Love, Social Media & Southern Propriety: An Interview with Author Majken Selinder Nilsson
It’s February, the month of love! Well, every month should be the month of love in my opinion, and our guest featured in today’s blog probably agrees with me! I’m excited to talk about love with romance novel author Majken Selinder Nilsson. Majken (pronounced My-ken) is the author of A Good Kind of Crazy from Solstice Publishing which was released in October.
The e-book version of A Good Kind of Crazy will be FREE February 13th through the 15th in honor of Valentine’s Day!
Everyday First Class: Majken, I admit that I am not an avid romance novel reader, but I found your book captivating. Your characters are so realistic I literally feel like I could run into them at the grocery store. One aspect I really enjoyed was the wide range of relationships that were part of your story. You covered love in the traditional romantic sense, love between a mother and children, love between friends and even growing to love one’s own self. Which of these did you find most challenging to write about and what aspects from your real life did you draw on to keep it so authentic?
Majken Selinder Nilsson: Thank you! I have to admit that when I finished writing A Good Kind of Crazy I genuinely struggled with loss of these characters and felt like I was mourning them. Kat, Ian, Jen, and Lydia became alive to me; I knew their inner most thoughts and emotions so well that they felt like real people.
As for writing about love in its various forms, I would have to say that I didn’t find any of that particularly challenging. I suppose this is because I have been very lucky in my life to have had (mostly) positive experiences with the many forms of love that I wrote about in A Good Kind of Crazy, so it was easy to draw from that. My upbringing was “normal” with loving parents, I have been blessed with many loving friends throughout my life, my husband and I have been married for almost twenty-two years, and my four children are easy to love and make mothering a pleasure.
That being said, I would say that love relationship I had to work hardest to write in the book was the one between Kat and her brothers. I have one older sister with whom I have never been close, and I don’t have any brothers. So, for those relationships, I drew on my friends’ and husband’s experiences with their brothers and sisters, and combined them with what I would like a sibling relationship to be.
I believe love is the greatest of the human emotions. It can drive us to do and be better than we ever imagined. It can also cause us the worst kind of despair. Love comes in so many different forms, from romantic love, to the love of our fellow human beings. For me, one of the best manifestations of love is to serve one another. I have been blessed with many opportunities to both lovingly serve and be served. I believe that if we do it right, we learn from our experiences, and are then put into positions to help those who need it.
EFC: Your story is based in the south, where we live in the Atlanta area. Traditional southern propriety was a frequent theme in A Good Kind of Crazy, especially when it comes to when and how romantic love can be expressed. Do you think these traditions are still alive and well in the south moving into the current generation of young people? If not, should they be?
MSN: I do think that Southern propriety is still prevalent within the culture here, but also I feel that it is lessening with each generation.
As I have a BS in geography, and perhaps because I am a Western transplant, I have found the social norms here in the South especially fascinating. Some of that intrigue may also be stem from the fact that I come from a state that tends to have a fairly transient population and has a municipality nicknamed “Sin City”, but the South has given me the impression of being one of the last bastions of social and familial decorum. I have observed that people here whose family trees are well-anchored in red clay tend to have close relationships and wide-reaching community ties, and the culture appears to be much more driven by behavioral expectations than from where I hail. Because of my educational background, I have wondered if this is due to the fact that the population of the South didn’t really explode until about a generation ago; before that, the majority of people who lived here had done so for generations and everyone knew everyone else.
I think that the South also has a long tradition of the church being a primary focus of families and communities. I have observed that people speak more freely here about their relationship with God outside of church. When we first moved here, another transplant friend laughingly said, “Welcome to Georgia. You will forever be asked what college football team you support and what church you attend!” and I have found that she, for the most part, was correct. Where I came from, we of course also have churchgoers, but it tends to be much more compartmentalized and private: where one attends is generally not one of the first questions people are asked when meeting someone.
I believe that this combination of a long history of community ties coupled with strong moral and social values that are highly influenced by religion is the very definition of Southern propriety. However, I feel that it is being lessened as more transplants come in, inadvertently disrupting the traditional milieu of generations-long community relationships as they bring with them different religious beliefs and cultural standards. Of course, with the advent of social media, youth today have the ability to branch outside their immediate geographical area without ever leaving home, as well, and I think the influx of both people and social media influence are watering down Southern culture, at least in the larger cities.
EFC: In the main romantic theme in your book the two characters really fall in love with each other’s hearts by getting to know each other very personally. This takes place in a remote location. Do you think that people looking for love today are burdened by how busy our lives are and how often superficially we present ourselves on social media, etc.? Do you think stripping all that away helps people get closer faster or is it more authentic if we can make those connections despite the many distractions of regular life?
MSN: I am definitely old school, but think that there is absolutely a social divide today, despite the fact that we are supposed to be so much more connected than ever before, thanks to social media. But, social media doesn’t just tend to show the “highlights” of one’s life and gloss over the more day-to-day mundane and unpleasant, it is also (spoken with personal experience here) a gigantic time sucker. While we perhaps think we are busier now than ever before in history, the truth is that we have done the majority of it to ourselves. Life today has become about time- saving and productivity, but relationships are messy; people and deeply personal connections with them are not conducive to efficacy. Before social media, people would take the time to go out and mingle with others; now, we isolate ourselves in our bubbles, adhering to our schedules from safely behind our screens, and only think we are connecting.
