Rebecca Dinerstein spent a year living above the arctic circle in Lofoten, Norway. Lofoten is a place of extremes. In winter, the sun barely tints the sky with light. In summer, the sun never truly sets. Dinerstein wrote her first collection of poems Lofoten while living in an artist community. That collection is written in English and then translated by Dinerstein into Norwegian. Both sets of poems appear in the collection. Her debut novel, The Sunlit Night, also finds inspiration in the endless summer days. She launched The Sunlight Night at Powerhouse Arena and talked about the book with writer Darin Strauss.
Before Dinerstein read from the novel, Bloomsbury Publishing Director George Gibson introduced Dinerstein. Dinerstein then read from the with the help of several friends including novelist Julia Pierpoint, novelist and associate editor Julie Buntin, and her agent Jenni Adler.
Darin Strauss begins the discussion by asking Dinerstein why she chose to travel to Lofoten.
“I don’t think I knew until I got there,” Dinerstein says. She explains that she felt a pull northward after a trip to Ireland. The summers there are also long, though not quite as extreme as Lofoten. She spent a year there and then another eighteen months elsewhere in Norway.
Dinerstein says she intends to continue writing both fiction and poetry. The challenge of writing novels is in how long they are, and how much time they take. She enjoys how poetry feels. She adds that writing poetry is an important part of training the author’s mind. “I think it’s a training in lyricism,” she says. Novels have a lot of sentences, she observes with a laugh, and sometimes its hard to force her way through writing a page.
Strauss asks her how she got to where she today with a book of poems and novel. Her answer is straightforward: “a lot of kindness along the way.” While she was writing poetry in Lofoten, a friend sent one of the poems to a Norwegian magazine. The magazine ended up publishing her poem. Hers was the only one in English. From there came the collection, Lofoten. It seems to her very accidental. She says that simply the right people ended up reading her work at the right time. As for The Sunlit Night, she submitted the final draft of the book to Bloomsbury exactly a year before the launch party.
Dinerstein is a Manhattan native. She often finds people asking her if growing up in New York City was a strange experience. For her, it wasn’t, in large part because it felt natural. She knew no other way. Leaving the city though for college and to spend time in Norway helped her understand why people see it as a strange experience.
Her departure from the city was an important part of understanding what was essential about the New York City experience. It helped to shed the things about life in the city that are automatic. Portions of The Sunlit Night transpire in New York City, but she says that she often felt it was easier writing those portions while away from the city. It was often easier to remember details about the city when she was absent from it.
The Sunlit Night is already on its way to being translated into Norwegian. Dinerstein plans to go return to Norway when that edition is released, and though she would love to return to Norway at some point to write, her next project will end up being someplace different.