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You always publish your books in Norway first, why is that?
Because Norway is my best market. It’s where I have my most enthusiastic readers and we’ve established a really great bond of trust over the years, so I’m very happy about that.
Do you get contacted by a lot of Norwegian readers?
I do! Especially when I’m in the midst of writing, I tend to disappear from the social media for a while, but when I’m coming back out again I reconnect with readers and they give me a lot of encouragement and enthusiasm.
But they seem to understand that I have to come and go from the social media.
How long did it take you to write Beauty for Ashes?
Well the whole research is such a big piece of it. So when you look at the research, the writing and the rewriting, it’s been almost two years.
That is a while. Were you sad to finish it, or was it a bit of a relief?
It was a bit of both. I do get very involved with the characters and I become very attached to them and I’m sad to see them go, but in a way they never leave. They’re always a part of me. But then there’s also the excitement of sharing it, getting the feedback. The editorial process too. There’s a lot of people involved in shaping it.
It’s a road. It’s a journey. It’s a team journey. A lot of people involved.
I actually like the process.
You used to work as a psychotherapist. How does that affect your writing?
In very profound ways, because I don’t think it would’ve ever occurred to me to become a writer if I hadn’t been a therapist first. For many years I was immersed by incredible stories, real life stories, and that’s what therapy is really; people needing to tell their stories and wanting to be heard and understood. It’s such an important part of the process. It just kind of evolved organically. I didn’t always dream of being a writer it just kind of grew on me over the years. It got to a point where I couldn’t not look at it. It was staring me in the face and it came to a point where I just had to do it, or I would feel a sense of defeat for the rest of my life.
Almost like a calling?
Yeah! It was like it came to me! It was like a little voice that just grew louder and louder and louder until it was impossible to ignore.
Do you ever miss your old job as a therapist?
I do sometimes, but I do feel that the writing is an extension of the old job in a way. It’s still using the same aspect of me. I want my books to be more than just a good read. I want them to be more than just fun and interesting. I want them to have a therapeutic aspect. I really do want my stories to encourage readers to ask questions about their life, their purpose and what’s happening in the world. Questions “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”.
I heard that you get up at 4.30am every morning to write.
Not as early all the time now, but usually around 5am.
That’s still pretty early! Do you have a specific morning routine?
I just need two cups of coffee and some quiet, and at that hour you can find it pretty easily. I have a dog. I take him for a walk and then he typically sits right at my feet while I write. If it’s cold, a blanket. I have three or four places in my home that I like to write, depending on what time of the year and where the light comes in. And I think that’s about it.
Do you do all of your writing at home?
I do all of the actual sitting at the keyboard at home, but I think a lot and reflect a lot. I get a lot of ideas when I’m out and about.
Did you have to travel a lot for your research for this book?
No, I didn’t travel. I did it all online, through videos and meeting some people. I never had to leave home.
You chose to have the story set in Las Vegas. Do you have a personal connection to the place?
I live very near to Las Vegas and I’ve been to Las Vegas many, many times so I know it. There’s that. But it also is one of the hubs for human trafficking. Las Vegas is one of the places where a lot of people end up. So it did just seem like a natural place to set the story.
But this kind of thing is happening everywhere. It’s happening in Norway as well. And that was one of the things that really struck me while working on this, that there’s really no place that isn’t somewhat affected by this. In a way there’s probably more slaves now than it’s ever been in the history of humanity.
Was it a tough process?
Yes, it was really difficult. I had to challenge myself, because there’s really no way of telling these stories without including some graphic scenes. That is not what I do or what I enjoy in terms of my own reading or entertainment. But it had to be there for it to be real. To tell the story right. So I did include it, but I think I didn’t overdo it.
Do you talk to your characters?
Yeah, sure! And they talk to me. Absolutely! I think they’re all psychologically projections of me. It has to be. I don’t think that’s just me, I think it’s like that for all authors. They have to dive into themselves to give the characters a story, a voice and a shape.
Final question; What are you going to miss most about Norway when you go back home?
Now that’s a tough one! I think it’ll have to be the people. The inspiration that I get from meeting my readers here. The sincere thanks and the excitement. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.
You should get a proper Norwegian cabin so you can take your vacations here.
Oh I would’ve loved it! I’ve seen some of the cabins and they are idyllic. It seems like a great place to write, while maybe overlooking the fjords.
Cecilia Samartin and her agency are now in the process of getting Beauty for Ashes published in other countries.
I can’t wait to read and review this book, and I wish Cecilia all the best of luck!