Swede escape! Calista Swanson has begun her study abroad semester in Stockholm, Sweden, and she couldn’t be happier! There’s finally some distance between her and the constant piano-playing of her annoying sister Suzanne. Calista and Suzanne are twins, but the only thing they have in common is their birth date. Suzanne is a focused and gifted pianist, but a social dud. Calista isn’t at all focused, but she always has her friends, and a boyfriend, by her side. And that goes for her time in Sweden, as well. Jonas, who’d been an exchange student at her high school in Wisconsin, lives in Stockholm. He’s the main reason Calista is studying in Sweden, and she knows he’ll be in tow as she explores everything Sweden has to offer, from visiting Swedish castles to learning more about the Viking era, to sampling treats from a smörgåsbord, to strolling the cobblestone streets of Stockholm’s Gamla Stan. Calista loves Sweden from the moment she arrives, but . . . why hasn’t Jonas called?
Eva Apelqvist grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. She came to the United States as an exchange student her senior year in high school, and met her future husband three days before going home to Sweden. Eva loves the English language… More about Eva Apelqvist
Countries you have visited: Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, France, England, Russia, Japan, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Monaco, Iceland, Italy. I grew up in Stockholm, Sweden.
Country you wrote about: Sweden
Destination you would most like to visit: Someday I would like to live on a small Greek island for a while.
Why did you choose to write about Sweden? I grew up in Sweden. I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 25 years old.
What was your favorite place to visit in Sweden? My favorite place is my parents’ cabin in Grödinge, south of Stockholm, which, in my book, has become Lena’s parents’ cabin. I love the old church, the rune stones, the forest spreading out in all directions, the tiny clear lakes, and the steep hills.
What was your favorite food? My favorite Swedish food is palt, which is a lot like a dumpling, but larger and made with raw potatoes as well as flour (and sometimes pigs’ blood, in which case it’s called blood-palt).
What was your favorite souvenir? My favorite Swedish souvenirs are things that my parents and my sisters have given me: a pair of Ecco shoes, clogs, a book with maps of Stockholm, towels woven from Swedish flax, a hand-blown glass bowl from Skansen—the outdoor museum Calista visits in the book.
What was the most surprising/memorable cultural differences you noticed? In Stockholm, people don’t talk to strangers the way they do here—but that might be because Stockholm is a big city. In the U.S., I live in a very small town. Swedes also love the outdoors and take good care of their natural environment, both on a political and on a personal level.
What was your funniest experience? Actually, one of my funniest cultural experiences happened when I first traveled in the U.S. and ordered a hotdog with bread. The guy in the hotdog stand just stared at me. “You want a hotdog with bread?” he asked. I nodded, not understanding why he was so amused. My husband later told me that in America you always get a hotdog with bread. In Sweden, you have to request the bread if you want it.
Have you traveled anywhere off the beaten path. If so, what brought you there? I was once invited to the home of a Sami woman (the native population of the Nordic countries, who are also called Lapplanders), who lived alone in the mountains of northern Sweden, manning a weather station, and tending to her herd of reindeer. In order to get to her house, I had to travel by boat across a river. (In the spring and in the fall, when there is ice on the river, but the ice is not hard enough to carry a person, she can’t get to town at all.) The woman offered me a delicious meal of dried reindeer meat, ash cakes baked on an open fire, wild mushrooms and herbs she had picked on the mountain.
Is your main character like you in any way? Are your characters based on anyone in your “real” life? My characters are not usually based on people I know, though I have used my nieces’ and nephews’ names for some of the characters, as they are popular, contemporary Swedish names. And if you knew my mom’s cousin, I think you might suspect that one of the characters was based on her…
I do think, though, that if you are a writer, all your characters have some characteristics of you in them, whether you have chosen to do that on purpose or not.
What made you want to become a writer? When I was five years old, I started writing poetry, and stories, and journals. And I’ve continued for the rest of my life. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to be a writer, I just never imagined being or doing anything else. Whenever I’ve had other jobs in my life, I’ve always known that they were temporary and that I would eventually get back to writing full time—which is what I do now.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell the reader? Spending time in other cultures is the one thing that has meant the most to me in terms of growing as a person. When you are removed from everything that’s familiar, you learn to see things about yourself and your own culture that you could never imagine. You can’t help but change in positive and wonderful ways. I believe study abroad is the key to different cultures getting along in the world.