Why There Are No Dogs in Searching for Nora

That’s my dearly departed dog, Rex: a sweet, loyal collie mix who always knew when to cheer me up. Nearly everyone loves dogs, and many people enjoy reading about them and their deep-felt relationships with their owners. Given that, why didn’t I put a dog in my novel Searching for Nora?  It would have been a surefire way of warming up the narrative. A dog could have humanized the humans, led to interesting plot opportunities, and provided Nora with a friend when she desperately needed one. Ah, and therein lies the rub. I had a photography teacher once who banned… 


The Inspiration for Rikka

In my book Searching for Nora, there’s a character named Rikka Toft who befriends the heroine of the secondary tale, Solvi Lange. Both Rikka and Solvi are students at the University of Oslo. Solvi’s reading history and works as a photographer, while also searching for her missing grandmother. Rikka studies medicine but spends her free time upsetting the social order as much as possible. These two friends represent a new generation of women who came of age during WWI and emerged in 1919 ready to change the world. After the armistice, young women across Europe were suddenly challenging conventions –… 


Nora’s New Year’s Resolution

New Year’s resolutions are as old as the Romans (according to Wikipedia), so it’s likely that Nora Helmer might have considered some self-improvement around this time of the year. The image above is of a New Year’s resolution card from 1915, and I love how it starts with the statement “I will this day try to live a simple, sincere and serene life.” If my character Nora were to adopt a New Year’s resolution, the idea of living a sincere life would be a good place for her to start. Telling the truth is her particular challenge: she’s a quick… 


The Julenisse

The Julenisse In my novel Searching for Nora, there’s a figure known as a nisse. Nisse are mythological creatures from Nordic folklore popular in Norwegian traditions, particularly around Christmas and the winter solstice. They are little people, between six inches to three feet tall (depending on whom you ask) and they usually help a family tend a farm or house. They are what most Americans would call gnomes, often pictured in breeches and boots, with a colored jacket cinched by a belt, and wearing a tall pointed cap. Male nisse have long white beards, like little old men, and big… 


Missing Family Stories

When you write a novel, you never know what readers will take away from it. A reader recently thanked me for my book Searching for Nora because of my focus on the Norwegian immigrant prairie experience. She was grateful because she knew little about her own family history beyond the fact that they had emigrated from Norway to Minnesota in the late nineteenth century. She said her grandmother, who might have been a font of family lore, had been reduced to a “silent, little old lady” by the time my reader met her. Unfortunately, the reader’s grandfather didn’t communicate much,… 



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