The Ten Worlds

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.

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: The title and the warnings

The reaction to the teasers and posts about Children – the first book in my new Ten Worlds series – has been great so far. The readers of Storytellers in particular have made it clear that they can’t wait. It’s the most wonderful compliment I could dream of. It also makes me somewhat uncomfortable, because this book is… different.

I have rewritten Children 28 times, compared to Storytellers’ 21. The plot never really changed. I gradually pushed the book further and further onto the dark side without even realising I was doing it. Only when I saw it through a reader’s eyes again I realised what I’ve done. She read the book twice – a much earlier version a few months ago, then the 28th draft last week. Faced with the (hopefully) final version she first told me that she needed a Scotch and some rest, then quoted a bit and said, “I literally had to get up and walk away from the screen for a while.” Neither of those passages were disgusting. I just worked and worked until I felt I’ve found the right words to describe the characters’ feelings. It seems to have worked. It’s just that those characters are not happy.

Once I was finished with the last rewrite and sent it to my editor, I jumped at Debbie Young’s Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series and devoured six books in… four days? I’m the one who wrote Children and I still needed an escape from the place that I discovered existed somewhere deep inside me.

The second to last section of this post contains a list of trigger/content warnings, some of which are spoilers.

My Norse Gods: Frigg

The Ten Worlds will be less of a series and more of a universe I am building based on the Norse lore and surviving resources, which I then alter to fit my needs. Today I’d like to introduce you to Frigg, the wife of Odin – if I were in charge of casting the inevitable TV adaptation, I’d choose Tilda Swinton.

 

Frigg is – to quote Our Troth:

the most motherly […] she is the closest thing to an All-Mother the Northern folk know.

Frigg does not get a lot of space in the Norse lore, sometimes even being seen as an aspect of Freya (I disagree with this). Baldr is the only child of hers that is actually named. The long-haired, peace-loving, gleaming Shining One, dies in rather awkward circumstances. After Ragnarök, when the worlds of the Gods come to an end, some of them survive – and so do a man and a woman – led by Baldr, the long-haired, bearded, peace-loving embodiment of goodness, one who returns from the dead, the son of God (and Goddess). Those stories have been written down by Christians after the Viking era was long over. Some scholars believe that Baldr is a kenning for Jesus, added to the Sagas/myths by Christians to symbolise the fall of the Norse Gods and the rise of… well, Jesus. I agree.

I removed Baldr completely from my version of the pantheon. Frigg’s description of ‘the most motherly’ coming with lack of clarity as to whose mother she is exactly made me wonder: what if the answer was ‘nobody’s’? What if the one who craves motherhood the most, becoming its embodiment, the Goddess mothers and pregnant women call upon, were unable to have children of her own?

My Norse Gods: Odin

If I were in charge of casting a movie based on Children, Odin would be played by Sir Ian McKellen just because Sir McKellen did an incredible job playing Gandalf and Tolkien barely bothered to change anything when he decided to simply rename Odin to something else for his little Lord of the Rings books.

 

Who is Odin?

Odin is the most complex of all the Gods and Goddesses in the Norse pantheon. Not for nothing does he have more than a hundred kennings (by-names), among which you will find ‘The Mad One’, ‘The Furious One’, ‘The Inspired One’, ‘The Desired One’, ‘The Terrible One’, and ‘The Old Bastard’. He is a poet, a healer, a magician, a warrior. When calling upon Odin it is advised to use the name referring to the Odin you would prefer to experience. Prefer, because if he feels otherwise you might be in for a surprise of your life. Possibly your last.

The Marvel movies put the All-Father in the position of the “chief God” to make it easier for people without experience in polytheistic religions – the Father, the Son, and the holy… uh, Loki. The truth is more complicated. In the Norse times, the God considered to be the “leader” differed depending on the region. In Iceland, for example, the favoured Gods were Thor and Freyr, with Odin rarely present in the Sagas (although by no means unknown). Since each of the Gods was associated with certain personality traits, Iceland focussed on the Gods unrelated to wars. In other parts of the world Odin or Týr were the “chieftains”.

My Norse Gods: Loki

I am currently working on a series called The Ten Worlds, which is based on the Norse cosmology and mythology. The first two books will be a duology Children and Land. In the “My Norse Gods” series I am going to introduce the Gods the way they are described in The Ten Worlds which might or might not be in agreement with either the academic resources or what other heathens might believe.

If I were in charge of casting the upcoming Netflix series based on my books, Loki would be played by Jared Leto.

Loki

The Marvel universe, which I will unfortunately have to mention quite often, created the Father (Odin), Son (Thor), and the Devil (Loki) to explain the Norse Gods to those who either follow, or at least have basic understanding of Christianity. None of those three job descriptions are correct, with the exception of Thor being Odin’s son. The dichotomy of the Good All-Father God vs Evil Trickster Devil is false, if only because the Norse faith doesn’t contain universal concepts of “good” and “evil”. (As an aside, we don’t have a concept of “sin” either.) When the Vikings fought the Christians, the Christians told themselves they were the side of the good. Vikings were the side that wanted to win. Odin is not the “God”, more about which later, and Loki is not “Devil”. Loki is chaos, curiosity, and fun – as he defines it. He takes things away, gets caught, brings back something better – if you can force him or convince him otherwise.

It is so difficult to explain Loki that entire books have been devoted to him – such as The Problem of Loki by Jan de Vries, which gave me a headache. Some Ásatrúar (the organised heathen religions) refuse to have anything to do with Loki, even forbidding any form of worship of Loki during their gatherings. Yet Loki is also Thor’s best friend and it is thanks to Loki that Thor received his hammer Mjölnir. Would you really dare to tell Thor “you’re welcome here, but only if your buddy stays away”. Is it better to celebrate the bringer of chaos, potentially attracting his attention, or to push him away, potentially attracting his attention?

Work in progress, or the creative process

I’ve been asked to provide some insight into my creative process. This made me feel like a total ~*hipsté-artisté*~ – I never really sit down and open my laptop thinking “ooh, it is time indeed to engage in my creative process” – but it coincided with a curious event.

The book I am now working on, Children, will tell the stories of Magni, the son of Thor, and Maya, raised by Freya – and the stories of Thor donning a wedding dress to recover his stolen hammer; of a giant blacksmith building a wall around Ásgard, the world of the Gods; of Loki seducing the blacksmith’s horse, then giving birth to the eight-legged stallion Sleipnir; Thor’s duel with the giant Hrungnir and his subsequent dealings with the wise Gróa. The follow-up, Land, will tell about the first journey from the Nine Worlds into the tenth, a journey the goal of which will be the discovery of the new Ásgard.

At this point Children is slowly heading where I want it to be and Land is a sketch of a first draft with plot outline. Land will take much less time, since it will be a sequel, but by now I have rewritten Children more than ten times. I don’t even feel ready to send it to my editor. A part of my creative process is that I’m an obsessive perfectionist.

 

The great unknown

My beta readers reported that they were confused by the names of the Norse Gods and the setting(s) – the Norse Nine Worlds. I was surprised, because I believed that everyone must have seen the Thor movies. Not that I’d recommend them as a primer on heathen faith. This added an extra part needing to be written: an index and possibly a companion e-book. It was also another conformation that the beta readers are indispensable. Sometimes when I rewrite something ten times I forget that I took things out and it isn’t until a fresh pair of eyes lands on the text that I find out what I’ve done.

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