Today I’m delighted to present to you an interview with fantasy and Norse inspired author Tim Hardie, whose debut Hall of Bones is in the SPFBO final this year!
I grew up in the seaside town of Southport in the north west of England during the 1970s and 1980s. This was before anyone had even heard of the internet and Dungeons & Dragons was cutting edge. Living in a house where every available wall was given over to bookshelves, I discovered fantasy writers like JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guin, Alan Garner, Stephen Donaldson and Susan Cooper. Those stories led me into the science fiction worlds created by Frank Herbert, Philip K Dick, Arthur C Clarke and HP Lovecraft.
After training to become a lawyer I lived in London for three years before moving to Yorkshire in 1999, where I’ve worked ever since in a variety of legal, commercial, financial and management roles. My writing began as a hobby in my early twenties and has gradually grown into my second career. I write epic fantasy that will appeal to fans of Joe Abercrombie, John Gwynne and Robin Hobb.
I currently live in Derbyshire with my patient wife and two teenage children.
Twitter – @TimHardieAuthor
Facebook – @Tim.Hardie.Author.Public
Hi Tim, it’s great to have you here for Norsevember, welcome!
Thanks for inviting me to take part!
Please tell us a little about your Brotherhood of the Eagle fantasy series – what can readers expect and how many books are planned?
I’d describe The Brotherhood of the Eagle as Vikings meets Game of Thrones. It’s a four part epic fantasy series with plenty of politics and plotting between various competing clans and the factions within them, as well as magic and war. The central viewpoint character is Rothgar Kolfinnarson, the second son of the ruling clan chief. The story starts with Hall of Bones, where Rothgar and his family face various challenges to their rule. As the novel progresses they realise darker magical forces are at work.
Hall of Bones came out in 2020 and the sequel, Sundered Souls, was released in 2021. I’m currently working on the third novel, Lost Gods, which will be published in 2022. The final instalment, Broken Brotherhood, is slated for release in 2023.
What inspired you to write a viking flavoured fantasy over other potential ideas?
It feels a bit of a cop out to say this but the honest answer is the concept just came to me one day. Back in 2011 I’d finished writing my first novel. It was a fairly traditional fantasy tale, which took place in the classic medieval setting. I’d struggled on and off with this novel for about five years and I realised it just wasn’t good enough. Whilst on holiday in Cornwall I came to the decision I needed to set it aside and write something new and that was when the idea for The Brotherhood of the Eagle took hold.
The Brotherhood series takes place in the same fantasy world as my first book, so all the mythology and pre-history of that setting (the world of Amuran) became the backbone for the new series. I just liked the overall aesthetic and feel of the Viking world and already had a location in Amuran where a similar culture existed (Laskar). The big decision in Brotherhood was to set the whole story in Laskar and develop that region and its people in far more depth. As soon as I started writing the first chapters of Hall of Bones I knew I was onto something and the rest of the series flowed from there.
Did you undertake any historical research for Brotherhood of the Eagle or given it’s a fantasy, were you able to afford yourself a little more creative licence?
As I’ve just explained, the Brotherhood is a work of fantasy, so it doesn’t have its roots in Norse myth. It’s more the feel and the culture that I was building on. When I knew I was going to write Viking-inspired fantasy I actually decided to steer away from further research into Norse mythology. I had a hazy knowledge of some of those stories but I didn’t want to dive further into them in case they started to influence my writing and ideas. I didn’t want to accidentally drift into a retelling of existing myth, so you won’t find the Norse gods in Brotherhood.
What I did do research on were Viking names, which I’ve anglicised to make them easier to pronounce (no doubt to the horror of some purists!). Again, this is fantasy, so I wanted the world building to support the story rather than get in the way as readers wondered how to pronounce particular names – that’s actually one of my pet peeves in fantasy.
I also researched the traditional Viking diet, farming methods, their social pecking order and shipbuilding became important during the second book. As with a lot of this stuff, although you do the research much of it never makes it onto the page. What it does do is create a strong sense of place and time for you as the author, which I think makes it easier to immerse yourself in that fictional world and write the story.
Are you interested in Norse mythology and if so, are you drawn to a particular God or Goddess, or perhaps a favourite myth?
