Why Odin Drinks

A new book, sort of, is coming this summer.

Originally called How to Be a God, Why Odin Drinks explains that when the Gods first found themselves in the Nine Worlds, they didn’t know how to God properly. Similarly to Maya in The Ten Worlds, they have to discover what it is they apparently do, and that can only be done by trial and error. Maya’s task is easier.

Why Odin Drinks is going to be a series of novellas, released as e-books as I finish each one. Initially it looked like Thor and Two Ladies would be ready first. But… before Thor could start admiring the female beauty, he had to be created. But not before the cow Audhumla. And many other things, such as celery…

Liquid fire

Guess who this is? (Hint: it is I) Floradorp New Year’s celebration, 2013/2014.

As a kid, I was incessantly bullied. I was fat, bad at all sports, extremely introverted, wore thick glasses, I lived inside books and mixtapes I made. I was so smart I excelled at everything (but sports) but not smart enough to understand that always knowing all the answers and bragging about how I never had to study for tests didn’t make me popular. (Emotional intelligence was not strong in this one at the age of 7.) So I avoided the other boys. I was both alone and lonely most of the time, my companions being books and music, but twice a year I would be rewarded with magic.

Back in the 1980s, every worker was sent on subsidised vacations. We’d pick one out of, I don’t know, three near identical locations, and go there for two weeks, paying silly money – think €10 per day for a family of three. Certain traditions were always observed during those outings. The first evening without rain would be the “evening of friendship,” where the kids would be obnoxious together, adults would get drunk, then at some point the kids would get sent to bed.

Except me.

We are default people too

“When we say that someone is ‘writing from the margins’, what does that mean? […] They’re writing about race, or gender, or country of origin, or disabilities, or… the list goes on. But. Why are they still in the margins? Why is it still considered that?” (Morgan Hazelwood, Writing SFF From the Margins)

Krystle Matar and I decided to talk about this topic, and how we refuse to keep both ourselves and our characters on the margins of SFF literature.

Shifting the default: what does it mean to you and why do you want to do it?

Krystle When talking about how much of your characters to include in your books, I’ve seen the advice, “if it serves a purpose to the plot, absolutely talk about their sexuality/identity.” This advice always rubbed me the wrong way. When have we ever asked if a character being heterosexual and male “serves a purpose” in the plot? Why should our characters being full and complicated humans have to be anything more than aspects of who they are? Why should they have to justify their existence by a checklist?

Maybe it’s because I’m a character writer first and a plot writer second—every part of them serves a purpose, but no particular part of them is more important than the other. In my head, they live and breathe. Those of us that don’t fit the default shouldn’t have to “serve a purpose” to be allowed to express ourselves to the fullest breadth of our existence. We should be allowed to just be—and I wanted to give my characters the same multifaceted depth that I’ve seen in the real world.

No, really…

When Storytellers came out in March 2019, I kept obsessing about sales and reviews, refreshing my Amazon dashboard, checking Goodreads four times a day (HAHAHAHA more like forty). My first one-star review didn’t upset me – I knew I was bound to get one eventually and almost felt validated. I was a real, rejected author now! But, also, Storytellers was no longer my only baby and the love of my life. It quietly disconnected itself from me – I was working on my second book, Age of Fire, urban fantasy with Norse Gods in it.

I got a bit drunk on the five- and four-star reviews coming from complete strangers. They weren’t my friends or family members trying to humour me. Now all I had to do was write the next book, then the next one, and each would be better just because I was clearly really good at this.

Big mistake. Huge.

I wrote about video games, which I don’t actually play, then dumped all my knowledge of Reykjavík into it, including which supermarkets were the cheapest (Bonus) and how Icelanders socialised (in the public pools), and I felt so proud of this incredible… 

…turd.

The True Meaning of Christmas

Guest post by Elísabet R. Viðarsdóttir

 

The Norse, with their gods and myths, sailed ashore in Iceland, the land of magical creatures both living and dead. In order to settle the island, the Norse knew they needed permission from these creatures.

The living conditions on the island were harsh, especially during the long, cold and dark winters. The only thing alive in nature was the evergreen tree. It truly was Yggdrasil, the eternal tree that holds everything together.

Crops were scarce, leaving little food for the animals. This forced the farmers to slaughter some of them and preserve the meat for winter. Thank goodness for the gods and the otherworldly beings who blessed them and helped them survive through their hardships.

December came and the farmers could finally look forward to longer days and shorter nights.