I feel somewhat sorry for the generations who have come after mine, as they are missing out on so much of the personality of those with whom they interact on social media as opposed to in person. Superficiality, as you stated, is a major problem, but even more than that, there is so much to be said for the subtly in facial expression, tone of voice, and body language that can’t be conveyed through a screen. I think this is a large part of why, while we have more “friends” than ever, we are feeling lonelier than ever before.
Kat and Ian’s relationship flourished so well and so quickly because in a modern world of controlled contact, they were instead thrown together, forcing them to interact. As Jen said, the set of Western Skies was unlike those in Los Angeles, where people would come to work, then escape to their normal lives at the end of every day. The togetherness of being in a remote setting made repeated interaction unavoidable and broke down the barriers and behaviors of the outside world that can impede intimacy. Being obligated by circumstances to continually interact with each other actually became Ian’s redemption, as he was quite a pompous ass in during his and Kat’s first meeting. I can’t help thinking that if their encounters were instead online that Kat would have simply dismissed him as a jerk, then blocked him.
EFC: One of my favorite parts of reading any type of fiction is seeing the growth of the main character. In your book, Kat Anderson experiences a pretty significant change and seems to have really grown to value and love herself in the process. Have you experienced a change like this in your life or did you feel that you personally changed as you helped Kat grow through your writing?
MSN: I believe that as women, we can all recognize ourselves in Kat: we try so hard to be the nurtures, the peacemakers. We tend to worry about everything we do because we are more concerned with what others’ think, or disrupting others, than our own well-being. It certainly doesn’t help either that other women tend to be our worst critics. The character Ashley, Kat’s nemesis, is a manifestation of all the backhanded ways women cut down other women, instead of building them up.
I think my favorite part of being over forty is that for the first time in my life, I am comfortable with who I am. I finally accept and like the person I have become on this journey through life and am proud of my accomplishments. However, like Kat, I have certainly spent more than my fair share of time putting myself on the backburner, and have felt a strange combination of guilt and failure whenever my needs took precedence over someone else’s. Writing Kat’s story helped me realize, though, that no one will die if I take some “me time”, and that in order to be a better wife, mother, daughter, friend, etc., I need to care for myself.
There were many times I saw my own life mimicking Kat’s while writing. Being a middle-aged mother, I certainly can relate to the too-quiet house during the day, and am already worried about what I will do with myself when my kids have left to start their own lives. I think it can be unnerving for many women to be faced with having to become reacquainted with themselves after so many years of being everything to everyone else. I also came to terms with that it is easy to fall victim to the idea that our purpose is essentially over once our children are adults, unless we allow ourselves the opportunity to seek our own happiness.
While writing A Good Kind of Crazy, I was forced to confront these feelings, some of them I didn’t even realize I had, much sooner than I otherwise would have, as I still have a good way to go before my youngest of four is ready to move out. But, for many women my age, who started their families earlier than I did, Kat’s experience could be a very real scenario for them. I don’t think that Kat and James were too far off from many couples who have slogged through the day-to-day trials of raising a family only to look up and realize that they no longer have much in common with one another and the kids were the common glue holding them together. If nothing else, Kat’s experiences with the breakdown of her marriage made me appreciate my own husband more and also reminded me to ensure that we nurture our relationship independently of raising our children so that when it is finally just he and I again, we aren’t only roommates.
Most importantly, writing Kat’s story brought me joy. It was so much fun to chronicle her journey to fulfillment and happiness. If nothing else, I hope that my readers will see a little of themselves in Kat and know that whatever curveballs life throws at them, there is always the opportunity to find a bliss far greater than they ever imagined possible. Life is a journey, not a race, and while we may not always see the finish line, because of the twist and turns, the trick is to enjoy the trip.
EFC: Majken, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. Best of luck to you with A Good Kind of Crazy, a novel I truly enjoyed, and your upcoming novel, Western Skies!
Don’t forget, the e-book version of A Good Kind of Crazy will be FREE February 13th through the 15th in honor of Valentine’s Day!
After a particularly difficult year, Majken (pronounced “My-ken”) Selinder Nilsson started writing novels as a way to avoid the room with the rubber wallpaper and the jacket with all of the buckles, finding during the process that she really enjoyed and had a knack for it. This was not surprising, however, as Ms. Nilsson has always had a vividly active imagination, having not only one but two imaginary friends as child. Even as an adult, her characters come to life in her head and their personal stories often flow out faster than she can type. In just nine months, she had written two full-length manuscripts, including extensive research, and started a third.
A native Nevadan from a small town, who also spent some time living in her ancestral home of Sweden, Ms. Selinder Nilsson is now a transplanted Southerner, where she lives with her very understanding family, who accepts that she stays up way too late writing, and all of whom are now used to calling her name several times to get her attention whenever she is in front of her computer. They are also accustomed to her bringing her laptop everywhere there could possibly be a few minutes’ wait, and have even stopped teasing her about her ever-changing facial expressions while she is writing dialogue.
Ms. Selinder Nilsson strives to develop a strong sense of place blended with complex characters with whom people can relate, while utilizing succinct, developed dialogue. Their personas become like close friends, often surprising her with the twists and turns in their lives as much as her readers. She connects with her characters on a deeply personal level and is known to mourn them when their stories come to an end.