#293 – Being Uniquely You with Marcus Tallberg

In this episode, we are joined by Swedish author and entrepreneur, Marcus Tallberg. Tune in for a discussion on authentic representation of marginalized characters in fiction, why Marcus felt compelled to write from such a young age, and why it’s so vital for everyone to have the opportunity to see their experiences represented.

In this episode, we are joined by Swedish author and entrepreneur, Marcus Tallberg. Tune in for a discussion on authentic representation of marginalized characters in fiction, why Marcus felt compelled to write from such a young age, and why it’s so vital for everyone to have the opportunity to see their experiences represented.

  • Marcus explains how he started writing in his teens, and why he thinks his book My Queer Teen Life has resonated with so many young readers.
  • We discuss why Marcus is so passionate about mental health advocacy and how he used writing to work through some of his own mental health struggles.
  • He also talks about lack of variation in queer representation in media, and how much it means to him to hear from readers who see themselves in his books.
  • We discuss writing diverse characters, and the steps Marcus takes when writing about characters whose life experience is different to his own.
  • We also talk about tips for building an authentic social media presence, and Marcus gives some of his favourite book recommendations.
  • And lots more!

Useful links

Marcus Tallberg’s Website

Marcus on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

My Queer Teen Life

Mentioned in this episode:

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

The Hunger Games

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Books by Adam Silvera

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Marcus Tallberg is an author and entrepreneur from Sweden. Marcus is specifically dedicated to issues related to mental illness, minorities, sexuality and gender identity.

Episode Transcript

Transcription by www.speechpad.com

Rachel: Hey, writers. You’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast, where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Rachel, author engagement coordinator at Kobo Writing Life.

Joni: And I’m Joni, author engagement specialist at Kobo Writing Life. On today’s episode, we are talking to Marcus Tallberg who called in all the way from Stockholm, Sweden to talk to us about his writing, the kind of books that he writes. He has written everything from YA to children’s books to recently sci-fi and fantasy. We had a really great conversation.

Rachel: I loved this conversation with Marcus. First of all, I will never be that witty or coherent in a second language for as long as I live.

Joni: Truly.

Rachel: It was wildly impressive. But, yeah, like you said, we talked a lot about his writing process, kind of how it differs from writing his YA coming of age stories and his newly delving into fantasy. And we talked a lot about representation in media, especially in books. Marcus writes a lot about the LGBTQ+ experience, and we talked about why it’s so important for everybody to read authentic representation about groups that they’re not a part of or groups that they are a part of so they see themselves seen in media. It was a great conversation and I hope that everybody enjoys.

Joni: We are here today with author, entrepreneur, lecturer, Marcus Tallberg. Thank you so much for joining us!

Marcus: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited chatting with you.

Joni: Can you start by telling a little bit about yourself and your author journey?

Marcus: Sure. My name is Marcus and you pronounce my last name, surname very good. I’m happy about that.

Joni: No, can tell us how you pronounce it?

Marcus: In Swedish, it would be Tallberg, but not even I say that, even though I’ve been hearing that my entire life. Like, even since I was a kid, I played handball, I never went as Marcus because we have so many Marcuses. So I always Tallberg, Tallberg, always. So you did a good job. I’m 32. I actually had to count that yesterday. I was at a viewing of a thing and we were talking about when I celebrated my 30th birthday and I was like, “Yeah, that was five years ago. Wait, no, it wasn’t. No, wait, what? How old am I? Thirty-two. So, not if that’s important.

Joni: Listen, it does feel like we’ve been in a pandemic for five years. So, I do understand why you did that.

Marcus: Yeah, exactly. But I’m 32 and I live in Stockholm. And I was born and raised on the west coast of Sweden. I’m from Sweden, but that’s the boring part. The interesting thing is I started my author journey when I was 19. I’ve always been writing ever since I was a kid. And when was in high school, I found a competition online that was promising a published book in the end, but you had to write a certain amount of pages and it had a lot of criteria. The problem was that I only had three months to write this book. And I don’t know how much you guys write, but it takes more than three months to write a book from scratch. And so I called my best friend, Emma, and after just a few minutes, we decided to write about our lives. And that was the beginning of “My Queer Teen Life,” which is called something entirely different than Swedish. But we didn’t win. But a couple of years later, after a lot of editing, a lot of work with the book, it was published. I was 19 and we started writing it when I was 16.

