We interviewed Maria Sörgjerd, the author of “I en underbar ballong”, the book about Roxette fans. So here you can read the “behind the scenes” of the book.
RXB: Maria, could you tell us about you? how long have you been a Roxette fan?
As a Swedish girl, born in the mid 1970s, I couldn’t avoid Roxette when I was growing up. I have many positive memories connected to Roxette. When I was 16, I went to my first big concert: Roxette in ”Globen” 1991, the Joyride Tour. But I can’t say that I was a devoted Roxette fan back then, even though I liked their music. I became a real fan much later in life. When I was growing up I listed to all sorts of music, Neil Young, The Beatles, Abba, just to mention a few.
In the beginning of the twenty-first century, I rediscovered and upgraded music that I had listened to as a teenager, a time in life which is of great importance for one’s identity. At the same time, Marie fell ill and this affected me strongly on a personal level. I was trying to get pregnant by means of medically assisted reproduction and a test indicated that I might have problems with fertility because of a brain tumour. Fortunately, this was not the case, but I was really scared during a couple of weeks, while waiting for the test results. During this time, I listened more and more to Marie’s music and I felt that I could on some level relate to what she was going through. Small coincidences in life can make you discover new paths… My fertility issues could be solved and I am now mother of two wonderful girls, six and seven years old.
RXB: We understood that you studied (music) psychology, could you explain why and how you got the idea to write the book?
I studied psychology for two years, 1998-2000 and I wrote a major essay on the topic of music psychology. The essay was called “Auditory and visual recognition of emotional expression in performances of music”. I came up with the idea to write the book “I en underbar ballong” two and a half years ago, in the summer of 2010 when I was at a Roxette concert in Halmstad. That was when I got to know many international fans in real life, and not just over the Internet.
From my Swedish perspective, it was fascinating that people had travelled so far, from different corners of the world, from Europe, Argentina, Brazil and Russia, just to see Roxette. I had a great experience in Halmstad and it felt so huge that Roxette was back on stage again. It gave me a real energy boost.
RXB: When did you start writing the book then?
During the fall of 2010, after the concert in Halmstad, the idea to write something about Roxette grew stronger. I found inspiration through talking to my friends. At first, I aimed at writing an essay, but then the project grew bigger. I had made friends with a fan from Argentina (her name is Paula), she told me what it means to be a real Roxer.
RXB: How did you prepare for the book?
Once I had come up with the idea to write the book, I started sketching an outline, based on different themes, such as “idols”, “music and religion”, “music as therapy”, “music and friendship” and a chapter each about Per and Marie.
Some of these themes have been kept in the final version of the book but a lot has changed on the way. Initially, I based the book on stories told to me by my friend Paula. At the same time, I wanted a thorough theoretical base so I checked out many books from the library. I also went to many seminars in music psychology at Uppsala University. These seminars were very inspiring to me.
RXB: did you know already in the beginning that you would interview fans and build on that?
That idea came gradually. I felt that the stories told by Paula weren’t enough. I wanted more direct contact with many fans. I had met some fans at the concert in Halmstad; other fans were contacted at Facebook. At first I didn’t know if I would be able to write an entire book. My plan then was to write an essay and maybe – if it turned out to be any good – use it to apply at the university to become a doctoral student.
RXB: How did you approach the interviewed fans / find them? How did you select the fans?
When I searched for suitable Roxette fans to interview, my ambition was to find fans from different parts of the world. Friends I have made thanks to Roxette, at concerts and over the internet, gave me tips on who to contact and I then asked them if they wanted to answer a few questions about Roxette. I also contacted some people randomly, because I could tell from Facebook that they were fans of Roxette. You have to take into consideration that many people who at first seem positive in the end fail to send in the questions and this happened to me. Out of the 50 enquiries I sent to people, only about 20 answered my questions.
A few key people were contacted directly with questions tailor-made for them, like Marie Davies who started the prayer chain for Marie Fredriksson in the year 2002 and the Dutch couple who founded the international Roxette fanclub in the 1990s.
RXB: Was it easy to get answers to some of the most private questions?
My questions were open in the sense that I left it to people to decide how much and how detailed information they wanted to give me. Some were more outspoken than others. From the beginning I was clear with the fact that everybody participating in my survey would be anonymous.
RXB: Why are most of the fans anonymous /have aliases?
Given the previous question, that some questions can be sensitive and personal, I wanted to ensure anonymity. When I contacted the fans again and told them that I had written a book which would be published, many of them wanted to appear with their real names. But I had promised anonymity from the beginning and I wanted to keep that promise and be consistent. Real names are only used when I refer to people by reference to newspaper articles or such.
RXB: Was there any story that really surprised you, positively or negatively?
One of the Roxette fans told me that listening to Roxette´s music had helped her feel better when she was sick. The music had the power to physically affect inner bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. Her story really surprised me, in a positive manner of course, and it inspired me do some further research on the subject of music therapy.
RXB: You have published your book in your own publishing company, was it hard to find a publisher or how come you decided to publish your own book?
When the book was finished, I first hoped an established publisher would consider publishing it, but during the course of the summer I realized how hard it is to arise the interest of a publisher. Also finding an established publisher and going through different rounds of proofs would have taken time, time which I did not have. I wanted to get the book out on the market now, as Roxette had just finished their world tour. I contacted a friend who had published a book on his own and he gave me valuable information.
RXB: We got this question from many of our readers: will you translate the book into English?
I don’t know English well enough to translate the book myself, sorry. Swedish is my first language and it was natural for me to write the book in Swedish. Of course, I understand that Roxette has a huge number of fans who might be interested in reading my book in English. But it is too soon to tell how profitable the book will be in Swedish and if I can afford having it translated and published again in English.
RXB: the book was published some months ago, what happened during these months? How was the book received?
The book got quite a lot of attention in Swedish local papers, in my home town Uppsala, in Östersund where I grew up and in Halmstad- guess why:-)
It has calmed down a little by now but a girl interviewed me today for her school paper. My first book signing at a book store was last Saturday and I hope there will be more.
RXB: What are your next plans?
This year is dedicated to this book. I plan to lecture at libraries and attend book fairs. For the time being I do not have another book project in mind but ask me in a couple of years and I may give you a different answer.
We want to thank Maria for her time and for the chance to run a contest to give away 2 of her books. The winners are Jennifer Malcome and Stefanie Strecker. Congratulations!