The story of how Simon Linter ended up in Sweden sounds a bit like a novel in its own right.
“I'm what they call a love refugee. There was this band, Puressence, which I was really into. I needed help downloading some of their files on Napster and got chatting to a girl who lived in Amsterdam. After a while she said 'hey, you should really meet this Swedish friend of mine'.”
“That friend is now my wife,” he smiles.
After this unusual twist on internet dating, the Northampton-born Briton packed his bags and headed for Gothenburg in 2003. Today, he and his wife live in Stockholm, where he has just released his novel, 'Let Go', which he is presenting at the English Bookshop on the Södermalm island on April 10th.
“I don't want to give too much away, but it's about a CEO telling his story of how he rose to the top. He wants to write a tale of inspiration, but starts to remember things he probably shouldn't remember. I've worked for a lot of corporations. The bigger they get the more egotistical they get and the less they care about their employees,” says Linter.
He got into writing an an early age, describing how his first attempt at writing a novel came when he was 17 years old, on an old metal typewriter he had bought from his neighbour for £20.
“I then tried to turn it into a screenplay. I thought, if Tarantino could do it, so can I. You have to realize that all these celebrities started somewhere – Quentin Tarantino started out working in a video store – and if you've got a passion for something, go for it and see where it takes you.”
It did not lead anywhere at first for Linter, despite a couple of contacts with filmmakers. But when he moved to Stockholm he joined a creative writing course at adult education centre Folkuniversitetet, where he decided to dust off his work and turn the screenplay back into a novel.
“We had been told to write a chapter for the course. But then my classmates liked it and kept asking me 'what's going to happen next?' and I thought 'well, I guess I'm just going to have to finish the damn thing'.”
It became 'Making Headlines', Linter's first self-published work of fiction. He is refreshingly self-critical for an author, saying there are plenty of words he would change and sentences he would write in a different way today. But to him, the learning process is in many ways part of the creative work.
“There's a fine line there. There's a certain level of quality a story has to have. But there's a lot of self-published stuff that's not great but gets a lot of readers – take '50 Shades of Grey',” he says.
“Even the first Harry Potter book is not very good in terms of grammar, but JK Rowling was a single mum writing in cafes and struggling with money at the time. And again, if JK Rowling could do it, anyone can.”
However, in his role as a freelance editor and English proofreader, Linter admits he sometimes has to read and correct texts of “varying” quality, as he diplomatically puts it.
“I got sent one by a Russian author that was so bad, the grammar, spelling, everything. I couldn't even understand what it meant, so I sent it back to the publishers and said there was nothing I could do.”
Again, he does not want to discourage anyone from trying and emphasizes that flaws are not inherently bad. To prove his point, readers who buy his newest novel from the English Bookshop also get a copy of 'Think Inside The Box', a collection of short stories that were all written as part of creative writing classes.
“Hey, I took my driving test five times, it's an achievement in itself. (…) I want to put stuff out there, the stories might not be perfect, but it's more of an author in progress. I want people to pick it up and maybe find faults with it.”
Simon Linter's novels and other projects. Photo: The Local
Linter, who has also written 'How I learnt to stop missing England and love the herring, or, a decade in Sweden' about his time in Sweden, usually finds his creative material in the surreal aspects of daily life.
He says he still often turns to his childhood hero, British-Norwegian children's author Roald Dahl, known for his dark humour and unexpected twists, for inspiration.
“I like to blow things out of proportion, but within social realism. Stories that could happen, but may not happen exactly that way. You know, I actually saw Dahl once, when I was eight years old, in Boots – the UK chemist. I was too shy to go up and say hello. Do I still regret that? Damn right!”
But if there is one area Linter refuses to stray into, it's Sweden's beloved Nordic Noir.
“Camilla Läckberg seems nice enough, I've met her and I tried to read 'Olycksfågeln' ['The Gallows Bird'] while I was learning Swedish,” he says about one of Sweden's most famous crime writers.
“But why bother, there are already so many detective novels out there, I don't want to be another one.”
His next plan is to do a masters degree in creative writing at Stockholm University, while working on a range of writing and musical projects on the side. But he has no intention of leaving Sweden any time soon.
“I don't like UK politics at the moment, there are too many negatives, and I'm worried about what would happen if it left the EU. And I honestly think I would miss Sweden too much if I left. There's less of a 'the winner takes it all' mentality here, I like that.”