Gransnet forums

Books/book club

Join Katarina Mazetti to talk about BENNY AND SHRIMP, our May book of the month on Tuesday 14 June, 7pm

(70 Posts)
JosieGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 23-May-11 10:21:00

For our first Book Club webchat, we've got Katarina Mazetti coming on to talk about Benny and Shrimp. She'll be joining us on this thread on Tuesday 14 June at 7pm

The book was a runaway bestseller in Mazetti's native Sweden and over a million copies have been sold worldwide. Benny is a gentle, overworked farmer, who lives in a chaotically untended farmhouse; the woman he calls Shrimp has a minimalist apartment in the city and intellectual friends. Will love overcome their differences in temperament and the habits of half a lifetime? Or is it all too much a case of Mars and Venus, and are they doomed to stay in their separate orbits?

Put your thoughts about the book here, or any questions you have for Katarina - whether you're nosy about her writing habits and where she gets her inspiration, or about her her own experiences of love against the odds.

You can also read more about the book here or order it from Amazon if you haven't read it yet.

Harry123 Tue 14-Jun-11 16:37:42

I'm not going to be in later, so I thought I'd post my question now. I really enjoyed the book, but I wondered if you'd ever thought of switching the characters - so that the woman was the country bumpkin and Benny was the intellectual townie? Do you think that would have worked?

As a bloke, I thought it was a bit predictable that Benny was the slow, bovine one!

SeasonofJoy Tue 14-Jun-11 16:56:56

It was difficult finishing reading Benny and Shrimp, as I longed for their lives to get sorted out and it all to end happily. The close of the story was not at all what I had expected, yet there was still a certain kind of hope in the relationship. I was still thinking maybe pregnancy, future child, may yet bring them together. It was never going to be conventional or stereotypical , as was seen right at the beginning, so how could it end like that. What did I expect? All of the story of these two love torn people challenged my thinking , the phrase ' everybody's normal until you get to know them' pops up in my mind. As I continued to read on, Benny and Shrimp broke the mould I tried to put them in.
The proof of a good story is that you never want it to end, perhaps I will just read it all over again!
My question is, ' Is there more to come?'

effblinder Tue 14-Jun-11 17:14:21

Hi Katarina, thanks for joining us. I really enjoyed the book, although like many others I want to read more about the couple! Where's the sequel?!

I think it's really useful as an exercise to imagine the way someone else perceived an event happening, so that you don't get caught up in the way you think things went. Benny and Shrimp reminded me it's always important to do this. Is that something you were trying to get across?

KatarinaMazetti Tue 14-Jun-11 17:32:04

Katarina Mazetti here

KatarinaMazetti Tue 14-Jun-11 17:49:56

Some answers to questions you have asked:
Yes, I am a ”country girl”, having been married to a dairy farmer in noth Sweden for 20 years Farming is not very profitable in North Sweden, so I worked full time in town (radio journalist), spent weekends and holidays in the cow house and took care of 4 children and all the household work besides. I know what kind of life Desiree would have to adjust to, and I wrote about it in part two of the book, Swedish name ”Family vault”.(not translated into English but is top of the book lists in France right now)
It made me a little aid to see that quite a few of you thought of Desirée as ”egoistic” – (”why does she not give up her job and move to him to learn milking and making meatballs?”) – Benny never even dreams of giving up his own life for her! Those attitudes are not as common in Sweden – or in France for that matter, where it has sold half a million copies and is on stage since 2 yrs back.
As for Harrys question about ”changing” the characters, I thought I did just that – for once, I wanted the man to be the warm, emotional type and the woman a bit afraid of life, of being close to someone, because of her very cold upbringing.
This is also the reason why I brought Inez into the story – if you are too afraid of life, you end up as a spectator, sort of living by proxy.

KatarinaMazetti Tue 14-Jun-11 17:51:17

"it made me aid - should of course be "sad"

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 14-Jun-11 19:01:01

Good evening everyone (or whatever time it is for our Australian book club members...) and welcome to the very first Gransnet book club webchat. We are delighted to welcome Katarina Mazetti, the author of Benny and Shrimp, who - I trust - is ready and waiting by her laptop in Sweden, waiting to answer our questions.

Katarina - could I kick off by asking the first question: is it significant that the book begins in a graveyard?

getmehrt Tue 14-Jun-11 19:03:35

I understand Benny and Shrimp has been very successful in Sweden and also in France. Were you surprised that it was successful or do writers always expect this?

And have you learnt anything about your writing from the audiences that have liked it a lot and those who have liked it less?

KatarinaMazetti Tue 14-Jun-11 19:03:51

Hello again, and thank you for your nice comments!
Answer to Effblinder: Yes, I don´t think there is an objective "correct" truth about what happens around us, we all percieve things differently. And in the differences, everything happens: disagreements, misunderstandings, sympathy...So I try to get into the characters, and look out through their eyes.