 

It was time for Winter Solstice, a time to celebrate and honor the gods for all they had done.

The farmers prepared a big feast with the leftover grains, meats, mead and wine. It was the perfect time to celebrate. It was a new season where all the good things in life begin anew with a turn towards brighter days on the Wheel of the Year.

Is this even \”writing\”?

There are three sorts of writers. Plotters, who come up with the plot first, then write their characters to follow it. Pantsers, who kind of grip to the edge of their seat and watch what happens. And Artistés, who develop characters that become so real they refuse to do what we want them to.

Storytellers got 21 rewrites and took me 26 months to write, because I haven’t learned yet what sort of a writer I was. I had my plot, a few important characters, and multiple stick figures. When my editor said to me “the only differences between your female characters are whether they’re pregnant or not” I felt, as a noted feminist, that there was a massive challenge in front of me. But when I started giving them personality traits, they stopped doing what I wanted them to.

Guðrún no longer wanted to devote her life to being a figure in the background whose task was listening to others. She turned out to be assertive, fun, selfish, strong, and didn’t suffer fools gladly. Once she started talking and acting, the other characters needed to become alive as well. Including the fools. Mannerisms, clothes, duties, habits, attention to hygiene, attitude towards religion, neuroticism… In the meantime I had a plot, or thought so. Things kept going out of control until I figured everyone out, even characters that only appeared once for approximately 15 seconds. Only then the pile of paragraphs finally started feeling like a book.

This was my first clue that I was going to be an Artisté, but I didn’t know that yet. I just thought I had no idea what I was doing. (That was true.)

My Norse Gods: Freya


With Children out for a month now, it really is time for something I’ve been postponing for months… apologies to Freya and Freyr.

“My” Freya is the reason why I originally – two years ago? – pitched the book as “Drag Race meets Terry Pratchett in Ásgard.” She  wouldn’t just win Drag Race, because Freya doesn’t compete. She’d send RuPaul to a nursing home and take over the hosting duties – until she got bored (halfway through episode two). She’d then announce that Keeping Up With THE Freya is where it’s at and everyone would switch the channel. In the inevitable Netflix series I cast Scarlett Johansson as Freya because I can’t stand Scarlett Johansson.

This is an unusual interpretation of the Goddess.

 

The Freya

Our Troth:

As mistress of magic and goddess of sexual love, she kindles the imagination and sparks the heart. Whereas that other great goddess, Frija [Frigg – BL], is wholesome and safe, the Frowe [Freya – BL] is sweet, wild, and dangerous.

[…] Frowe is not motherly in any way. […] To the Norse, Freyja was a goddess of riches, whose tears fell to the earth as gold and whose most common appearance in skaldic poetry is in kennings for “gold”. […]

Here’s Freya getting burnt at the stake – three times:

[Freya] is first thought to have come among the Ases as the witch Gullveigr (“Gold-Intoxication”), whose fate started the war between the Ases and the Wans: “when Gullveigr was studded with spears and burned in Hár’s hall; thrice burned, thrice born, often, not seldom, but yet she lives”

I changed the order of events. The war between the Æsir (the Gods who inhabit Ásgard) and Vanir (those coming from Vanaheim) can’t be won by either of the sides, so they declare a truce and exchange hostages. Freya is one of them, forced to move into an unfamiliar place filled with those who only just stopped trying to kill her and her kin. She is young and afraid, and wants to prove that she is more valuable alive than dead. What she has to offer is love, so when one of the Gods wants to be loved by another, Freya briskly fulfils the wishes. It turns out, though, that some have multiple suitors, others are already taken, and some change their mind five minutes later. In her attempts to avoid the Æsir’s wrath, she enrages them, causing them to fight between each other. Burning her on a stake only once is not enough of a punishment. The myths don’t seem to consider this to be a particularly memorable event in Freya’s life. She seems to just get over it.

Not in my book, though.

Children: out and proud


Children is out, and I am proud. You can buy the e-book here. There are more links and excerpts on the Children page.

When the writer finishes the book, they don’t know whether it’s any good. Will the readers stop reading on page 50? Will there even BE any readers? So, the writer has found the target audience carefully approached through various marketing means (I didn’t do that, because I’m a bit of a twatwaffle, about which in a moment), but what if a mistake was made and the Carefully Selected Potential Readers just don’t click on the links? Or they do, but don’t like the cover? They like the cover, but not the blurb? Or the worst – mutter “meh” and go elsewhere? Will the book sell any copies at all?

