Author Anna Brones
Anna Brones is a writer and artist, and the woman behind the popular Swedish books Fika – The Art of Swedish Coffee Break, and Live Lagom – Balanced Living the Swedish Way. With an American father and Swedish mother she grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. but highly treasures her Swedish roots. She has a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and French but chose the artistic road, and she’s very good at it!
When did you first start writing?
I've been writing for as long as I can remember, starting with pretty simple stories as a young child, and I was later on the staff of my high school newspaper. Some writers have a "moment" when they knew they were going to write. I don't have that, but writing has always been a part of what I do. After university, I moved to Guadeloupe to teach English. I started diving into travel writing and had my first article published in a book, A Woman's World Again. When I eventually moved back to the U.S. I worked as a senior editor at an adventure travel magazine and started freelancing as well. Then I published my first book in 2013. I've always been interested in people's stories, and telling stories. I'm constantly crafting sentences in my head when I am walking or riding my bicycle.
What makes a book great?
There's no one answer to that question, but I would say that a great book is one that makes you feel something. That can be a positive or negative emotion, but I think that could writing compels a lot of feeling. I also think that a great book teaches you something, or causes you to think about something in a new way.
Do you have a favourite author?
There's no way to choose that! It depends on the season, my mood, where I am. But I will say that I turn to certain books at certain times. Recently, I have been going back to my childhood Swedish books by Astrid Lindgren and Elsa Beskow. There is something so powerful in the work of both of those writers that speaks to me as much today as it did when I was younger.
You also create recipes. Can you tell us about the food you make?
Food is something that connects all of us, no matter where we are from or who we are. I've always seen food as such a great way to connect with people, both good friends as well as strangers. And I also love all of the tradition, history and culture that is translated through food. In my own kitchen, I would say that I have a pretty simple, healthy approach to food. I try to cook as much from scratch as possible. I don't eat meat, but eat a little fish, so it's a lot of vegetables and whole grains. I take a lot of inspiration from Scandinavian flavours, and I also love baking, but am always trying to tweak recipes to incorporate new ingredients. If I had to choose just one favourite food, I would say an open-faced sandwich on knäckebröd with butter, gravlax, dill and a boiled egg.
What are your best tips to anyone wanting to write a book?
There are so many tools available to writers these days. Self-publishing gets easier and easier, and for those who have a strong idea, a platform to plug into and a team that can help them edit, do layout, etc. I think it's a great option for your first project. I would also say that if you're interested in pitching a book idea to a bigger publisher, pitch something that you love and that you know about. There's no point in trying to figure out what a "trendy" topic is. I think that the books that do the best are the ones where the passion of the writer shines through. I would also recommend getting your writing published elsewhere, either by keeping a regular blog, contributing to online and print magazines, etc. You want to show that you are able to write. And then, really the most important thing is just to sit down and do the work.
Can you tell us about your filmmaking?
I do some work as a documentary film producer, and I have also been starting to do a little bit of my own filming as well. For the last few years I have been working as an Impact Producer on Afghan Cycles, a film about women cyclists in Afghanistan, which is premiering at Hot Docs in April. I also started a project with two good friends Amy DuFault and Jenny Nichols called the Food and Fibers Project. That's a multimedia project taking a look at the intersection of food and fashion, and we have some short films planned.
What makes Sweden great?
There are so many things that make Sweden wonderful. For me, it's very much a place that represents family and friends, and when I visit, I mostly spend my time with them. I particularly love the landscape and nature. I also love Swedish design and art. For those who are interested, there's a great magazine called Hemslöjden that showcases Swedish handicrafts. And of course, fika!! Who doesn't love a good coffee break?
What should we not miss when visiting Sweden?
A few summers ago I hiked a section of Kungsleden, a trail in the north of Sweden. That's not a spot that a lot of travellers get to, but I would definitely recommend it. The Stockholm archipelago as well as the Gothenburg archipelago can't be missed. Just spend a day riding ferries and island hopping. I would also recommend the Green Rabbit bakery in Stockholm and Drop Coffee.