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 14-Jun-11 19:06:48

That wasn't the first question, of course...

But I have got another one. Do you think physical attraction is a good basis for a relationship or a bad one? Benny and Shrimp seems to suggest the latter.

KatarinaMazetti Tue 14-Jun-11 19:07:40

Hello Geraldine,
about the graveyard: actually, there are only two places where people from very different backgrounds in Sweden would meet. One is Systembolaget, the official state Liquor store...and the other one is the graveyard. And it did not feel right starting a love story in the liquour store...

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 14-Jun-11 19:13:36

Ah...I thought you were saying something profound about love and death with the graveyard setting!

Did you want readers to take sides with the characters - to prefer one or the other?

KatarinaMazetti Tue 14-Jun-11 19:13:48

Answer to Getmehrt
No, I certainly did NOT expect such a reception of my first novel...I still have to pinch my arm to make sure I am not dreaming. (It has been translated into 28 languages - what in the world do people in Brazil or Thailand want with a story like that?)
Of course, I always learn things when I meet audiences and it is a constant surprise to find that people in different countries react so differently!
(elderly Russian men I chatted with in a radio show in Moscow accused me of being a feminist and thought Desiree was one, too, since she wanted a life of her own..)

sneetch Tue 14-Jun-11 19:16:48

Hi Katarina, really liked the book. Do you have a routine for writing? Or do you just write when you feel inspired?

KatarinaMazetti Tue 14-Jun-11 19:18:47

About physiscal attraction being a good basis for a relationship - yes, I think it is a very good start. Something that might help you through the tedious process of getting to know each others bad sides...But it certainly takes more than physical attraction to make a relationship last

getmehrt Tue 14-Jun-11 19:19:17

Given that it was such a success, did you feel you had to write a sequel? Did publishers want you to write another book about the same characters? Or had that always been your plan?

KatarinaMazetti Tue 14-Jun-11 19:25:41

For Sneetch!
When I wrote my very first book (a story for young people, called "God and I broke up") I locked myself into the bathroom, tried to keep my computer still on the wash basin, while ignoring 4 children fighting, sceaming "Mommy I´m HUNGRY" outside the door. This was the routine for a couple of years. Nowadays, I try to make it a routine to lie still in bed for half an hour when I wake up and let the ideas come to me. Then I jot them down, and if Life does not get in the way of things, I start working on them later on in the day.

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 14-Jun-11 19:27:07

From what you were saying earlier, it seems you came to writing relatively late. Was it something you always wanted to do? Why did you wait?

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 14-Jun-11 19:30:10

Ah, looks like you sort of answered my last question already!

So here's another one: there's a strong Men are from Mars/ Women are from Venus aspect to Benny and Shrimp. Is that something you feel yourself?

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 14-Jun-11 19:31:29

Incidentally, I love the idea of an official state liquor store...

Harry123 Tue 14-Jun-11 19:33:57

Ha! well, I came back and thought I'd look in...The book is meant to be a comedy, I assume...! Is that a problem when it comes to selling it around the world? Does humour always translate?

KatarinaMazetti Tue 14-Jun-11 19:35:59

Oh no, it took years before I considered myself to be a writer at all - I was a happy radio reporter with no spare time...But I acquired a taste for writing (much like sharks acquire a taste for blood, I should imagine...) and wrote three or four books before even thinking af a sequel (you can find them translated into French and German for example, have a look at my home page <> , there are some texts in different languages.)
Anyway, the only reason I wrote a sequel was that a company selling very light paper wanted me to ad 25% to Benny and Shrimp - for them to give as promotion to buyers of paper! ("This is how much book you would get for your money if you had used our kind of paper, 25% lighter...") A crazy idea! But I needed the money so instead I wrote 12 different endings to the story! And then of course the characters who had been well asleep in my subconscious stirred and woke up again and wanted to be written about. So there was a sequel five years later, which is selling like hotcakes in some countries now. Don´t ask me why. And don´t ask me why it has not been translated into English.

annie19 Tue 14-Jun-11 19:36:26

Thanks so much for coming on, I loved the book.
I just had a question about your personal reading habits-
do you like re-reading books or do you prefer to read new ones by different authors each time?

effblinder Tue 14-Jun-11 19:42:21

What a bizarre story about the paper! If you wrote 12 endings, did you have difficulty deciding which one to use?

KatarinaMazetti Tue 14-Jun-11 19:43:03

Geraldine, there are some very nice advantages to official state liqour stores! (they are the only ones licensed to sell alcohol) They buy whole vinyeards of the best, send tankers to Sweden and bottle them here. They say we got better cheap wine than any other country...But as for the Men from Mars, women from Venus thing I do NOT agree at all! Of course they have been brought up into traditional gender roles, but I believe those are really quite superficial and underneath, we are very much alike. The proof being that readers often ask me who has helped me with the Benny parts, that´s how men think - when it is really only me trying to think how I would behave,if I were Benny.