Ellinor Kall is an explorer of the liminal, embodying the blend between fiction and non-fiction. The popularity of her short story The DreamCube Thread in our recent anthology sparked this conversation on isolation, automatic writing, and occult influences.
Hi Ellinor, welcome to Writers on Lockdown!
Thanks, it’s my pleasure!
So how are things over in Sweden, are you feeling as ‘locked down’ as us?
From what I gather you in the UK seem to have a stricter policy than us. There are restrictions on how many can gather in one place, on visiting the older and vulnerable groups and things like that. Many work from home if possible, but many people are still out and about.
Every spring Swedes go crazy when the sun returns after a long dark winter and people HAVE to gather at the temporary outdoor seatings that pop up outside the pubs – no virus can stop this annual sun-worshipping ritual. Maybe it’s a remnant of some stupid viking mentality: if we die in battle with the virus we’ll get to sit and drink beer in the sun on plastic chairs outside Valhalla.
Haha! Do you find isolation a help or a hindrance to your creative process?
I’m a rather introverted person, and before this I was already working from home at least one day a week. And when not working, well, I’m mostly staying at home, reading, writing, listening to music, watching films and playing games. So this “isolation” is normal for me.
When I’m working on something longer I need time, preferably over several days, to get into the right mindset, get into the world, arrange all the pieces before I continue writing. Any disturbance from the outside world and I have to start over again. My mind is kinda chaotic and wants to go off and do other things all the time. So I have to spend a lot of energy keeping focus until I get into flow. But once that happens it’s hyperfocus to the point I forget to eat.
So I’d say my dayjob is more of a hindrance than any lockdown. My goal for the future is to work less and stay home to write more.
It’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one who works chaotically! Are you working on anything at the moment?
I’m slowly working on a collection of interconnected short-stories written in English that I call The Second Voice. It’s set in a fictional city called Azza-Jono that was created a couple of years ago in a shared world-building effort by a collective of writers that I’m a part of. The DreamCube Thread is an offshoot from this, so if you liked that one you should also look out for this collection due out sometime in the future.
Then there is all my writing in Swedish. I’m in the final stage of proof-reading the upcoming reissue of a previous novel, and at the same time finishing up the final draft for a brand new one. These are published under another name and since they probably won’t be translated to English any time soon I’d like to keep my two selves separate for now. But that’s a story for another time. I’m not a secret, let’s just call me a mystery.
Without giving any spoilers, I’d like to talk a little bit about your wonderful story The DreamCube Thread featured in our recent anthology, Vast. As well as the highly imaginative product at its centre, the story features multiple layers of occult concepts. Is this a big area of interest for you?
I have been interested in magic and the occult since I was a teenager. I read Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune and many others. Already from the start I got deep into some concepts that still fascinates me: The Thoth Tarot and Hermetic Kabbalah.
After a while of exploring this I realized that most of it has to do with the mind and consciousness so I got more interested in psychology instead. I almost went to university studying it but realised that they wouldn’t really teach me what I was interested in there. So I educated myself. Learned much, of which I now remember mostly fragments unfortunately.
Some years ago my interest in magic was reignited when I got involved in some magic work with a close friend and writer Fred Andersson up in Stockholm. With age comes some kind of wisdom, and suddenly everything fell into place for me. I connected the magic dots I had been looking at for 20 years and I finally felt I could call myself a magician.
Here is probably the point where I should explain that I don’t believe in magic as some supernatural force of its own. Magic to me is, very broadly speaking, a process of something happening inside a consciousness which in turn may affect reality through action of that consciousness. Creation and change by thinking and acting, not something appearing ex nihilo.
In working with magic I’ve learned some tools to change my state of mind to achieve goals that I envision. I realize that it may sound like some kind of self-help mumbo-jumbo to some – and maybe it is. Others may say it’s just psychology with fantasy-terms and they may be right too. The main point is that it works for me. The language of magic changes my world.
In my story The DreamCube Thread there is, as in the whole anthology, a running theme of exploring changes and differences in consciousnesses. Which is incredibly fascinating. So, with above ramblings in mind, it felt natural to mix in both some occult concepts and some science in the exploration of an expanding mind. The magic of consciousness is what creates and permeates the whole of our existence.
Absolutely. It sounds like you and I have a similar outlook on these things. So what made you decide to present the story as a forum thread?
