lesbian authors or books and why?
Katarina: I love Sarah Waters – she’s definitely on the list of my all-time favourite writers. But can I confess something to you? I wrote Elisa and Judith’s love affair without ever having read a Lesbian love story. And I think that that was the reason why writing it was so weirdly spontaneous and easy. Because I didn’t have any literary examples in my head, the way I might have had, had I written a heterosexual love story. So I really had to forge a path of my own, and say what I had to say, without caring who was listening. And that’s why writing this book was such an intense experience to me, and I enjoyed it so much. When Absolute Truth, For Beginners was finished I realised to my surprise that 2015 is the year of Lesbian love stories, because there’s Freeheld with Julianne Moore, and Carol with Cate Blanchett is just coming out, and here in Italy, where I live, two of the country’s most famous actresses are starring in a Lesbian love story called Io e Lei (Me and Her). So it seems like there is something in the air. Excited by this, I downloaded Patricia Highsmith’s Carol (or The Price of Salt, as the book version is called). And the story was so beautifully written. It just took my breath away. But I’m glad I didn’t read it while I was writing Absolute Truth.

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Matthew: Only days away a teenager was suspended from a school for wearing a T-shirt stating “No-one knows I’m a lesbian”. You are not only a novelist of a lesbian novel, but also a mother. Does your son’s school teach LGBT literature or provide education in the LGBT communities? And if not, how does this make you feel? And what age do you think children should be taught these types of issues?
Katarina: That is very sad. Going back to Patricia Highsmith and Carol, which was written in the 1950s, it is disheartening to realise that people, especially young people, have to be afraid to express their sexual identity. As I said, I live in Italy, but I was born and raised in Finland, which is different from Italy with its Catholic heritage. Living here as a foreigner isn’t always easy, but it’s also enriching, because you’re forced to understand and respect values that aren’t your own. What’s more, if there is something I would want to teach to my son, it’s that kind of tolerance. It really doesn’t matter what he will believe in or do in his life, as long as he tolerates other people – and especially those who don’t share his beliefs, or live the way he does. Now how do you teach such tolerance? One of the best ways is just trying to be a good example. By being sincere, and living the life you were supposed to live, and yeah… writing the books that come from your heart.

As for the age for talking about these issues. I think each child has his or her own pace, and as a parent you should respect that. But obviously, I’m replying to this as a mother, and not as a – say – a teacher.

Matthew: What book do you wish you had written, and why?
Katarina: No, honestly, I’m glad I wrote the novels I wrote. This is about my journey as a novelist, and on this journey, there’s only one path to walk.

Matthew: What’s next? Are you planning or writing anything at the moment?
Katarina: Yes, I’m writing my next novel. It’s closer to magical realism, the genre of my debut novel, and it tells a story about angels and destiny and having it all – in your second life. Entitled The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice, it’s coming out in December 2016.

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Katarina is giving away 10 Amazon eBook copies of Absolute Truth, For Beginners via Rafflecopter. The giveaway starts on 6th December and ends on 31th December, 2015, and the only entry requirement to all participants is to visit her Facebook fan page at:

Click on the link below:
Raffle Copter

For more details check out Katarina’s Social Media and Other Links

Goodreads Author Page Author Page
Absolute Truth, For Beginners Page
Absolute Truth, For Beginners Page

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