Joni: Wow. That’s so young.

Marcus: Yeah, I know, it was incredible here in Sweden. And it’s, actually, when it was, what do you call it? Republished, published again in 2011, it actually was picked up in a lot of schools here in Sweden. So, I got a lot of emails from kids in school that had read it in class. So that was really amazing. You know, because when it was first published, I didn’t really grasp the importance of, you know, being published. I thought it was like, “Yeah, I have a book.” But, you know, I wasn’t focusing on my author career because I didn’t think it was a career at the time. But when I got these emails, I was like, “Oh my God, people are actually reading this book and are taken by it.”

I remember there was one girl, I think she was 14 named Joanna. I even remember her name, and in Swedish, the subject Swedish, all of them had the task of doing a short film in one way or another. And she had read my book and she wanted to do a twist on the short film task. So, she created an Oprah show. She called it “Joanna’s TV Show.” So she was the host and then she interviewed me and Emma. The problem was that it wasn’t me and Emma, it was two of her friends. So they had put wigs on and they were playing me and Emma. So that was so surreal watching two 14-year-old girls playing me and Emma. And, of course, the answers that they gave was entirely wrong, but she got the real answers for her essay in the end. So, that was really cool. Yeah. And then my second book came out in 2015, and my third, 2018 or ’17, ’18, I think it was.

Joni: Your first book was quite autobiographical, is that right?

Marcus: Yeah. Yeah. Actually more my life because she hadn’t…Because I came out very young. I’m from a small town called Trollhättan and, you know, being young and gay was, at the time, not something that people talked about. So, a lot of news magazines and news outlets around Sweden actually interviewed me because it was cool or interesting to be young and gay in a small town. And since I was already out, I did not have anything to lose. So, I agree to do them in hope to inspire and inspire others to come out or feel at least that they’re not alone. So, “My Queer Teen Life” is based on that.

And “Shattered Glass,” the second one, is more intimate. I actually didn’t plan to release it. I wrote it as a therapeutic tool to, you know, work through some important issues that I had. But I published it in the end. I’m thankful for that, actually, because it has opened up a lot of discussions and debates with a lot of people. And it’s important because people, like I mentioned before, feel that they are not alone, you know, because it’s talked about mental health. And when you go through that, sometimes it feels like no one can understand what you’re going through. And, of course, everyone is unique. But at least you can talk more open about it if more people talk about it.

Rachel: When you were a young teen on your coming out journey, did you have anything like this? What would it have meant to you to have your book available to you at that age?

Marcus: It would mean so much because, like now, we have so many books, there’s so many movies. And, you know, next Netflix is doing a great job with, you know, inclusiveness and such like that. But back then, it was not much. I had one book, it’s not even in English, [foreign language 00:07:00] which is the double meaning, playing a part and whatever. And I read that like back to front, front to back, you know, I knew it like inside and out. And that was actually a funny story. His name is Hans Olson who wrote that book and I was so sick of his ending because it’s an open ending. So I decided to write my own ending and send it to him. And that’s how I actually found the competition that later became “My Queer Teen Life.” So, you know, when I found his email address, I found the competition that me and Emma joined. And now he’s a really cool guy. He invited me to Stockholm. And he was actually part of the process of the first book. And he’s a lovely guy.

But that was the only thing that I had. We had, I don’t know if you know the TV show, “Queer as Folk,” but that was basically it. There was so few titles out. And we had two celebrities in Sweden that was out and gay, but you didn’t want to…like, they were the stereotypical gay guys. So, in my head, being gay was just one way to be, you know, like, flamboyant, you know, dressed in tight clothes, you know, hair everywhere, stylish, makeup, everything like that. There wasn’t any variety of characters and people to look up to. So, that’s my main goal with writing these books is trying to actually have so many different people because there’s not just one person that can represent one group. So, absolutely, it would’ve meant a lot to have that growing up.

Rachel: I just kind of wanna go back a little bit. Earlier in the conversation, you said that when you wrote your first book, you weren’t thinking of writing as a career. What was it that made you go, “Oh, I can keep writing, I can keep publishing books?”

