Welcome all, to NORSEVEMBER!!!
If you haven’t caught up with the introduction, check out the ‘everything you need to know’ introduction including week 1’s schedule. Otherwise, let’s crack on with day one!
Northern Wrath by Thilde Kold Holdt is the perfect book to kick off #Norsevember with a bang. Why?
Because it practically has everything we’re looking at this month – Gods, mythology, battles, culture, society, history, fantasy, magic and excitement. It was also released less than a few days ago so you can ride on those glorious wings of a new release. – it’s also very good.
So, to celebrate the month of #Norsevember and the release of Northern Wrath, we have today:
- An amazing interview with Thilde Kold Holdt
- Blogger reviews (including Spells &
SpaceshipsLongships’ own review)
- International paperback giveaway of Northern Wrath!
Check out the Norsevember Introduction for what else is coming up this week – including 2 more giveaways!
Hi Thilde, welcome to the blog; I’m thrilled to have you here to kick off the #Norsevember event and to talk about you and your debut, Northern Wrath!
Thank you for having me! It’s an honour to help kick off #Norsevember!
If you could only use three words, how would you describe your book?
Odin abandoned us.
One thing I love about your novel is that although it is a fantasy, you also weave real history and culture through the book; there are parts that read like historical fiction – as well as other parts that read like the Norse sagas. Was it important to you to have that fluidity, to enable you to take your story in different directions?
Yes! But here’s the thing… When I started to write this story, I didn’t realise it was fantasy. I had become so consumed in my research that I completely forgot I had set out wanting to write fantasy, and so, I began to work on Northern Wrath as if it were a historical novel. Eventually I convinced myself that it was basically historical fiction to include gods and giants as well, since folk believed in those back then. And some whispers in the wind weren’t going to hurt anyone, right? A few more thoughts like that, and suddenly I was in the middle of a full-blown epic fantasy set in a Viking Age that was as historically accurate as I could make it.
In hindsight (which makes geniuses of us all), I think this balance between history, known myths, and fantasy was crucial to give the trilogy a sense of realism and believability. Realism is something that can be a challenge in a pure fantasy world, and yet it is so crucial that the world and characters feel real to a reader. Blending historical fiction with fantasy, gave the story a validity and in some ways, it solved that potential issue for me.
It’s evident through your book that you’ve a fantastic knowledge on the history and mythology the book is based on. Was much of this learned during your upbringing and past experiences or did you have to put a lot of your own time into the research, once you planned Northern Wrath?
There certainly were some things that were more evident to me because I had grown up in a Scandinavian culture and had a general knowledge about Norse stories, and yet, it obviously did not give me that much of an advantage because when I started research on this novel, I was still under the impression that Vikings ran into battle with horned helmets. Yes, even as a born Dane, I truly had a lot to learn.
That being said, my ability to speak a Scandinavian language gave me huge advantage because I was able to access and more easily understand so many sources that would have been out of my reach otherwise. Almost everything I know about Vikings today came from the research I did. Early on I did an in-depth dig into Viking age law-texts. I read the Icelandic sagas, did a loose study of several translations of the Eddas. I pretty much read everything about Vikings I could get my hands on and compared notes where respected historians disagreed. Research trips to museums were a regular feature, as well as visits to Viking markets and then, as if all of that was not extreme enough, I joined the crew of a Viking warship.
Sometimes it feels like the bulk of the work on Northern Wrath was in fact research.
Your story features several point of view characters. How did you manage to keep on top of them all, developing each of them individually whilst all the time developing the wider story?
Weaving all of these different fates together and finding out which character would best tell any given part of the story was one of the most fun challenges for me. It’s also a skill that took me a while to learn.
I wanted every chapter to do two things. I wanted it to evolve the overall story, but I also wanted the character in question to internally evolve within every chapter. For Northern Wrath, I mostly managed to tie the threads together with a thorough editing job, but by the third book, even while writing the first draft, I knew exactly how to connect the different chapters and when to go visit which character. The more I wrote, the easier it became to juggle.
Northern Wrath was obviously a huge undertaking that must have given you a few sleepless nights; I still have nightmares over my history dissertation at university despite enjoying it! How much of a rollercoaster ride was planning and writing the book (as well as the other two novels) as a whole experience and what would you say was your biggest thing you learnt about the writing process along the way?
Haha, well for me, planning the story and discovering new paths as I write is one of my favourite things about writing. So, while it was a big project, I enjoyed it.
