Today is Icelandic National Day (Þjóðhátíðardagurinn), also known as the 75th anniversary of Iceland becoming a republic independent from Denmark. As it happens, two years ago we were in Iceland on that day. We missed everything.

When I first came to Amsterdam, the Pride canal parade was taking place. I spent the entire day record hunting. In Iceland, at least, we went into the country… okay, the Golden Circle… then, when we returned, we discovered something strange. There were Icelandic flags everywhere. Every single store was closed, streets – empty, every restaurant open and filled with people. We finally sat in a pizzeria (very traditional…), where I pulled out my phone and found out what was going on.

 

Independent people

Halldór Laxness’s Independent People, which made Iceland the nation with the most Nobel prize winners (i.e. one) per capita, was the second book I read as research for Storytellers. I did not understand a lot of metaphors back then, missing on all the political allusions, my confused eyebrows wandering higher and higher until all of my hair transported itself to the back of my neck. Once I did more research I ended up with a three-page treatise on Jón Sigurðsson, Iceland’s most famous politician of all time, the leader of Icelandic independence movement. I had to cut that out from the book for obvious reasons – its title wasn’t Icelandic History for Beginners – and it wasn’t until our visit to Iceland’s National Museum a year later that I understood exactly how important Jón was.

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It’s not you, it’s me.

I know I’ve been quiet. I’m going to do my best to improve communication between us from now on, ‘k? I’ve been going to therapy and I feel I’m almost ready to…you know? You don’t know? Communication, Bjørn… well… yeah, I’m almost ready to commit to posting on the blog again. Don’t leave me! We can work it out!

 

I fought the law and I won!

Some of you know I was stuck in a legal case for a very long time. It didn’t seem so bad at first, except for the fact that I am allergic to officials and lawyers, but I had #faith that I would simply win. That didn’t happen. The appeal took forever and a day, and my allergy got worse. Then finally I got the letter, found out that I won the case, and realised how little else I actually accomplished in those last months. I mean, apart from finishing, designing, then publishing a book, promoting it as well as I could, working on its soundtrack, dealing with legal stuff and with health issues both mine and those of my family members, working on the next book(s) about which in a moment, accidentally networking (I am allergic to the word “networking”, but it transpires that being nice to people on social media and interacting with them is also called “networking”, even if I am not wearing a suit), preparing a large online contest (I am, uh, just about to start working on it, but I’ve done a lot of thinking, OK?), and I just got tired typing this…

*a brief nap follows*

….yaaaaaawnyway, now that the case is over I am experiencing a strange empty feeling. I got so busy with it that I forgot what I was even fighting for, until I got it. In my head the upcoming decades were a parade of lawyers and hearings. I was keeping myself busy half-heartedly rewriting the same work in progress, then in the last weeks things slightly escalated, and now I am writing four books at once.

*awkward silence*

 

New Ásgard, who dis?

The first and second are two parts of the same story, but each of the books is a different genre. The first part is historically accurate fantasy, the second – historical fiction with fantasy elements. (This translates to “less Gods and worlds, more mortals and discoveries of Iceland”.) For the first part I took certain Norse myths and sagas and decided to expand them into a novel, as the way they were originally written tends to be a bit like this:

The troll stole my mead
So I killed him
And his hamster
The end.

My take is a bit more of…literary fantasy, if that even exists. I’m less interested in the troll-killing part and more in motivations (what’s so damn special about this mead?), personalities (are trolls nice and fluffy?), side characters (how did the hamster feel about the whole ordeal?). Still, fantasy is fantasy, and while I have a tendency to describe the battles as “once everything was over…”, some readers might not appreciate that.

The second part largely concerns itself with the discovery of the new Ásgard, also known as Iceland, by Hrafna-Flóki. This is where the historical accuracy becomes really important. On one hand, the research will help with the worldbuilding thanks to the fact that Earth already exists and so do the maps. On the other, there are currently ten books staring at me menacingly from the side table. I’m…just about to start on them very soon…

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Today is sumardagurinn fyrsti – the first day of summer in Iceland. Since 1971 the first day of summer is a national holiday, complete with celebrations, parades, sporting events. At +13 Celsius (55.4 Fahrenheit) it’s a really warm summer day as well. I am not joking.

When we first came to Iceland in June 2017, the temperature on the day of our arrival was +14 Celsius. We saw boys on skateboards, having fun on the street, wearing tiny tank tops. I was dressed in full leather from head to toe and wouldn’t say that I was in danger of overheating. We asked our landlady whether it was normal for kids to dress like this in sub-Arctic temperatures. She explained that +14 in June was, in fact, a heatwave. She wasn’t lying. On the day of our departure it was +7 at the Keflavík airport and +29 when we arrived in Amsterdam (40 degrees Fahrenheit difference). This was how I discovered that I was now old enough not to cope with heat well and realised with a startle that I preferred the cold.

 

First day of summer in April? Sounds legit

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll probably guess: I’m going to go a thousand (and a bit) years ago, then talk about the Norsemen.

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