Marcus: That’s thanks to people reading my books. You know, reaching out and telling me how important the books were to them. Well, I’ve always had, as a hobby, writing as a hobby, and I loved writing, but I never thought that I could do a career with it. It’s thanks to people reaching out. You know, it gives me motivation and inspiration to continue. You know, like, a lot of authors, they get bad reviews and good reviews when writing. And there has been…I have had my share of both. And when you get these awful reviews or just comments about something, you really, at least me, you know, hit myself, you know, like, hide away like an ostrich, you know, like, “Oh, I’m so bad, why am I doing this? I’m so bad at writing. No one likes me.” But I have a trick for that. I actually have a folder on my computer where I have saved all of the good reviews. So, when I am in that state of mind, I go to that folder and I’m rereading them. And I was like, “Right, this is what I’m doing. This is why I’m doing it. This is why I keep continuing writing because of them.”

And it doesn’t matter if it’s just one person liking your book or read your book. You know, as an author, you have to like question yourself, like, “Who are you writing for?” Like, are you writing for a big audience? Are you just writing for yourself? Are you writing…? You know, why are you writing? And I think that’s the first step to understand your own identity as a writer or an author. I had a conversation about this, actually, not about this, but it’s a similar topic with another podcast. And I said, like, “I think if you are writing, then you are an author. You don’t have to have, like, published book to be considered an author. I think, in my personal view because, you know, you are writing books, you know, that’s authorship. But you are a published author when you have the books published.” So, I think it’s a fine line between them too. Hopefully, to inspire someone to continue writing.

Joni: There was something that you said, I think in another interview that I really liked about how you explore your own experience, but also you’re writing about issues that affect human rights in all kinds of ways. And I know that you have another book called “Being Alice,” which is about a young trans girl, which is obviously not your experience. How was the process of writing and researching an experience that is someone else’s for you? It’s a big responsibility, right?

Marcus: It is. And the trans subject is also quite sensitive because, you know, like, do I have the ownership to do it, to write it, and publish it? I think it’s the way how you approach the subject and if you do it delicately. I have trans people near me. My ex is trans and I have my best friends who are trans. So I’ve always been surrounded by these amazing people. And they were the ones not pressuring, but, you know, like, “Please do it, do it, do it,” you know, like, trying to, what do you say, positively encouraged me to do it. And after a while, I was like, “Okay, I will give it a shot.” So on Facebook, I searched for people that I could interview about the experience and their lives, etc. And their response was so overwhelming. I got so many responses immediately. And I think that was the first step.

But then I was, you know, gathered all of this information and I still wasn’t sure how I could put it into a book. So, I put myself into the mix, you know, like, my own experiences. Because, especially being surrounded by trans people, you start to open up your own mind and thinking yourself in their shoes. And there has been times where I have questioned my own identity, my own sexuality. Like, there was even one time where I thought that I was straight, you know, because I had this urge to kiss a girl and I really felt that I was in love with her. And I was like, “But no, I love her as a friend. She’s my best friend.” It was that kind of love. And I think it’s important to always learn and evolve. And that’s why I put myself into the mix, and in using their stories, but me as like a pillar in the middle.

So, I used my…this is sounding arrogant, but my intellect as Alice, and then all of the experiences that they’re going through, that’s the journey that she goes through. And thankfully, I have so smart and intelligent people all around me that could help me piece Alice together, especially the person that influenced another character in the book called Vincent, and they use gender fluid. And they are so, so smart. So, literally, every time I was talking about the book, they had things to say. And one time, I was like, “No, wait.” I gave them a glass of wine, I took my computer and I was like, “Now you can continue.” And basically, 90% of Vincent’s monologues in the book is actually from these evenings when they were talking about the book. And like, “You have to include this, you had to talk about this. And this happened to me and my experience is this.” I’m so thankful for them. Yeah.

Rachel: Do you have any advice for other authors who want to include more authentic representation of marginalized groups in their books?

Marcus: Yes. Listen, that’s the key word, listen. I love the people who wants to be more inclusive. But especially, you know, like, this is very prejudice of me, but I feel like, especially when men are writing about other characters, specifically, like, women characters, they’re putting themself, but then they just change the outer, you know, like, what you see, but you are yourself in a…Does that make sense?

Joni: Yes. It does.

Marcus: Like, there is so…Continue. Yeah.

Joni: I’m just wondering, what do you mean that you might say this character is female, but you’re still writing as a man with your experience. You’re just telling the readers, like, this is someone else. Okay.

