This post has originally been posted on my ko-fi blog, available for my supporters – thank you!
I’ve been just about to start working on Land – the sequel to Children – very soon for, um, *nervously glances at the April 2020 date on the file sent to beta readers* …a while. In the meantime, things happened. Not just that one thing, but 16 months of intensive c-PTSD therapy. Followed by the discovery that my subconscious has actually kept the best for last.
(This is not a “pity me” post, just saying.)
Some readers, including other authors whose work I sadly can’t read because it’s too dark for me, told me they had to take breaks while reading Children. One said she had to go for a walk after she finished reading one particular scene. I chuckled, bewildered. The only reason why I put trigger warnings in the beginning were two scenes in chapters four and seven, out of ten. (The hot tub scene is my #livedexperience in different setting, and I was already self-aware enough to know it would be difficult for some readers.) Even though those were just two scenes, not adding those warnings felt like leading the reader into a trap – “haha! you thought this was a weird, but funny book? BAM!”
Apparently I was quite alone in that conviction
I mean, y’alls, come on. A lot of Children is based on my life, just kind of cranked up and with more Gods and magic. It seems that some of my past, whether I have written about it consciously or not yet, isn’t just “weird, but funny.” (I follow Carrie Fisher’s teachings: “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”) I knew I was doing self-therapy, but not how much.
In 2020 some of the “fictional” parts were still so well repressed I was convinced I was writing fiction, thankful to Bragi for the inspiration. I cranked those things up to 11 to make the book more entertaining. As the therapy progressed and realisations dawned, I became more and more afraid of my own book. Recently, though, I began to itch to start work on the sequel. For a while I considered just writing it without checking what happened earlier, then asking a friend for a continuity edit. Then, on Sunday, I found myself reading Children from cover to cover.
If this book has been written by somebody else, I wouldn’t read it – I avoid dark books. It’s a bit less hilarious than I remembered, although I did snort through the tears quite a few times. What it is, however, is damn good. Yes, I would do a bit of line editing here and there, remove some commas that either my editor or proofreader inserted and they change the tone (I might be a bit of a perfectionist control freak). Still, I honestly couldn’t put it down, even when it hurt, and it hurt me in a very different way than those whose lives it isn’t based on. I only took breaks for dinner and to greet Husby when he returned from work. That is some amazing writing and I can only wish I was this good… oh.
Me, myself, and Thjálfi
The hardest of punches actually aren’t based on my life. I was once tagged in a tweet saying that the person has never read a better description of opiate addiction. I actually based that part on Internet’s reputable parts’ explanations of heroin addiction and withdrawals. I might have repressed some memories, but I’m pretty sure I would remember if I used to be addicted to heroin. Reading that part gave me semi-permanent goosebumps. As far as I know, I also haven’t killed anybody. I especially haven’t killed anybody in that fourth chapter way. Those 29 rewrites (with some scenes – 40-50) paid off. Very little of the book is graphic, but when it is… then it really is. I worked very hard on engaging all the senses. I succeeded.
Magni’s communication problems are my own communication problems. (It was interesting to read the reviews suggesting he’s, ah, not very smart.) A few times when he is told to do something, then is either laughed at or punished for doing it, I’m actually copy-pasting from my ever upcoming memoir. There is much more of me in Magni, though, than I knew back then. In Maya, too. Freya, whom I actually based on Edina Monsoon from Absolutely Fabulous, feels a bit too…familiar (with emphasis on “family”). I’ve done Thor a massive disservice and one of the reasons why I can’t wait for Land to be written (my favourite part of writing a book is having written it) – his redemption arc might be brief, but he deserves it.
Thjálfi and Ludo are my favourite characters. Ludo was the last piece of the puzzle when I was failing at the outlaw sections. One photograph of Joel Kinneman I randomly found online changed everything. I could see how Ludo moved, hear how he talked and laughed (ugh), I knew what he felt, how he thought. The block was gone and the section is not funny at all. It punches – and cuts – exactly as I envisioned it.
Before the book was published I actually managed to offend, not knowing how or why… Magni says hi… a few people on Twitter by saying I wasn’t sure whether it was fantasy or literary fiction. I had no idea that some readers frown at fantasy or genre fiction in general. I just felt like I might be misleading people, since there is no single battle in the book and the only sword is used for comical purposes. My understanding of fantasy was somewhat limited at that time. What I delivered is more brutal than battles, because battles are sort of…impersonal. When Ludo says “chop chop” it’s very different from a Viking jarl instructing his 200 warriors to “chop chop.”
I had a conversation with another author, Justin Lee Anderson, about what constituted fantasy, and found out I was thinking specifically about epic fantasy. My book is grimdark fantasy and needs no battles to excel at it. Have I mentioned that it’s some superb writing?
(Yes, I’m banging my own drum, which is exactly how drumming works in general and this saying makes no sense.)
You’ll still laugh
The humour in the book is, well, my humour. The funny things I write are things I find funny. You might not find peeing dispensers here, but technically I could compile quotes that would make you think Children and Why Odin Drinks belong together. (They do. The Ten Worlds series is, in a way, the continuation of Why Odin Drinks.) Pleasantly, I have forgotten most of them. A few times I snorted so hard Husby looked at me with concern to check if I was okay.
On the other hand, certain bits in Storytellers never fail to make me tear up and I found myself openly crying when reading Children – but not when I expected to. Sometimes I cried because of how gentle the 2020 me was when writing those passages. As if I have known how 2023 me would read them. Perhaps I have. Many readers thanked me for the unexpected laughs lightening the load. I’m thankful, too.
Land: coming, although probably not soon
Having spent literally years being unable to pick up Land, I restarted the day after I finished my re-read of Children. The draft from April 2020 isn’t bad at all, neither is the feedback. I know what I want to change and achieve. Children is mostly about power – how it is used, abused, distributed, removed, be it power of love or wealth. Land will be a book about choices, their consequences, and compromises, about love and land. Both examine something I’m a bit obsessed with, the balance between consent and inequality (I loved Impeachment: American Crime Story). As far as I know, Land will not be self-therapy. Turns out that I don’t know myself all that well, though. The 2026 me might cry reading it. Hopefully laugh, too.
How I’m supposed to make it better than Children, though, is entirely beyond me.
(Update: now that I started on Land, I can’t stop – it feels like the book gestated and now I am writing it down. Within two weeks I’m halfway through the editor-ready version. It might be available sooner than you/I think.)