Feature

Author of the week: Olaf Olafsson

Olafsson is a walking rebuke to anyone who complains about not having the time to write a novel.

Olaf Olafsson is a walking rebuke to anyone who complains about not having the time to write a novel, said David Carr in The New York Times. Olafsson, 49, has just completed his fourth in 12 years, and he’s done so while holding down a demanding day job as an executive with a global media company. Olafsson’s chapter-long title—he’s a senior vice president for international and corporate strategy at Time Warner—makes serious demands on his time and creative energies. Yet he keeps writing fiction, regularly waking at 6 a.m. to do background research and making the rest of us look like slackers. “That’s funny,” he says. “I always scold myself for not being productive enough.”

Olafsson’s no hobbyist, either. His novels are densely plotted and rich with historical detail. The latest, Restoration, is set in World War II Tuscany as Axis and Allied soldiers converge on a crumbling estate. The story is based partly on the life of a British woman, Iris Origo, who lived in such a villa after marrying an Italian nobleman. “I was messing around the topics of art and Tuscany when I came across her diaries, which are amazing,” he says. Though Olafsson’s plush office overlooking Central Park suggests that he wields real power in his profession, he says he continues to write in part to exercise autonomy that his 9-to-5 doesn’t provide. “You don’t get much done around here by being autocratic or pontificating,” he says. “When I am working on a novel, I pretty much call the shots.”

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