Marcus: Yeah, exactly. Like, you know, Batwoman, Supergirl, basically, they are male characters, but they’re female, instead of doing something original or actually talking to a woman and listen to what they’re saying and taking that into account. Instead of, like, “Oh, we are…” because we are different. And our experiences is different because we are in a patriarchy, and it has been like that for so many years, so many decades. And so it’s important to not be offended and listen, you know, especially as a man, I feel.

Joni: I think that’s great advice to put out there.

Marcus: Yeah. I hope no one got offended. Someone will get offended, that’s the cancel culture that we live in.

Joni: They can email us.

Marcus: Yeah. Yes. I mean it in the best possible way. But listen, that’s important because I feel like, oh my God, I had another reporter talking about, like, why I’m having the publishing house that I have. Why are you focusing on the negative? You know, “We have come so far with gay rights and this and this and this.” I was like, “Yes, we have come so far, but we’re not there yet. You know, there are still a lot of things that we have to do in order to have it equal, in order to have everybody’s values is, you know, the same. They are, but not everybody thinks like that. And, you know, we still have racism, we still have sexism, we still have ageism. You know, there are so many isms that we need to fight.” And no rights are more important than someone else’s, you know, we need to work together. And that’s starting with listening, I think, I feel like. Yeah, sorry, I got political.

Joni: No, that’s absolutely okay. We’re more than happy I wanted to ask also. So, you’ve written a lot of coming of age and children’s stories and you’re also writing sci-fi and fantasy because that’s quite a different process. How do you find the writing process for your fantasy sci-fi books?

Marcus: Well, they were interesting. You know, me as an author, like, everyone is working differently, but I don’t work with the book until I have a lot of material to start it. You know, first two books were so easy because they were my experiences. I knew exactly what to write. “Being Alice,” I needed help from a lot of people to gather all the materials. The children’s book, which is about the “Ty the Dinosaur” that is autistic, that came from…I went to a lecture with the Jill, who is also the co-writer, and she had a lot of experiences. And I was like, “You need to do a book about this because this is so interesting.” And she was like, “Well, I don’t know if I can write.” And I was like, “I can write if you let me do it. I will do a draft and then I will send it to you and see what you think.” And she liked it and that became the book. So that was quite easy. It’s also really fun working with her and especially the illustrator, Claudia. She’s amazing. I don’t know if you’ve seen the books, but I really love the drawings, the illustrations.

But the sci-fi book, “The Orphan,” that was…you know, because there was no rules. You know, in the world of fantasy and sci-fi, you make your own rules. You don’t have to abide to any law that we have in real life. You know, I can create my world exactly as I want it. And so, you know, writing that, that was so much fun. And actually, I’ve been reading and writing fantasy books most in my life. It wasn’t “My Queer Teen Life” that was the go-to stories that I wanted to write, it was fantasy stories. So actually when I got the chance to do “The Orphan,” I was so happy to do it. I’m so in love with those characters in that world. I’m still working on the third part. So it’s not done yet, but, yeah, I really like it.

Rachel: When it came to building the world of “The Orphan,” did you have a lot of the world already built before you started to actually write the book? Like you said, there are no rules, there are no laws when you’re writing in sci-fi fantasy. So, did you build your own world first and then go and write in it? Or did you kind of create the world as you wrote?

Marcus: Well, they both came simultaneously. Like, I knew that…I’m all for, you know, the climate. I’m no Greta Thunberg, but I’m doing what I can for the climate and the environment. And I knew that I wanted the setting to be after the ices were melted. So that was basically the blank canvas for the world. And I wrote it with another girl called Elin Frykholm, and we did a lot of research about how the world would look like after the ices were melted. So that was the setting. And I knew that I wanted a girl of color to be the main character. So, you know, in our world that would be Africa, you know, that’s the go-to when people think about people of color. And so I knew that it was gonna be the South of Africa, actually South Africa. And so that they would base it from there.

