This post originally appeared on my ko-fi blog, available for my supporters – thank you!
After I finished Storytellers, I started working on a disastrous book called The Age of Fire. Luckily I realised in time that not everything I wrote was genius just because it came from my brilliant mind, and shelved the thing. It featured a woman called Maya, though. Maya dressed only in black, had messy, mid-length hair, and liked silver bracelets.
When I started on Children, it had a different title, and was supposed to be Magni’s book, until Maya found out and announced she wasn’t just moving in, but would have half of it for herself, thanks.
This is how I write. [“I” – Ed.]
By now, as in 2023, I sometimes get a say regarding what happens in my books. When I was working on Children, which received 29 rewrites until it became the version it is, I was not blessed with the ability to negotiate yet. I would write something, Magni would take a look, and announce “I’d never do this.” When I inquired, he’d shrug and say “you’re the author, you figure it out.”
This might be a good moment to announce my characters talk to me. (Or at me.) Not as in I have visions in which they appear from the fog uttering Important Messages, or step into my actual living room. I don’t necessarily know what they look like. Over the revisions/rewrites (I tend to rewrite everything, rather than change) I learn who they are. Except the bastards won’t tell me. I have to figure it out via trial and error.
Children was supposed to “only” receive 28 rewrites, until Maya showed up, while I was taking a shower (this is why I have a waterproof phone) to casually inform me why she was claustrophobic. This resulted in me adding, last minute (week), one of the most powerful scenes in the book, and closing that particular plot hole.
I took a brief 34-month break from Land for various reasons, some of which I talked about and some of which I didn’t. Then, one day in February 2023, I had this thought – why not re-read Children? (Which, by then, I realised was autobiographical, but not actually funny. That’s a story for another post.) I swallowed it all in one afternoon and evening, then started writing Land. Writing it down.
I did not use the previous 2020 draft at all. My subconscious was apparently busy writing the whole thing while I wasn’t paying attention, busy with Why Odin Drinks and its sequel (currently on the backburner). The book spilled out and I just typed as fast as I could. Magni and Maya behaved, more or less. Even Freya did. But I introduced two new characters, Queen Timy and Thorolf. Queen Timy was supposed to have approximately five paragraphs for herself and spend most of them melancholically strolling around her castle, Enya-style. You’ll see how that went.
Thorolf was worse. His sister, Gerdur, features in Land, and I had problems showing her as a person with agency, which Thorolf didn’t like. I simply didn’t have enough space for the backstory. Thorolf already announced it earlier, but now made it clear: they would be getting a book of his own. Now.
The Blue King
I came up with the idea for The Blue King a long time ago, back in 2020. It was supposed to be something like an accompanying novella, Thorolf’s and Gerdur’s backstory. I didn’t really know what to do with it, I just liked the title – dark-skinned men were referred to by the Northmen as blámenn, blue men, and I like the fact that “blue” means more than one thing. Other than that, I knew that Thorolf will be in Land and what he will be doing there.
Then the bloody bastard started dictating the whole book, starting with his – and Gerdur’s – childhood.
And then it got worse.
I had a brief thought, not even really a thought, a flash of a thought – let’s see whether we can do an overlap with Harald Fairhair for shiz’n’giggles. Harald, for those who know something about him, is a bit…assertive. (You don’t get to defeat all the petty kings and unify all of norway by being placid.) As a result, he claimed half of the book for himself (and Thorolf, who isn’t a pushover either). Then Marian L Thorpe mentioned “the divine twins,” because I had the idea that Thorolf and Harald would be born on the same day – it fitted my timeline and also why not, ahaha – and everything got ruined. As in, drafted.
The Blue King is now a full book the same length as Land. Possibly longer. I thought that once I have written down Land within a bit over a month, I’d either have some sort of a mental breakdown, or go back to a writer’s block, which I’ve been experiencing for three months. Ahaha. Here comes book three. While book two doesn’t even have a release date.
And they were still not done with me…
Young Khari’s Book
While working on Land I had an idea (someone should stop me from getting ideas) – the names of the most important, most legendary of the Hidden Folk, the original inhabitants of Iceland, will be bestowed upon those youths deemed worthy. Khari was the Golden Scoundrel, the man without fear, whose deeds made him a living legend. Khari was not particularly happy to be a living legend, or even living, really, but once you are placed on a pedestal like this, you don’t get to quietly climb down and disappear into the night, immediately forgotten.
At the very end of Land, I introduced Young Khari. (Because why not? I should really stop thinking “because why not”…) He was supposed to be little but a placeholder, not even a sidekick. One of the surviving characters remarks that with this name, he will be a thousand years old and still called “Young” Khari. And then, as I was drafting The Blue King, Young Khari muttered:
I slipped off the pedestal built for the legend, for my father, and that was why I was now Outside. Deprived of the immortality I just assumed I deserved.
OH NO. YOU WON’T.
I almost, but not quite, entirely unlike got rid of him, when he added:
Cursed with his name. Sentenced to a life in a cave. And that wasn’t even the bad part.
You know what IS the bad part? Queen Timy. AKSHDGKLHSLDGHDLKHSDGKH.
A friend of mine, a blogger, talked a few writers into murdering her in their books. Obviously, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity, so I decided she’d get a few paragraphs in Land, then get beheaded.
You can probably guess that “a few paragraphs” turned out to be 1/3 of the book. She doesn’t really do much Enya-style strolling, either. Queen Timy went on to develop a personality, turn out to be assertive, twelve-hundred years old, and just shoot me. (Her.) Since The Blue King partly overlaps with Land, she’s there as well. AND THEN it turns out that Young Khari was cast Outside with Young Timy.
The woman who wouldn’t die!!!
So far, I have the first chapter of Young Khari’s Book which looks like a fantasy version of Agatha Christie. I know why they were cast Outside – the greatest punishment the Hidden Folk can impose. I know the punishment is unjust, and the two – innocent. I know who did it. How, though? How do they prove their innocence?
Don’t worry. My subconscious will tell me. Except the plans were different…
Why I can’t write to deadlines
I was actually happily working on Why Odin Drinks 2, which turned out to be Freya’s coming-of-age story. (Did anybody ask me? Of course not.) Then I got my writer’s block. I recovered somewhat, started again on Why Odin Drinks 2… and my subconscious went “hahaha nope.”
Right now I am waiting to get Land back from Megan Thee Editor. Once I have it, I will have substantial rewrites to do, because now I know Thorolf’s and Gerdur’s backstories (thanks to drafting The Blue King). But what my subconscious actually decides to do remains to be seen. It might want to start a rom-com instead, or move straight to Young Khari’s Book, or just write Queen Timy’s bloody memoirs, sweetie. In any case… I am definitely writing. And something will be published at some point. What something and when some point happens, I do not know. My subconscious will keep you informed.