When I started writing Northern Wrath, I planned everything out, making a detailed chapter plan for the first book and a synopsis of the next two. Then, about halfway through my first draft, things began to happen that I had not planned for and I found myself having to replot constantly. Still, having a chapter plan to adapt kept me on the right course. The most important, though, was the fact that I knew exactly how the entire trilogy had to end. I wrote one of the final chapters of the trilogy quite early on, and knowing where I was headed was a huge help. So, my biggest take-away has been the following: If you know where you’re going, you’ll find a way to get there, even if your characters rebel.
Another thing I loved about Northern Wrath is that all the characters feel multi-dimensional and they make believable choices in the situations they are placed in. There is no dashing hero who is completely infallible. Is this something you were conscious of when writing your characters?
The closest we get to a dashing hero is probably Sigismund, but even he has his short-comings. To me, when creating characters, the most important is that they feel real and have a reason for acting as they do.
That being said, in a novel with so many named characters it can be difficult to always give minor characters reasons for acting as they do. When I write a chapter from a new character’s point of view, I end up uncovering their inner world and what makes them act as they do, which then helps me to write them from an outside perspective as well. After a bit of fumbling, I discovered that the mere act of thinking through how the scene would look from another character’s point of view, had the same effect on me.
You’ve titled your series The Hanged God Trilogy. The Norse Gods are often compared to the Greek and Roman Gods, but Odin to me feels a lot more layered and intriguing than Zeus and Jupiter. Is he the figure that interests you most from Norse Mythology?
Odin is a fascinating figure to me because although he is the Alfather and this grand figure who is basically the god of gods, he is also not a dashing hero, and maybe that’s why none of my characters truly are either. The very idea of a dashing hero to save the day seems at odds with the decisive figures that populate Norse mythology.
Both Odin and Loki are characters from Norse Mythology who have fascinated me since I was a child. They both seem to have a hand in everything. In many ways they are alike and yet they cannot co-exist. Their relationship has always intrigued me and so in a way, you could say that this trilogy is an exploration of the bond between these two characters who are like the moon and sun, always chasing each other.
Having Danish heritage, how much would you say Norse mythology, history and culture influences Scandinavian society today?
I would say that there are definitely cultural traits that do stem all the way back to the Vikings. Certain things just haven’t changed that much in the past thousand years.
As a Dane living abroad from the age of ten, I was constantly having to examine my family’s culture and what made it unique. Our humour was a little improper outside of Scandinavia. Our approach to most things in life straight forward, and when something really mattered, we were unyielding. Finally, we saw things to laugh at in the darkest of times. I think that’s an important one, but these are all traits that I’ve since encountered while researching Vikings.
Were you brought up being familiar with the Viking history of Denmark?
I definitively was, at least to a certain extent. I was familiar with the Norse mythology since, like most Danish kids, I grew up reading Peter Madsen’s comics “Valhalla”, which is a retelling of some of the famous myths. At school, in Denmark, I learned about some of the most important historical figures of the Viking Age and even had to learn how to read runes. When I later moved to France with my parents, we self-identified as Vikings, and that identity became a crucial part of my up-bringing.
To help research the book, Thilde actually spent time as part of the crew on a Viking Longship.
Can you please tell us more about that experience, Thilde!?
Happily! I’ve sailed with the Sea Stallion since 2015 and I still spend most of my covid-free summers aboard. My experiences on the ship have put my research into context and redefined everything I thought I knew about the Vikings.
So, what does it mean to sail with a Viking warship? It means to be one and same with sixty other people. It means learning to work as one. It gives a respect for the sea and the wind and the powers we cannot control and as a result a determination not to let those powers overcome us, or the ship. It means being ready to give one’s all for any other crew member. On a Viking warship there is no indoors. There is no toilet door you can close to sit alone with your thoughts. We’re together all day, all night, exposed to the elements. If it rains? We get wet. If the sun beams down over us? We get sunburnt. If there’s no wind? We row. Being aboard the Sea Stallion I didn’t just learn about the incredible manoeuvrability of a Viking warship, I learned what kind of people Viking warriors had to be in order to go on such long sails and raids.
Every time I’m off sailing with the Sea Stallion my mind gets filled with sights and experiences. I’ve seen porpoises swimming along the side of our ship to say hello. A full moon rising above the sea with no land in sight. I’ve felt the thrill of leaning over the side of the ship when we’re racing at full sail. Rowing in the beating sun with hot tar dripping down my back. I’ve experienced such wonders that deep within, I’ve discovered a true Viking yearning for the sea.
Let’s get to know Thilde a little better:
I see you speak 4 languages! (Danish, French, English and Korean) – are there any interesting words you’ve come across that are difficult to translate into other languages?
I run into this issue all the time so I’m actually struggling to think of a specific example, but usually it’s not just a word, it’s sentence structures or even a thought. There are things I will only think about in one of these languages. Certain trains of thoughts, that would just never stop at my station if I was thinking in any other language.