But the characters, I mean, “The Orphan” has gone through so many drafts. From the beginning, it was supposed to be about Freija’s parents and their journey. Well, it has been changed so lot, but I always knew the characters, but then we found another way of telling the story and, you know, that made more sense and it was more exciting. And that’s why we ended up doing what we did. Yeah. That was not a good answer. But my writing process with “The Orphan” has been quite messy. Every other book has been very organized, you know, like this, this, and this. You know, the sequel to “The Orphan” was more like my old me. You know, I do all the chapters very…you know, like, this is…and have a short summary of all the chapters. I have all the materials my I want to be included in the book. I have my research, I have everything. And then I just combine everything. So, that’s the writing process. But, yeah. And then, of course, you found out problems that occurs, but you are a writer in a fantasy world and you are God there, so you can solve it very easily.

Rachel: I feel like it makes sense that when you’re building something from scratch, it’s gonna be a little bit messier in the draft. So, I feel like you’re all right.

Marcus: Yeah. Okay, cool. It’s not just my head then.

Joni: I’m interested in…So, I wanted to ask you, when we talk about representation in media and the different ways that we can do that, why do you think that stories are important here? Like, what do you think it is that resonates with people, or why is this medium for you?

Marcus: Well, I love storytelling, especially in book form because you can say a lot and you can work with a lot of metaphors. For instance, in “The Orphan,” the group that is being, you know, secluded, hunted, looked down upon is the people with powers. But you can change that group and put that into our world. And, you know, LGBTQ people can relate, Black people can relate, women can…Because it’s all about everyone that has been treated differently, they can relate. And that’s so beautiful with books because you can put yourself into the character that you’re reading about, hopefully, well, if you do a good job as an author.

But I feel like we do need more stories and more presentation out there because I feel, especially as white, hetero, cis men, they can find their identity in society and it’s super easy because, you know, they are represented everywhere. But if you’re not represented, it’s harder to find where you belong or find people that are like you, or look like you, or feel like you, or identify as you. So that’s why we need more conversation in all kind of media, not just books but in media, in films and music and shows, specifically as music because it’s so heteronormative and it’s always from a male perspective, almost. So we need more perspectives. And like I said, we can’t just have one story that could represent an entire group because everyone’s stories are unique. And, yeah. So that’s why we need more of everything.

Rachel: Yeah. I think that’s a great point, especially about multiple stories, because I think as companies and publishing houses push more towards representation, I think that sometimes there is only one or two, or there’s only space for a small number of marginalized people to tell their story. And I think that you make a great point that we need it all. We need all the stories because it helps to shape our views a little bit better.

Marcus: Yeah. And also be brave enough to read about other stories, you know, like, other point of views. Oh God, I have an author friend, her name is Petra. And she was signing her book. She’s lesbian. And she’s writing about lesbian love in her books. And there was a man walking toward her signing booth and picked up her book and read the backstory. And he was like, “But I can’t give that to my wife.” And she was like, “Why not?” “Well, that would mean that I want her to become a lesbian.” I was like, “What? No, it doesn’t at all.” And especially LGBTQ people, we are being forced to watch straight dramas our entire lives. Until recently that we are having more shows and series about, you know, what we are going through that are represented in a way that is actually realistic, you know, because it’s always been like the gay best friend or people that are not skinny enough to be considered normal, they always been made fun of.

So there’s always…Oh, I hated…I don’t know, what’s it called? “Wings?” You know, there’s a Netflix show about fairies that’s based on a cartoon and now they made it…doesn’t matter. It’s a new show on Netflix. And they had “a fat girl,” and they made fun of her. Again, I was like, “This is 2000-something, and we’re still having the fat girl as something that we were laughing about, you know? Why not make her a strong, independent woman like everybody else?” So, yeah, we do need to be careful when we do have representation that we also are treating it in a good way and not just as a stereotypical or a fun job, or always…You know, when it’s about trans, not always, but there’s a twist, there’s a…instead of working it into the story. Like, “Being Alice,” for instance, she never says she’s trans, she’s not talking about herself as trans, she just is trans. I think that’s the difference. Sorry. I got emotional.

Rachel: No, and I think that’s, like your last point, is really big, especially in LGBTQ media, where it’s like, instead of it just being a story about somebody being queer, it’s a story about a queer person. Does that make sense?

Marcus: Exactly.

Rachel: Like, it’s not…Anyways. I wholeheartedly agree. And I also think that, like, representation allows people to both expand their worldviews and also helps people find themselves because it’s not easy to find yourself in media or figure out who you are if you don’t see yourself represented.

Marcus: No, exactly. You’re saying exactly what I’m thinking. So, good. Then I can make sense.

