I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for Storytellers with a guest post by Bjørn Larssen, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
Bjørn has very kindly written a post titled The Book That Wrote Itself. Over to you, Bjørn…
Remark: the title Dýrð í dauðaþögn in the text is not capitalised on purpose – this is how Icelanders write it. – Bjørn
All writers know the confused feeling that accompanies us when our characters decide to act against our will. “I had such a nice outline ready!” the writer shouts at his screen. “LOL, too bad,” answers the character, “because I just killed my love interest. Good luck with your little book!” In my case it was the setting of the novel.
I was introduced to Ásgeir’s song “King and Cross”. I liked the song well enough, but decided it was muzak. A few days later my husband was playing an absolutely beautiful record. “What’s this?” I asked. “It’s that Ásgeir,” Husby answered. “You told me about him.”
I began to wonder. Who sent me that video? All my friends who were music nerds insisted that it was I who sent them the song. I went through my messages, even texts, finding nothing. Oh well, I thought, then continued wondering where to place my remote fishing village, its community so tight that it was impossible to keep a secret, even though each of the village’s inhabitants believed that they were the only ones who were safe from gossip. As Ásgeir’s album, Dýrð í dauðaþögn, played in the background for the fiftieth time that week, a thought formed in my head.
It only took me two days of research to discover that Iceland was perfect. Most of the information I needed for further research was not available in English, so I tried to contact various Icelandic historians. The only one who responded was Helga Maureen, who worked at Árbæjarsafn, an open air museum in Reykjavík, where I could actually see the houses from the period I was writing about – the period that she was an expert on. Obviously, that meant I had to go to Iceland. Once I experienced the country, Iceland turned from just a setting into a character of its own, its brutal beauty affecting the story almost as much as the elf who inserted himself into the novel and refused to leave.
A microbiologist I knew happened to know a lot about medicine in the 1920s. A reader of my blog was a specialist in alcoholism and happy to share his knowledge. Another one used to live in Iceland for five years and told me about places I had to visit next time…
“What are you doing exactly?” I asked Odin the next time I bumped onto him near Bifröst.
“Tone,” he snapped.
“My apologies… What are your, um, plans, o All-Father?”
“That’s my business. Yours is writing.”
“Can I at least pick the title?” I squealed. “I’ve got a really good one, very commer–”
“It’s called Storytellers,” said Odin in a voice that suggested the conversation was over.
Five months later I decided that I was done and only needed a proofreader. A mutual acquaintance suggested her friend Megan, who just happened to be an editor happy to work with a complete newbie. Over the course of sixteen months she would teach me how to turn a pile of words into a novel. My only worry was the first chapter, which dragged on even when I cut all the superfluous bits I could think of. Megan had no ideas either. Two months before my chosen publication date I won a competition, where the prize was a professional critique of the first chapter. The results allowed me to remove a good 20% of it.
I asked Hallgrímur, my favourite Icelandic photographer, whether he happened to have a photo of a lonely house in a remote location. He send me four images, three of them incredible, the fourth perfect. Now the cover was designing itself. After the book’s release I would meet a wonderful writer online, we’d become friends, and she would start helping me with the following steps, but I’d be lying if I said that at that point I was even surprised.
“I don’t even believe in you,” I complained the next time Odin called me over.
“Irrelevant. I believe in you. Start working on the second book. I’ll be in it. Research me. And learn Icelandic before you move there.”
“Move – wait…!” He was already gone, of course, and I found myself back in my man-cave, Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Norse Myths in my hand, knowing exactly what book I was going, or rather supposed, to write next.
PS. Icelandic is an awfully difficult language…
About the Book
In March 1920 Icelandic days are short and cold, but the nights are long. For most, on those nights, funny, sad, and dramatic stories are told around the fire. But there is nothing dramatic about Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith who barely manages to make ends meet. He knows nobody will remember him – they already don’t. All he wants is peace, the company of his animals, and a steady supply of his medication. Sometimes he wonders what it would feel like to have a story of his own. He’s about to find out.
Sigurd – a man with a plan, a broken ankle, and shocking amounts of money – won’t talk about himself, but is happy to tell a story that just might get Gunnar killed. The blacksmith’s other “friends” are just as eager to write him into stories of their own – from Brynhildur who wants to fix Gunnar, then marry him, his doctor who is on the precipice of calling for an intervention, The Conservative Women of Iceland who want to rehabilitate Gunnar’s “heathen ways” – even the wretched elf has plans for the blacksmith.
As his defenses begin to crumble, Gunnar decides that perhaps his life is due for a change – on his own terms. But can he avoid the endings others have in mind for him, and forge his own?
There are 5 x copies of “Iceland: Making Memories” on offer. To enter the giveaway (INT) please click the Rafflecopter link.
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the Author
Bjørn Larssen was made in Poland. He is mostly located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, except for his heart which he lost in Iceland. Born in 1977, he self-published his first graphic novel at the age of seven in a limited edition of one. Since then his short stories and essays were published in Rita Baum Art Magazine, Writer Unboxed, Inaczej Magazine), Edurada.pl, Homiki.pl, and Holandia Expat Magazine. He is a member of Alliance of Independent Authors and Writer Unboxed.
Bjørn has a Master of Science degree in mathematics, worked as a graphic designer, a model, and a blacksmith. He used to speak eight languages (currently down to two and a half). His hobbies include sitting by open fires, dressing like an extra from Vikings, installing operating systems, and dreaming about living in a log cabin in the north of Iceland, even though he hates being cold. He has only met an elf once. So far.