A classic word though, is the Danish concept of “hygge”. Hygge is a feeling of cosiness that is all-defining for many Danes. It conjures images of lit candles at home as you snuggle up with a good book, but it can also be huddling close around a bonfire, laughing with some good friends, or a family picnic in the park at broad daylight. “Hygge” is what gets Danes through the long windy winter months. It is so many things that it is difficult to pin-point, yet it is key to Danish culture, and I think, key to being a Viking too.
What did you do to celebrate when you finished your trilogy?
I took the day off and just crashed. As sad as that may sound, it was exactly what I needed.
Looking at your website and following you on twitter, you have a real affinity for Korea. What started off this love affair and what maintains your passion for this area of the world?
Is everyone sitting comfortably? Welcome to my lecture on how I discovered a home in Korea.
My first encounter with Korea goes back quite far, but to make matters simple, let’s just say that when I was about 12 I tripped over some Korean hip hop, and loved what I was hearing. Soon, my initial fascination with Korean hip hop grew into an interest in all things Korean. I would watch Korean TV with no subtitles and even listened to Korean radio. I loved the sound of the language and began to pick up a few things.
I don’t really know what it was that drew me to Korea like that but ever since I knew that there was a place on this earth called Korea, and even before then, I’ve been drawn to it. When I turned 18, I decided to move to Korea for a few months. There was something out there that had been calling to me for as long as I could remember and I needed to discover what it was.
Immediately when I landed in Korea, a huge pressure lifted off my shoulders and for the first time in my life I understood the phrase “there is no place like home.” I don’t know why it hit me in that moment, but I felt like I finally knew where my place in the world was. Since, I’ve continued to sharpen my Korean skills, eventually adding it to my list of languages I speak fluently, and been back and forth to the country for some intense semesters of study and a bit of travelling.
At this point in my life I’ve experienced enough fateful encounters with Korea, and in Korea, to know that there is an inexplicable bond between that place and me. I may never truly discover what it is, but something draws me to Korea, and when I find myself homesick, it is not for Denmark, or for the place where I grew up in France, it is a homesickness for Korea.
Can you tell us a Viking fact we might not know?
I always have a few handy. Let me pull one out of my imaginary (horn-less) helmet. Did you know… that while today love songs are considered romantic and maybe even a bit cheesy, a Viking who composed a romantic love poem for the woman he liked could be outlawed from his home (basically deported and hunted as a criminal) if the woman took offence? Oh yes, romance was a tricky business for a Viking. A man could also be fined for his indiscretion if he kissed a woman without her consent.
What is the last book you read that you couldn’t put down?
I have two books to talk about here. First off, I have to mention a book I have been savouring a little at a time for ages because it’s such an inspiring read. It has basically become an “inspiration guaranteed” pill for me. That’s The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark. There is so much to learn from this book, it makes me want to write a whole set of essays on it.
Secondly, I’m currently in the middle of a long read of Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. I raced through the first three books and now I’ve slowed the pace because I’ve realised that even long series can end, and I tend to hold off on finishing books I truly enjoy.
As you’ve already written books 2 and 3 in the Hanged God Trilogy, is there anything else in the works for you, or are you taking a well-needed rest?
When I’m not consumed by a mixture of panic and excitement about the debut, I’m working on a series called The Bone Snatcher, set in 7th century Korea. I am about 2/3 way through. Same flair as Northern Wrath, with the magic coming from ancient beliefs, and a heavy emphasis on a likely historical reality. It’s full of scholars, shamans, spirits, gods and dragons.
At the same time, I’m also taking things a bit slow because Northern Wrath is my debut. If I’m lucky I’ll go on to publish dozens of books, but I only get to debut once, so I want to enjoy the ride.
Thanks so much for taking part in this interview! It’s a real pleasure to host you on the blog. Best of luck with The Hanged God Trilogy, I know it will be a success!
Thank you for having me and for asking such great questions. It was a true pleasure!
There have been some mighty fine reviews rolling in for Northern Wrath. Take a look at a selection below! There promises to be even more over the course of the month, which you’ll be able to find at the Norsevember Hub.
A brand shiny new paperback copy of Northern Wrath is available and a winner will be drawn on Friday 6th Nov! To enter, simply stick your name and twitter @ on the form below. No other personal details necessary to enter. This one is open to residents of the EU only, sorry!
Thanks for checking out Northern Wrath and day one of Norsevember, come back tomorrow; where you’ll be introduced to the Norse Gods. Bring a warm jumper because we are also headed to the camp fire where Dan from The Northern Myths Podcast will tell us all about Baldur, the god of light, joy, purity, and the summer sun.