Rachel: We’re on the same page.

Marcus: Good. Good.

Rachel: I kind of wanna put you on the spot here a little bit. Is there a story that you want to tell that you haven’t had the opportunity to tell yet?

Marcus: Yeah, absolutely. But I’ve been afraid to do it because I want to take one of the characters from one of the books…Also, I haven’t mentioned, but the first three books, they’re taking place in the same world, but they are not story-wise together. But for instance, Tove, who is the main character in “My Queer Teen Life,” she is Alice’s psychiatrist in “Being Alice.” So, the characters come and go like that. And there is a character for “My Queer Teen Life” and I want to expand on him. Because a long time ago, I don’t know if you know about Eurovision, but this is the year when Leanna won for Germany. So, this I think is like 2009 or something. And I met a guy called Sebastian, and I don’t know his last name, and I will never tell it because it’s a sensitive story. And he was from Germany and he was in a relationship and he was gonna marry this guy. And, you know, their moms were best friends. And everyone was looking forward to the marriage, and the wedding specifically.

But this guy, which I found out after I hooked up with him, first of all, I didn’t know that he was gonna get married. He, for so many years, had an affair with a guy on the other side of the country. And they met up once a year to have this affair. And that’s all I know because we didn’t talk so much about it. But I had been thinking about it ever since. And I want to explore that, like, why are you doing it? Like, why are you having an affair for so many years? Why…People have open relationships, you know, people are polygamous. But everyone is agreeing and on the same page, you know, when you’re living with or being together with more people than one. But, you know, keeping it a secret and the other guy who’s also gay is doing the same thing, like why? And I want to explore that. But that’s a very sensitive topic because I don’t know, people are maybe thinking that I’m romanticizing adultery or something. So, it’s a very delicate way to approach this subject, making it so no one gets offended by it. So, I’m scared of doing that. But, yes, that’s a story that I want to write.

Joni: Sounds like a good story, though. I would read that.

Marcus: Okay. Thank you. Yeah. And also, I don’t know like who he is. I can’t track him down. I don’t know if he’s still doing it. So, I have to find people that are willing to talk about similar experiences because I’ve always been monogamous and I haven’t cheated. So I don’t know, like, why you would do that. But I know people do, so. Yeah.

Joni: Right. Well, you’re on record now…

Marcus: Yeah.

Joni: …as being fully monogamous. Well, that’s funny. So, another thing we wanted to ask you about is that you list some services on your website. You work with authors, or maybe not just authors on things like social media and creating content, that kind of thing. We wonder, do you have any advice or best practices for authors looking to create content and work on their social media or improve it?

Marcus: Yeah. Try, fail, and try again. I mean, like, if we learn from the mistakes and, you know, like, don’t just copy everybody else and see what they’re doing, just, you know…I call it younique. So silly and so cheesy. I spell it like how you spell you, like Y-O-U, and then nique. So, so stupid. But basically, that means that you have to be unique, but you have to be you, you know, like, put yourself out there, out to the center and be vulnerable. But it’s a difference between being private and personal. You can be private, how much you want, but be personal. Like, let people get to know you and see you. Because, honestly, nowadays, there are so many authors, so many books, you know, you’re fighting a stream of titles. So, you have to push through that wall of books. And in the end, like, no matter how good cover it is, no matter how good title is, it’s no one knows who you are, you know, chances are that you’re not gonna pick up the book. You know, like, dare to get out there.

You know, I’m a publisher as well, and I see this all the time. Like, authors, they think that, “Okay, I’m just gonna write a book and let the publishers do the rest.” But being an author is a full-time job and being part of the social media, which is sadly now the most way to communicate with others, because I feel like old media is kind of dead. You know, like, ads in a paper magazine doesn’t really give that much. So, you have to find your niche and go for it and then try something. If that doesn’t work, try something else. Try that for a bit. See if that gathers engagement and so on. And also have good posts, good pictures. It doesn’t have to be perfect. A lot of people think that everything needs to be perfect, myself included when I started it, you know, like, it has to be the most perfect lighting, most perfect everything and most perfect caption. If it’s not, then I’m not gonna do it. Just put something out. Everyone has a smartphone, go out, take a picture in the snow, take a picture in the sunlight, take a picture with your dog, take a picture when you’re drinking coffee. You know, like, just don’t do it like everybody else is doing it, do it from your perspective and let people hear your thoughts. You know? God, that was a lot.

