Jessica Jarlvi talks about her debut novel, When I Wake Up, which is set in Sweden.
1. Can you tell us about your book, When I Wake Up?
Anna, a caring and popular teacher and mother, is beaten and left to die in a parking lot. She had no apparent enemies, so what could have happened for someone to want to hurt her? Secrets are exposed in the small Swedish town but does anyone really have the answer, other than Anna herself?
2. Where did you get the inspiration for the novel?
I grew up with parents who worked in the educational system and could always tell how much they really cared about their students. That’s how Anna became a caring teacher who goes above and beyond. I also wanted to portray a woman who tries to be everything to everyone: she wants the world to be a better place but forgets about her own needs along the way. When she finally does what’s not expected, her world comes crashing down.
3. Did you do any specific research for the book?
I spoke to a great number of people, including teachers, the police, doctors, librarians of small-town libraries etc, and I also discussed intimacy and relationships with friends and their acquaintances who at times felt rather uncomfortable!
4. Do you see yourself in any of the characters in your novel?
This is a tricky one. My characters are all making choices that I haven’t made in life, but sometimes you borrow an emotion from your own life when writing.
5. Was there a particular part of the novel that was really difficult to write for you?
The violence of Anna’s attack. I’m very much a ‘make love, not war’ kind of person.
6. What does your average writing day look like?
I juggle my writing with a marketing job and being a mother of three children, so no day is the same. My writing either takes place very early in the morning, but most likely late at night when the children are sleeping, or when I can grab a few hours on the weekend. I have learnt to be very efficient with my time.
7. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
Like most authors, I have been writing for years but I used to write in my mother tongue, Swedish, until my husband asked me to write something he could actually read! That’s how this book started, my first novel in English.
8. What’s one of the most exciting things that has happened to you since you became a writer?
To be surrounded by a publishing team that is incredibly supportive and appreciates your work is very rewarding. The most exciting event has definitely been to be invited as an author to the Emirates Festival of Literature where I was one of the Montegrappa First Fiction winners, an event that was a catalyst to my book being published.
9. What is a great book you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – everyone should read this book. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica was also superb – a page-turner.
10. What’s next for you?
I’m busy writing my second book, which is also set in Sweden: about a mother and a father hunting for their daughter who they claim is a murderer, but is she?
A breathtaking, heart-pounding, dark debut.
When Anna, a much-loved teacher and mother of two, is left savagely beaten and in a coma, a police investigation is launched. News of the attack sends shock waves through her family and their small Swedish community. Anna seems to have had no enemies, so who wanted her dead?
As loved-ones wait anxiously by her bedside, her husband Erik is determined to get to the bottom of the attack, and soon begins uncovering his wife’s secret life, and a small town riven with desire, betrayal and jealousy.
As the list of suspects grows longer, it soon becomes clear that only one person can reveal the truth, and she’s lying silent in a hospital bed…
Jessica Jarlvi was born in Sweden,and moved to London at the age of 18 to obtain a BSc Hons degree in Publishing and Business. She completed a Masters in Creative Writing in Sweden. Since 2010, Jessica has taught journalism and media, and spent the last five years as the marketing and PR manager for a British firm. Jessica is married with three spirited children.