The Writing Life: 10 Questions for Unni Turrettini
Written with Paul T. Kraly
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
On March 15, 2017 Pegasus Books will issue the paperback edition of The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer: Anders Behring Breivik and the Threat of Terror in Plain Sight by Norwegian Author and Public Speaker, Unni Turrettini.
In honor of this occasion, we sat down with Unni (okay Skyped with her) to find out how she is doing and to learn a little more about her writing process. As writers ourselves, we know the process is often difficult, and isolated. We were very curious as to her writing life, and how she avoided burn out. So here are 10 questions for Unni.
Tell us about your latest books and how you selected your subject.
As you know my first book, The Mystery Of The Lone Wolf Killer, is about Anders Behring Breivik and the massacre on July 22, 2011. I needed to understand how Breivik could become a mass murderer and what we can do to stop the next lone wolf. As difficult as it was to study his mind and past, I also felt compassion for the boy and young man Breivik used to be. I felt a connection, I understood. I could relate to some of his pain growing up. Hopefully, we can use this knowledge to create better societies and eradicate bullying and exclusions. All everyone is ever searching for is love and connection.
My newest book The Price Of Peace is about the controversy surrounding some of the selections of the Nobel peace prize committee. I have always been proud of the fact that Norway gave out the prize. I started looking into the history of the prize and of its laureates. My key questions were: What motivates the committee? What was Alfred Nobel’s goal with the prize? What has the prize become? Perhaps the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm and the Norwegian committee need to define the concept of peace so that the prize can be a more efficient contribution.
How did you get started as a writer?
The shock of Anders Behring Breivik’s massacre in Norway on July 22, 2011 triggered something in me. I started doing research to find out why and how this could happen. I have always enjoyed writing, so I decided to use the information I had gathered and give writing a book a try.
What does a typical day look like?
I usually get up at five am, as I am a morning person. I get my best and most creative writing done when the house is quiet and I’m not interrupted. I have two small children, so when they wake up, I prepare breakfast and take them to school. I then go for a run or to the gym depending on the weather (I live in Norway!). I find that I get great ideas while I’m out in nature or working out. Then I continue to work for a while until the kids come back from school. I also try to work at night when they’re in bed. I have an editor in California, and we usually Skype once a week to go over what I’m currently writing on.
Describe your desk and workspace.
I have a very simple, black, minimalistic desk with a few books on it and some paper to take notes, in addition to my computer. The fewer distractions, the better. I use a laptop computer, so I can work from anywhere. I equally work just as well from any other desk, an airplane, or from my hotel room bed when I’m traveling. Although my physical therapist tells me that it would be better for my back and neck to use a desk!
Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you
•I once ran (part of a team) from Oslo to Bergen. Distance approximately 287 miles, or 47 hours. I like to challenge myself!
•I was born in a small house in Kautokeino, Northern part of Norway where the Laps live, in the middle of summer and the midwife was on vacation. A 16 year-old girl delivered me.
•Because of my father’s work, I moved around a lot growing up. I graduated from high school in Kansas City, Kansas, and the place I’ve lived the longest is Geneva, Switzerland.
Best and worst part of being a writer
I love the process, the thinking process, the flow, the passion I feel. I am the closest to myself when I write. I enjoy pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, and it helps me grow as a human being. It can be scary, vulnerable, and I often have doubts, such as who am I to write this story? Sometimes, it’s a lonely process, though, but I like working alone. There is so much to learn to be a better writer, and I love learning. I feel energized when I write.
Tell us a story about your writing experience.
I’m currently working on a book, which is more personal and spiritual than my previous works. I feel as if I am just an instrument or messenger of the universe. The words are just coming through me and onto the page. It’s a new and strange experience, but also pleasant.
What is the first book that made you cry?
I can’t remember the first, but recently I cried (a lot) reading One Of Us by Åsne Sejerstad, as well as Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.
I love to read. I rarely get writer’s block, only when I am disconnected from myself, when I’m stressed, angry, or worried.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It didn’t really. I just continued writing. I have learned to write articles, however, which I didn’t know how to do before.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I realized language had power when I was young. I grew up in family of intellectuals and I experienced how language can be used to suppress and repress. But more important, knowledge is power. That’s what I’m trying to do with my writing: bring awareness and empower (even if the only person to feel awoken and empowered is me).
In addition to writing, Unni is an outstanding public speaker and has given insightful talks in the US as well as in Europe. In November 2016 she was a speaker at the TEDxInstitutLeRosey seen in this video.
If you are interested in learning more about Unni or preordering a copy of her book, here are some sites you can visit: Unni-Turrettini.com, Facebook, Twitter. She is represented by Linda Langton, Langton’s International Agency