Rachel: No, I think that’s great advice. I think we hear that a lot too that authenticity is better than creating some weird persona trying to be everybody else, right?

Marcus: Exactly, because people are smart. Well, most of them, and then they’re gonna see through that bullshit. You know, like, if you are putting out a persona, like, everyone has a persona, don’t get me wrong. Like, I’m talking to you in a different way than I would talk to my best friend. Everyone has a different persona depending on who they’re talking to, depending on the situation, whatever. But don’t create a fake you, be you, be authentic. Because if people find out that you are not doing these things or you’re not agreeing with these things, they’re gonna see through it and they’re not gonna enjoy you as much. So, yeah. And I know we’re living in a cancel culture, so opinions is something that I am very keeping to myself. But if you are totally, you know, 100% sure what you’re talking about, don’t be afraid of having opinions. You know, have discussion, have debates, but don’t have debates just to get something rolling. You know, it’s a difference. Oh, did I make any sense there? Because I know people too that say things just to get a reaction, and sure, they will get people to follow or know who they are but is that the way you want to be remembered? Does that make sense?

Joni: Don’t be a troll.

Marcus: Don’t be a troll. Be nice. Also, love, no hate, because, oh my God, spread love. We have so many trolls as it is.

Joni: This is true. Okay. We’d love to ask you a little bit about some of the books that you’ve enjoyed. Do you have a book or a memory of the first book that made you want to be a writer?

Marcus: That made me want to be a writer? That’s different, but I have a lot of books that I have enjoyed and that has inspired me. Like Michael Crichton’s book. His books are amazing. You know, he’s the father of “Jurassic Park,” which is one of the best books ever written. I actually have a really cool edition that I bought from Folio Society, and it actually has illustrations. It’s so cool. Look at this.

Joni: Oh, that’s cool.

Marcus: It’s so amazing.

Rachel: I want that.

Marcus: It was so expensive, but it was so worth it. So, I enjoyed his books. And a lot of like LGBTQ books that I read here in Sweden, of course, has meant a lot to me, but then it has been, you know, “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings,” even “Hunger Games.” I think “Hunger Games” were the push that I needed to do “The Orphan” because it’s quite inspired by that kind of dystopian world. Basically, that’s the only thing that I got from “The Hunger Games,” because she wrote it so thrilling, you know. Crichton does it as well. Like, he always ends with that exciting cliffhanger. Yeah. What else? Like, I can go on and on. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a book that also meant a lot to me. I love that book so much. And the film too.

Joni: The film is very well done. I really like the film as well and I don’t always like book-to-movie adaptations.

Marcus: Yeah. And oh my God, I agree with you, but I always try to have them in two different…you know, try to separate them because the book is the book, the film is the film. And you can’t say as much in a film that you can in a book. So you have to see it from their perspective. I have this with my boyfriend all the time. Like, the movie is not that great, depending on whatever, it doesn’t matter what kind of movie it is. If it’s in a film adoption, he’s always, “The book is so much better.” I was like, “Yeah, but you miss this, you miss this.” Like in the “Harry Potter” movies, “They don’t include this and, like, this and this.” It’s not needed for a story. The most important is that the story is there, the character is there. And then you do what you can because you have a limited time to tell the story, you know, like, you do it most of it.

So, try to separate the film from the book because in the book, you can live with this book hopefully, at least for a week. And I know people are reading books faster and faster these days, but you can live in the book for quite some time and you can take time to reflect and you can go back to the world. In a movie, you sit there for two hours and that’s that. So, yeah. But the movie’s very well done. And, yeah. What else? There’s so many. I’m looking behind me because I have most of my books there. Oh, have you seen “The Giver” or read “The Giver?”

Joni: I’ve read “The Giver.”

Rachel: I loved “The Giver.”

Marcus: Oh, so good. So good. Yeah. No, but there is so many, so many good books out there, so many good films as well. “Mysterious Skin” is also very good, “Chosen One.” So many good ones. “Cloud Atlas” is also really cool.

Rachel: Our next question, you kind of already answered. We were gonna ask you the first book that made you feel, like, seen or represented as a queer person. So instead, I’m gonna ask if there are any recent books in the LGBTQ sphere that you would recommend that have good representation as far as you’re concerned.