This is predictable to a certain degree. For instance, I am 100% certain that in the coming year Children will sell fewer copies than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which has been out for 23 years. Whether that will mean 0.001% of Rowling’s book’s sales or 10% (in my dreams) isn’t that easy to predict, but at the end there are maybe a few thousand people in the world who know I exist at all, much less that I write books.

This isn’t the worst part though. Without a team, or at least one faithful and very well-read assistant, I don’t even know what my book is. It took me literally months to decide I would call it queer Norse adult literary fantasy, and I am still not entirely certain whether that’s correct. In order to get people to buy my books, I have to find those right people (then hope they like the cover, then the blurb…) That’s very easy though, innit? I simply find some books that are just like mine, advertise to those readers, $ucce$$ follows.

 

Also-boughts

Let’s start with the warm-up. What other books do my readers buy?

Children: TWO WEEKS

I’m the sort of person who only really understands two dates: “sometime in the future” and “OMG”. When we went on a short outing I was working on the bonus hardcover-only story, when suddenly the realisation kicked me in the face: I didn’t have time to tinker with it at leisurely pace for the next month or two, because the book will come out in seventeen days.

Just like that, “sometime in the future” became “OMG THAT’S LIKE NOW WHY WHERE WHEN HOW”.

The release date, October 3, is set and… and I won’t say anything about it not changing, because last time I had deadlines I nearly went and actually died just so that I’d have an excuse for the delay. So it might even not change, who knows. My real fears lie somewhere else…

 

Impostor syndrome

Every good writer has the impostor syndrome. Except, obviously, I’m not a good writer at all. Everyone else is. Just not me. Storytellers was a lucky strike. Now the readers will find me out.

(I asked a writer who has 21 books out and she says that she is yet to stop feeling this way.)

Maybe I failed to give justice to the Norse lore. Or the characters. Or the… uh… weather. Or trees. Or *insert every single thing that appears in the book*. I am past the stage where I feel like I’m even bad at typing “the”, because there are three and a half sentences on those 442 pages that I know are perfect, so that only leaves everything else.

Children: they\’re coming

My second book, Children, will be released on October 3, if 2020 lets us stay around that long. You can add it to your Goodreads TBR list already.

 

In a few words…

Magni never wanted to be like his father, a murderous, absent, cheating alcoholic: Thor – the feared and beloved God of thunder. When Thor destroys everything and everyone his son knows and loves, Magni vows to stop the violence. His dream is to bring peace and prosperity to the Nine Worlds, then settle down with the man he loves. But is it possible to remain good in a place this bad? How do you escape cruelty in a universe built on it, or the shadow of your father when everyone calls you by his name?

Maya knows she’s a failure and a disappointment to her foster-parents. How could a child raised by Freya and Freyr – Goddess of love and God of sex – have no interest in the greatest of pleasures? Obviously, it couldn’t be the torture they subjected her to, or treating her as a tool that might someday be useful. Maya, her rage at their games more powerful than she knows, wants freedom to pursue her own destiny. But how do you forge your own life away from your God-parents when you’re nothing more than human?

A retelling of the Norse myths unlike any other, Children will answer all the questions you never knew you had about the heathen Nine Worlds… before leading you into the Tenth.

 

What others think:

“A haunting, brutal, and emotional coming of age story, steeped in Norse mythology and written in spare but lyrical prose, Children is a book that demands to be felt rather than read. Its hard-hitting story and dark humor combine to make this a grim book with lots of heart, a book that will stick with me for a long time.” – Angela Boord, author of Fortune’s Fool

“Faced with gods who are interested only in their own goals, happy to use their own children to further their ambition in the face of a foretold end, Children can be read as allegory or fantasy. Drawing on established Norse myths but adding a unique interpretation, Larssen’s tale made me wince with witnessed pain, and cry, and, once or twice, snort with laughter. His evocative prose will linger in my mind for a long time. Not a book easily forgotten.” – Marian L Thorpe, author of Empire’s Reckoning

 

Cover

On the RockStarlit BookAsylum blog I talk about the evolution of the cover and title changes. On Whispers and Wonder Justine Bergman talks about the Tree logo designed with her husband, Brad.

The book will be released as an e-book, paperback, and hardcover featuring extra material (to be confirmed). There will be a surprise deluxe edition as well, but I’ll confirm that when I have it in my hands.

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