Lena Andersson on writing, reading and Acts of Infidelity

Author of Wilful Disregard, Lena Andersson, talks about the process of writing her new novel, Acts of Infidelity.

In Acts of Infidelity, Lena Andersson reunites the reader with Wilful Disregard's Ester Nilsson, who, after falling madly in love with an enigmatic actor, embarks on an ill-advised destructive love affair. Cutting, razor-sharp, and darkly funny; Acts of Infidelity is a book about obsession, falling in love, and of the role of the lover in today's culture.

Here, Lena talks about her writing process, the authors who inspire her, and the reason she revisits Ester Nilsson in her new novel.

Lena Andersson on . . . her writing process

I do no research at all, but write about the themes I think about a lot, and things I know about already. Factual research is risky, your novel might end up looking like a piece of journalism instead of literary fiction. Writers who do research often feel the need to show off their knowledge.

I write about an inner knowledge that I myself possess. The novels may be close to myself, but serve more as examples of what could happen or be the case, not what actually happened. I always use my life and my experiences, but not to make a written carbon copy of it.

I write basically every day except one day a week, when I rest. I write in the morning and a while after lunch. By then my brain has become tired, and it becomes destructive to go on, I start ruining my work, think badly of it and myself, at which time it is time to stop. Then I try to read if I am not too exhausted.

To write a novel takes a year or two, it depends on what other work tasks I have to perform. I am rather slow, and rewrite the text many times before I am happy with it.

Lena Andersson on . . . on her female characters

Well, women fall in love for all kinds of reasons, and it is easier to fall in love with someone who is himself open to women falling in love, who shows interest even when he does not have the means to pursue a relationship. Narcissistic and borderline people are usually charismatic and know how to manipulate others, they do it subconsciously, without really planning it, it‘s just second nature to them, which makes a person longing for love easy to lure in the beginning.

As to the question why women never learn, the answer in Ester Nilsson‘s case is that she rationally thinks that no two people are exactly the same, so there is no reason to think she will be unlucky twice, she estimates. And once she is deeply involved emotionally, it is too late to withdraw, because their meetings are wonderful enough to give her hope for the future. Also, he gives her hope by acting ambiguously and with ambivalence.

Lena Andersson on . . . revisiting Ester Nilsson in Acts of Infidelity

She is rather developed in the first novel, but becomes more developed with the second. But first and foremost, I wanted to write about these two aspects of doomed love and relationships. First the infatuation that is not really reciprocated, but badly handled, and, second, the mistress‘ situation, and her unfaithful, treacherous lover. It was planned early on that I would write two stories.

Lena Andersson on . . . her literary inspiration

Plato is a very big inspiration for my thinking. For my style I have been inspired by such writers as Georges Simenon, Graham Greene, Albert Camus and a few Swedish 20th-century authors. Concerning the love theme I have been inspired by Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre) and some others.

Acts of Infidelity

Book cover for Acts of Infidelity

When Ester Nilsson meets the actor Olof Sten, she falls madly in love.

Olof makes no secret of being married, but he and Ester nevertheless start to meet regularly and begin to conduct a strange dance of courtship. Olof insists he doesn't plan to leave his wife, but he doesn't object to this new situation either . . . it’s far too much fun.

Ester, on the other hand, is convinced that things might change. But as their relationship continues over repeated summers of distance, and winters of heated meetings in bars, she is forced to realize the truth: Ester Nilsson has become a mistress.

To read Acts of Infidelity is to dive inside the mind of a brilliant, infuriating friend – Ester's and Olof’s entanglements and arguments are the stuff of relationship nightmares. Cutting, often cruel, and written with razor-sharp humour, Lena Andersson's novel is clever, painful, maddening, but most of all perfectly, precisely true.