Marcus: Sure. My books.

Rachel: That’s a fair answer.

Marcus: No, but, yeah, there actually are quite a few good…I’m not so good with the English ones, though, but “Love, Simon,” I really enjoyed. And when that movie came out, I was like, “Oh, do we really need another coming-out story book?” But yes, we do. Because like I’m talking about, like, in the beginning of the interview is like, we need more representation and not everyone’s coming-out story the same. And I feel like every new generation kind of need a coming-out story. So, I felt like that was a very good also modern take of a coming-out story. And not all because most of the ones that I read when I was a child, they always came out in the end or maybe not at all. So you had to figure out what happened. So, that’s why in “My Queer Teen Life” that I wrote, he comes out quite early in the book, and then you follow his process afterwards. And that’s also what you’re doing in…spoil alert. But like in “Love, Simon,” you know, he’s being forced out. And so, yeah, that’s a good book. There are very good books out there. Oh, also what’s his name? [inaudible 00:37:55]. I really need…right, Adam Silvera, Adam Silvera’s books are really good too. If you don’t know him, look him up. He’s also a great author. Yeah.

Joni; Okay. We’ll definitely include links to his books because he is a new author to me.

Marcus: Adam Silvera…

Rachel: I’ve heard a lot of really good things about “They Both Die at the End” and I have not read it yet.

Joni: Oh, so have I, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Marcus: Yeah, yeah. This is him. This is one of the newest ones that he had, “History is All You Left Me.” Yeah. That’s a good book. Yeah. But I don’t really read so many LGBTQ books now because I’m trying to expand my repertoire. And also I’m reading in my work. So I don’t get a chance to read as much as I want to, you know, the books that I want to read because I’m reading the books that I need to read for work. But, yeah. And also I’m starting to do like reading the classics. I don’t know if you know “Practical Magic” by Alice Hoffman, but that’s also a real…I don’t understand how I forgot to include that with important books to me because that’s also a really amazing book. And she’s talking…you know, it’s about witches, but she writes it so naturally. You know, like, it’s never about the magic. You know, like in “Harry Potter,” there’s magic everywhere. The magic in “Practical Magic” is practical magic. It’s daily life magic. Read that book if you haven’t yet because it’s so good. And you will understand what I mean. Also, the movie with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman is one of my favorite movies all time.

Rachel: I was just gonna say that that’s one of the…Because I’m kind of like your boyfriend where I’m like, “Mm. The adaptation…” But “Practical Magic” is a perfect film.

Marcus: Yes. So good. So good. I loved the aunts so much.

Rachel: No, this has been a very thorough and great answer. You’ve given us so many recommendations. So, thank you for that. We will share them with our listeners.

Marcus: Okay, good. Thank you.

Joni: And where can our listeners find you online?

Marcus: Well, on Instagram, mostly. Okay.

Joni: No, no, no. I’m just looking it up now. MarcusTallbergOfficial is your Instagram.

Marcus: Right. Yes.

Joni: We’ll put a link.

Marcus: Exactly. Because if I had a choice, I wouldn’t use social media at all because I feel it’s so stressful. I don’t have notifications on. So sometimes it can take like a week for me to answer the DMs that I have. I will answer everything if it’s a question that’s not offensive or anything. But in the end, it will take some time. But I will answer. But social media-wise, it’s Instagram. I am on Facebook. I am on Twitter. But, yeah, Instagram is the best because then I can just solely focus on one platform.

Joni: Perfect. We will share that link and the links to your books.

Marcus: Okay.

Joni: Thank you so much for doing this. This is being great. It was fantastic to talk to you.

Marcus: Yeah. Thank you. I hope I made some sense, and you don’t get tired of me.

Joni: You made so much sense and I’m so impressed that you did it in English and made so much sense.

Marcus: Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, no, it was a bless to have been talking to you guys.

Rachel: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast. If you are interested in picking up Marcus’s books, we will include links in our show notes. If you are enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com. And be sure you are following us on socials, we are @KoboWritingLife on Facebook and Twitter, and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.

Joni: This episode was produced by Rachel Warden and Joni Di Placido, editing is by Kelly Robotham. Our theme tune is composed by Tear Jerker and huge thanks to Marcus Tallberg for being our guest today. If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.

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