The idea for the story came after reading a scientific article about neural networks. I wrote the first part and a couple of answers just on top of my head. I posted that on a socmed profile and continued to add to it as comments. I felt it was a good idea, I had never read anything like it myself. So I removed it from the site and worked it into a longer story. It was interesting to do all the different voices, and adding intentinall spälling and grammar errors to make it authentic. Maybe I got a bit carried away while trying to emulate English with German writing mistakes in one part, but thankfully I had good editors who helped me find the right amount.
Do you prefer writing short stories over novels?
In Swedish I have almost only worked with novels for a long time. I love to go into a world and be able to explore it for a while. But it takes so much time to write a novel. There are years between publications. So I got back to short stories when I found a writer community and began to write in English a couple of years ago. It feels like a good balance, some stories are short and some are longer. Some stories are Swedish, some are English – their character changes with which language I write in. Kinda fascinating actually.
I know that you write short pieces of non-fiction as well as fiction. Are these distinct disciplines for you, or do you find some overlap?
To answer this properly I would have to write an entire book. Which maybe I am. But a short tease of this is that I started writing down thoughts, that I categorize as philosophy on my website, when I got back into magic as mentioned before. Those short pieces of non-fiction are based on an amalgam of everything I’ve learned about magic, mythology, philosophy, psychology, neurology, linguistics, etc.
Yes, I know how it sounds, I have created my own philosophy of mind, life and the world – it’s a bit megalomaniac. But this is typical behaviour for magicians, to create their own system when they reach further than the already threaded ground. This is also what it is to be a writer. Without delusions of grandeur there would, at least for me, be no point in writing, no attempts to create life with words. Insert mad scientist cackling here.
So maybe all that I write is overlap. My most recent text right now is called Dreamsmear and it is fiction, self-biography, poetry, psychology, magic and an automatic writing experiment all at once. Words are what creates me. I’m half made of words. Maybe the motto for that book I might, or might not, be working on should be: “Scribo, ergo sum.”
That sounds fascinating. How do you approach automatic writing – do you find you need to be in a particular state of mind?
I need to have some kind of energy. Sometimes it’s an almost hypomanic positive creative urge with so many ideas that I can’t handle them all, then it’s just turning on a faucet and write down what comes out. And then sometimes it’s more of a desperate Ligotti point-of-view that existence is a meaningless nightmare and I have to invoke purpose by creating something, anything, right now, like a spell, like the magic I mentioned before. In between these extremes, if I’m just tired or uninspired, then nothing happens. And that unfortunately happens a lot.
Do you have any other creative outlets, besides writing? If so, do you find that they complement one another?
I have worked professionally with film, done a lot of strange music, dabbled in animation, love to draw and paint even though I’m not good at it, worked on an indie computer game that after a working tech demo unfortunately was abandoned due to life. I did a lot of photography when I was younger, and… Well, you get it. It’s all part of a wish to tell stories, create moods, mold reality, driven by curiosity and a restless need to move on. Sometimes I move in circles and come back to things – writing and music is always there – while I haven’t opened Blender to animate for years now. But, I suppose, it all comes down to storytelling, creating a mood, so it’s just different tools, methods, to convey ideas.
Finally, a question I’m asking every interviewee. Which three books would you recommend to readers on lockdown?
Aniara – A review about mankind in time and space by nobel laureate Harry Martinson from 1956. I always recommend this as it’s one of my all time favorite books. It’s about a spaceship that is struck by an accident and without engines gets lost heading straight into the nothingness for all eternity. It won’t cheer you up, but it is a beautiful look at humankind and will stick with you forever.
The Self Delusion – non-fiction by Tom Oliver. I read this last week and it was very interesting in giving scientific basis for much of my own philosophy about how we are not really independent individuals but inseparable parts of a great interconnected web. A good read if you feel alone.
Promethea – on the surface a comic book by Alan Moore with adventure, heroes and villains, but underneath a book about magic, tarot, kabbalah and ideaspace. If you found what I said earlier about magic and fiction interesting this is essential reading. It’s one of the best primers on magic/fiction there is in my eyes. And very creative, pushing the medium of comics to great heights.
Those all sound great. And that’s the third time I’ve heard Promethea mentioned in the last couple of weeks, so I’ll take that as a sign I should move it up my reading list! Anyway, Ellinor, thank you very much for your time, it’s been a lot of fun.
You can read Ellinor’s story The DreamCube Thread in our anthology, Vast: Stories of Mind, Soul and Consciousness in a Technological Age. Available from Orchid’s Lantern direct, Amazon, and all good online stores.