Interview with Alexander Rybak about his debut as an author by Cappelen Damm

Meet this falls’s children’s book debutant Alexander Rybak

Text to header photo: Alexander Rybak, internationally well known violinist, composer and artist. He currently makes his debut as a children’s book author.

Source: Published 14.01.2015. Authour: Anne Østgaard, Cappelen Damm

Found by TessaLa. Translated by Jorunn Ekre and TessaLa, Revision Bita J 

Alexander Rybak (born 1986) is an actor, composer and musician. He was born in Belarus and grew up in Nesodden. He has played the violin and the piano ever since the age of 5. He made his breakthrough in 2009 when he won the Eurovision Song Contest with his own song “Fairytale”.

Alexander Rybak has performed in several big stage plays and movies in addition to his musical career. This fall, he made his debut as a children’s book author with the fairytale inspired book “Trolle and the magic fiddle“. Just as the title suggests, music plays a central role here as well. An audiobook that comes with the book includes the author’s own compositions that follows the storyline, and well-known voices such as Dennis Storhøi and Anders Baasmo Christiansen also contribute. Trolle has now been sold to Denmark, where an enthusiastic publisher named Pelle Koppel has this to say about the special book project: I’m crazy about the Trolle universe, its great illustrations, and I also fell in love with the combination of a book along with an audiobook with songs and music to create a complete and thoroughly musical universe. I haven’t seen it made the same way before.

I have interviewed Alexander regarding his debut as an author and the work on the book.


The book about Trolle is illustrated by Thomas Kirkeberg and includes an audiobook with music that follows the storyline.

You are an established musician, and are familiar with using music as a form of expression. This autumn, you debuted as an author with “Trolle and the Magic Fiddle”. How is it to express yourself through text as compared to music?

I’m not sure that I’ll ever be a standard author. I always think music, even when it comes to books. It should flow and be melodic. Crescendo, subito forte, not too many repetitions. And while I wrote the story in detail, I had lots of music already prepared. However, I do like the straightforwardness of words. And I wanted to intentionally write in a simple manner, just as I would talk. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be believable.

The music has, not surprisingly, been a central focus in the story of Trolle.  Could you tell us a little about how you worked to “compose” such a coherent story, where text and music are naturally unified together?
It began with the characters. Here, once again, I thought of music and versatility. The hulder King was to be rock with a little mix of  revue, Trolle should be folk music, Alva would be the kind girl singing folk songs. Afterwards, I began to assign them incentives for being the way they are, and from there on it was easier to embellish the plot. I like to mix in a little classical music too, or “Disney”-like music, as the kids like to call it.

Thomas Kirkeberg has illustrated the book and given Trolle a face. How did you two collaborate on the project?
The publisher told me about him, but I wanted to meet him before we started working together. When I saw how good-hearted and gentle he was (in a bit of a nostalgic way), I realized that my characters were in good hands. And then, of course, I liked his earlier works and his line, if it were otherwise this wouldn’t have worked out.

As a successful young musician, did you feel any performance anxiety as you were changing art forms and expression?
It is rather the contrary: I knew I had other talents to fall back on if people didn’t like my writing. But to be honest, I was a bit nervous that people, especially critics, would think something like “huh, is he doing that too now ?” Fortunately, however, the “Law of Jante” is not as strong in Norway as it was a few years ago, and I am very relieved at how the book has been regarded.

The story of Trolle and the magic fiddle has many similarities to fairytales. How’s your relationship to the Norwegian folk tales? And fairytales from Belarus, where you were born, and which is your parents’ homeland?
The only Belarusian element present is probably the nostalgia. Here, I’ve written about feelings on both sides of the scale, but also of the more balanced, pure emotions: melancholy, longing, and other bittersweet feelings. I want all children to be able to recognize themselves in the book, at one place or another.

You know the music industry well, and now you’ve got an insight into the publishing industry. Could you tell us anything about the business similarities or differences?
Getting a taste of the book industry has just been one big positive experience in my life! I feel as thought I receive the same “newcomer-care” from Birgit Christensen and the others in Cappelen Damm as I did when I started in the music industry as a violinist. Other than that, I notice a very big difference from the record industry, where everything is about the first two release days, and then it’s all about new projects. In the book world, it feels as if you have more time, and it’s fun to see how my book begins to spread through word of mouth. It’s a very inclusive world!

Are there any experiences as a musician and composer you’ve enjoyed as a writer?
Yes, it’s like I mentioned earlier, I “hear” when it’s time for a break from the excitement, or a cliffhanger, or something humorous. Just like in a symphony!

Do you have any literary models?
Lars Saabye Christensen is an everyday magician. Not a single superfluous word in his books. Herman especially has an eternal place in my heart. Also I like Jon Ewo and his “Uten Filter” (Without filter). It’s raw!

Your book has been well received so far here at home. What dreams do you have for the reception of the book throughout the rest of the world? For example, in Belarus?

I won’t give up until the book has been translated and sold to the most important countries in my career, and then preferably with audiobook narrated by local stars, as we have read it here, with Dennis Storhøi, Stig Werner Moe and Anders Baasmo Christensen. Other than that, I dream of course for a MUSICAL!

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