Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)

Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)
"A curious and wonderful work of great human value by a Danish master." Sebastian Barry, Man Booker finalist (Click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon page)

Monday, July 14, 2008

My First Born American Child: Isn't She Adorable?

I just gave birth to my first American child.

Now, some of you might think that I'm talking about something as unimportant as kids - you know, the ones who run around the house begging for Lego. But no, I'm talking about a thing of much more importance: my first novel in English.

Yes, I just got The Tsar's Dwarf in my hands. My translated novel comes out in the US and Canada October 1st, and since I'm the writer, my publisher was gracious enough to give me the first copy from the printer in China.

When I got it I started to cry. Yes, I'm not afraid to admit it, I wept like a moron, my tears flooding over the pages and the gorgeous cover. I started to browse through it, pretending I was an average American reader. You know, the type who walks into Barnes & Nobles to get the latest from Stephen King but walks out with a historical novel from Denmark.

The Tsar's Dwarf is the story of a Danish dwarf who is given to the Russian Tsar Peter The Great as a gift. She is brought to the Russian court where she falls in love, is humiliated, and treated like a toy. It's a funny but gruesome story about human dignity. At least, that's what it says on the cover, so it must be true.

"Oh my God," I suddenly thought, "I don't want to obsess about it, but I sure hope my book will do well. I mean, my countryman Peter Høeg sold 1.8 million of Smilla's Sense of Snow. I know I'm not as good, so I guess I'll settle for 1.7"

Then I started to get depressed (as we all do when faced with something as overrated as the real world). Why? Because I've read that the average Scandinavian novel sells about 822 copies in the US. So that's probably a more likely number for my book as well.

I mean, who in their right mind wants to buy a Danish novel anyway, except for Viggo Mortensen and a few farmers in Iowa?

You never know though.

Hans Christian Andersen's career wasn't too shappy and Hans Christian and I have the same translator. Tiina Nunnally translated Andersen's fairy tales for his bicentennial in 2005 and she did Høeg's Smilla as well, so maybe some of their success will rub off on this small time writer.

And hey, maybe Oprah will adore it.

Yes, maybe Oprah will ask me to come on her show, so I can talk about how you get in touch with your inner dwarf?

Yes, all these thoughts went through my head.

But since I'm in the US, I know it's important to dream big. Actually, one of the biggest gifts the US has given to the world is The Fine Art of Promoting Yourself to the Point Where It Becomes Almost Nauseating.

So I've started to practice this art - an art that's very un-Danish. In Denmark you're never allowed to tell any one you're good. If you do, you'll be executed in the main square by a red and white firing squad.

But since I've started to teach in Oregon, I've learned to think of myself as a genius with a weblog, even though everybody knows I'm a bumbling idiot.

Part of the problem is that I smile too much.

No one respects a writer with a sunny outlook. You have to be a tormented soul with a food fetish. And you have to brood when you look into the camera. If you don't, you're not an artist, just another TV anchor.

If you want to read The Tsar's Dwarf before October 1, you can buy the book directly from Hawthorne Books as early as September.

The book has wonderful blurbs from Pulitzer prize finalist Joanna Scott and Man Booker finalist Sebastian Barry etc. And hey, the novel is out in Danish, French and Portuguese as well.

A novelist is allowed to dream, isn't he? Even if it's only about fame, fortune, and fornication.