Meet Maria

I was always reading. Found a place to hide, in a wardrobe, under a flight of stairs. I stayed behind poring over my friend’s books or comics long after their playing had moved on elsewhere. Still I never nurtured any dreams of becoming an author. Maybe I was never thinking further than the next page.

Maria Ernestam. Photo: Richard Ryan.
Maria Ernestam. Photo: Richard Ryan.

My interest in languages is (perhaps because of this?) strong but I also have a love of equations and probability theory. Therefore I studied both English and Mathematics before finding my way into journalism as a means of combining my interest in the humanities and natural sciences. For many years I worked as a foreign correspondent in Germany for the Swedish business weekly Veckans affärer, experiencing the fall of the Berlin wall, and the time before and after. I interviewed both people sweeping the factory floors as well as dignitaries in their elegant chambers of politics or business. They gave me faces and emotions, gestures and stories. I treasured all these things, and pondered.

When me and my family left Germany for Stockholm after fifteen years abroad I took up an old interest in singing and dancing while I continued freelancing. One day I was working on an article about genetic engineering for Swedish medical weekly Dagens medicin. Later that evening I watched a Woody Allen movie. In one of the scenes Death knocks at the door of an apartment full of  partying people. They throw him out, saying ”the person you are looking for is not at home”. The article and that scene for some reason connected in my mind and I could not stop thinking about what would happen next. The seed for my first book, Caipirinha with Death, was planted.

I have seen more books come to life since then. In France a TV-series and a documentary are on their way. My books have been described as dramatic psychological relationship novels spiced with unexpected twists and a dash of drastic humour. Modern fairy tales about the improbable that could happen in real life. Some settle for ”ernestamian”.

Maria Ernestam. Foto: Richard Ryan.
An “ernestamian” world. Photo: Richard Ryan.

I find inspiration in interaction between people, in the planned or the unexpected meetings. Sometimes I loose myself staring at somebody, completely oblivious of the world around me or how that might be interpreted. Impulses come from other writers as well as movies, images, photographs, and of course, from music. Cobblestones and cobwebs, hats and dustbins. History. Explaining why one writes often sounds pretentious. But for some reason I have always enjoyed and been comfortable in fictional worlds.

I write my books in a writer’s nest in Stockholm or in Frillesås on the Swedish west coast. This is the location of the summer house that my grandparents bought in the forties and to which I return every summer. Here the same old summer friends meet every morning, dressed in yesteryear’s sun bleached bathrobes and swimming by the cliffs off the harbour. I love and am drawn to the sea and even in my travels I will find my way to locations by the ocean. Maybe because the sea is like a good book. You never know what will happen on the next page.