When I was growing up I was actually more interested in Greek mythology, so I discovered the Norse gods much later in adulthood. What makes the Norse gods fascinating is they’re incredibly flawed and complex characters and we’re drawn to them as we recognise those traits in ourselves. I think Loki is popular for that reason, as we all know we do things we shouldn’t just because the whim or mood takes us. Similarly, Odin may have traded an eye for wisdom but he uses that knowledge for his own purposes as and when it suits him. The Norse gods are fickle and unpredictable, which makes for some great storytelling.
Have you read any Norse related books or authors you’d recommend?
Beyond the traditional legends themselves, I’d single out Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. This does an amazing job of weaving various myths, including the Norse gods, into a modern setting, where he explores how the power of gods is drawn from their worshippers and their faith (or lack of it).
More recently, I enjoyed Children, by Bjørn Larssen. This is more of a direct retelling of Norse myth but Larssen provides a fresh take on this by focusing on more minor characters and the events that take place between the traditional stories. Larssen is a very versatile writer and he handles humour and the darker side of life with equal skill, so I’d thoroughly recommend checking out his work.
What are your writing plans for the future?
I’ve already covered my plans for The Brotherhood of the Eagle, which basically means completing the third and fourth books between now and 2023. I’m also exploring writing shorter fiction, fleshing out the backstories to some of my characters. The idea is that those short stories would be made available exclusively to my newsletter subscribers.
I’m also out to publisher submission at the moment with an entirely new novel, called A Quiet Vengeance. Whilst it’s set in the same fantasy world as The Brotherhood of the Eagle I’ve used a different location and a completely new set of characters. The setting is inspired by the Middle East and North Africa and uses two viewpoint characters who tell the story from alternating timelines. They meet in childhood and their chance encounter sets in motion a chain of events that has a profound impact on their lives as adults.
Having lived in Yorkshire and now Derbyshire, are you aware of both counties part in the Viking history of Britain? I’m planning on visiting Jorvik viking centre soon, and have written a post for this month about The Great Heathen Army setting up camp in Repton, Derbyshire around 873
Yes, the Vikings have had a profound impact on the history of Britain and Jorvik is definitely well worth a visit. I’ve been there with my family on a couple of occasions and it’s a fascinating place, so I’m sure you’ll really enjoy your trip.
I particularly like Scotland and the Scottish islands and I was interested to discover how closely entwined their history is with the Vikings. Last year I had to cancel a planned visit to the Isle of Skye, which was part of an ancient Viking kingdom and has the remains of a canal reputed to have been constructed during this time. I hope to make the journey there in the next year or two.
Finally, a few informal questions to round off the interview and get to know you as a person:
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I could write pages on that subject but I’ll keep it brief! Ultimately, I enjoy the escapism and the chance to be creative. I love it when readers get in touch and tell me how much they’ve enjoyed what I’ve written – it tells me I’m on the right track and it encourages me to keep going. Writing can be a lonely road at times but I’ve met some wonderful authors, agents and book bloggers along the way, so those friendships are also really important to me.
Forest or seaside?
Forest – that sand gets everywhere.
Morning or evening?
Morning – it’s the best part of the day and the time when I’m most creative
Starter or dessert?
Starter every time
Summer or winter?
Autumn – the best of both worlds! If that’s not allowed, then I’ll go with winter as I’m not a fan of the heat.
Favourite place you’ve ever been?
That’s difficult. I love where I live on the edge of the Derbyshire Peak District but if I had to choose just one place it would be the Scottish Highlands.
Aside from family, what in life makes you happiest?
In no particular order it would be friendship, writing, reading, craft beer, walking and cheese.
And finally the all important question – who’s a better dinner guest; Tim Hardie or Tom Hardy?
I’ve a story that I think definitively answers this question. A few years ago I was going on holiday and I needed to leave our car with a long-stay car park company while we were away. When we arrived and introduced ourselves the staff in the office were crestfallen. When we’d booked they’d written down the wrong name and thought they were taking a booking by Tom Hardy. As a result, they were underwhelmed at the arrival of me and my family. Put it this way, I had to get my own luggage out of the boot and into the minivan.
Thanks for taking part in Norsevember, Tim!
You’re very welcome.