When we heard that a Danish author was including Dubrovnik and the wider region in her latest novel we just had to discover more. An-Magritt Wibell Nygaard, is a bestselling novelist from Denmark and visited Dubrovnik a few years ago, and clearly the walled city gave her a sprinkling of inspiration for her new novel. “I was instantly captured by the atmosphere, warm people, and excellent sincere hospitality,” commented Wibell Nygaard. So how did Dubrovnik, and indeed Bosnia and Herzegovina, end up in her latest book and what is the story line? The background, and this isn’t a spoiler, is a story of a strong woman discovering a family secret, solving a mystery, finding the truth and her roots. It's also a story, of how connected Europe really is through our timeline. It's a story of a woman, born in Bosnian, later moving to Dubrovnik. Her parents are from Bosnia and Croatia. All her life, she has heard her paternal grandmother speaking of a family mystery, connected to an old castle. The story will be told from the Croatian - Bosnian side, perspective and standpoint.
We were thrilled to learn that not only Croatia, but actually Dubrovnik, features heavily in your upcoming book. How did this connection begin? And why did you choose Dubrovnik as a location?
It’s a combination of many things. To start with, I had the pleasure to be in Dubrovnik for several weeks some years ago. I was instantly captured by the atmosphere, warm people, and excellent sincere hospitality. Then it was the town itself. It’s like glazing in to our past, in a very real matter. In the same time its mixed with our present time. For me this is a visible feeling of continuity. During my research, I came across names, events and places which forced me to pay close attention to Dubrovnik during our European historic timeline.
You state that the novel is based on real people and on actual facts, although of course the names have been changed. How long did it take for you to research the material you needed to start writing?
Not all the names have been changed. I have changed the name of the leading lady to a more modern name. The research goes slowly – step by step. That’s typical when I start to read and study old documents and archives. One thing leads to another. I think as the story developed, and still is, I have until now been researching for around four years. It’s a long process, to get the facts right.
We know that you’ve already visited Dubrovnik and the region, but you state “not as an ordinary tourist,” so what impression did the city leave on you?
My impression of Dubrovnik, is like Ragusa. Deep. A magical city, where the heart of Europe seems to be, in a different way than any other places in Europe. With the city walls, the forts, the old part of town and architecture, I can almost see, how it must have been to live here many centuries ago. And the people struck me as kind, open and helpful, full of smiles. It was quite sad to leave.
Are you looking for more people, such as historians and experts, to come forward and assist with your research?
Yes, I hope this can be possible. I want to tell this story, from a Croatian standpoint. Not my interpretation of how I think it is. I always work with authenticity in my novels. This is important, and the story deserve this. It is also incredible interesting to learn more about the real Croatian cultures, and traditions. So help from historians, and experts would be perfect. I also hope some publishers in Croatia discover the story, but also my two last historic novels.
Once you have all the required research how long does it usually take you to complete a novel? Finding the time, and indeed the dedication, must be challenging. What advice would you offer to budding authors?
It’s a complicated but interesting process which takes the time it requires. I do not “control the time limit”, the facts around the story control that. The time I use for one novel depends on the novel, each project has its own challenges. This one required more time, but since I am focusing on the story, and what I discover, I kind of forget the time and fall into a different time space which I call my “writing bubble.” The dedication is the love for the story I want to tell, and respect for the readers. I want to bring up our forgotten stories, happenings and things that once were important, and played a huge role in the bigger picture but are now forgotten. That’s my joy. To discover our forgotten little details and events. To try to give people who are no longer with us a new voice, bring them back to life again. I work hard to do this correctly. Every author has their approach, desires and system. My advice is to not give up. The times when the work seems difficult, remind yourself of why you started to write the story to begin with. And read. Make notes.
As Dubrovnik and Bosnia and Herzegovina are featured in the novel it would be interesting to have this book translated into Croatian. Is that something you are considering?
Yes. But it’s not for me to decide. But I have a desire for Croatian Publishers picking up this story, - and my two historical novels, it would be a great start to translate these two books, and publish them in Croatia, while I writing this one. I hope there could be some interest. We are so connected in Europe, despite our different nuances, in culture and traditions, we share the same root of a mutual old culture. That’s why we understand one another so well.
And finally, what message do you have for future readers?
I hope I manage to show how many close ties we have, how connected we really are, in many ways, through my novels. I have a desire to share this and the unity, and how important it is to protect every aspect of our culture, traditions and respect for people who were a part of the development. A story of people.