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June 10, 2013 / minusbar

Author Interview: Snorri Kristjansson (Swords of Good Men)

Author Interview: Snorri Kristjansson (Swords of Good Men)

Snorri Kristjansson, author of “Swords of Good Men” and owner of the coolest name in fantasy writing stopped by to wreak havoc and humor with me. If you’re a fan of bloody vikings, gritty fantasy and/or eighties hair bands, this is the interview for you!

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Fear me!

Snorri Kristjansson is currently teaching at a London primary school, but he has been at various times a journalist, web-designer, computer programmer, caretaker for ill people, cement-packer,longshoreman, musician, writer, actor and, most recently, a comedian. His Edinburgh Fringe show was the first to combine puffins, Icelandic revolutions and Jude Law – well, in recent history that is. Swords of Good Men is his first novel.

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Bold writing – Me       Regular text – Snorri

*

First, since I know you’re a funny guy… what’s a good funny story about you that the average reader or Redditor might not already know?

Oh dear. Funny story about me. Let’s see. Well, dignity is overrated. Sure. Hell – let’s roll with it. My funny story:

In my salad days, when I was young of heart and green of judgement, I was in an 80’s cover band called Moonboots. We started off, did well, had a falling out, Jimmy quit and Joey got married. As you do.

Then we decided to reform and give it the whole nine yards this time – costumes, make-up, the works. (Aside: Tour bands do this regularly to this date. Without fail, grand designs at the start of the tour always whittle down to one cowbell at the end. You may however never get rid of the cowbell.)

Oh my god! My old 80's band Moonboots... Now there was a blast from the past :D in My Photos by

Recognize the handsome devil in the pink?

Our drummer knew a make-up artist, he said – when questioned later, this turned out to be ‘a girl who owned make-up’. She showed up and dutifully did our eye makeup. However, she used the same eye make-up thingy on all of us. I have since been informed that this is bad.

The gig starts, sweat and loud noises happen. There is dancing, a fist-fight and a drunken woman vomiting on stage, as regulation demands. The gig ends, we have celebratory beverages and greasy late-night food and crash into bed.

I wake up the next morning feeling like four shades of dog carcass – and my eye doesn’t open so much. In fact, it is giving me considerable pain.

Unused to the words ‘eye’ and ‘pain’ in proximity and recently sober, I stumble to my car and drive, one-eyed, to the emergency room of the Hospital.

Do I get a lovely-looking young woman as my nurse? Of course I do.

One-eyed guys get all the girls.

Do I have to explain to her that my … ‘injury’ … is eye make-up related? Of course I do. In hindsight (which at the time was only 10/10) I should have worn a patch.

I ended that morning with a suction cup over my eye dripping saline solution onto my eyeball. This incident was the start of me deciding that I was possibly not cut out for Rock Godhood.

Not actually Snorri

Yeah – I was exactly as not cool as Mads Mikkelsen is in that photo. If that is a passable definition of Badass… I was at most mildly annoyed.

Hmm, interesting. This leads seamlessly into my next question…  Outside of obvious stereotypical geographic ties, what made you decide to write a fantasy novel in a Norse/Viking setting?

Flawless.

(See the obvious connection between these two things?)

Well. The idea for the Valhalla saga mutated a fair bit from inception to completion. Can I say ‘Vikings are cool’? That’s one reason. There’s also not that much Viking fiction about. There’s a fair bit of ‘write what you know’ in there.

Also, at the time High Fantasy scared me.

Are you implying that you often raid and pillage?

Oh, any chance I get. I’m very polite about it, though. I usually pay, for instance, which is a slight deviation from the classical way.

Was Swords of Good Men intentionally written to be easily accessible to readers? I found the narrative style and word choices to be very smooth reading.

Interesting question! Easily accessible… I don’t know. I am turned off by overly purple or florid prose, and it didn’t seem to apply given the scenario, the characters and what they dealt with. I consciously stepped away from ‘ye olde’-type language – no dosts and methinkses for me – I wanted the characters to speak to each other with what would translate to us as immediacy. There’s a lot to be said on this, and most of it has been said by far smarter men than I, but in the end I just wanted to tell a story as effectively as I could. I’ll take a 90 second break now to refresh myself with Cliché[tm], the Writer’s Drink.

And that might be a tad unfair, because we’re all tackling the same problems so the solutions are bound to be in roughly the same territory. I believe stories should be for readers, though.

 

You mentioned earlier that you write what you know. What type of research went into writing this novel?

I am nothing if not a relentless optimist, so when I sat down to do this I said “Vikings? Hah! I know EVERYTHING about Vikings! Everything, I tell you! Why, I’ve invaded Britain myself – I *AM* a Viking! Ahahaha!” which was apparently the “wrong” thing to say in the Café I was in at the time. I soon found out that I did in fact not know nearly enough about Vikings. The two big things were probably a research trip to the Jorvik Centre in York and a book by R. Chartrand, K. Durham, M. Harrison and I. Heath called The Vikings, Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder, both of which strengthened my feel for the visuals.

Since you are a Café Viking, I’m going to give you a scenario. You’ve just gotten your horn full of mead and you’re walking to your little chair to peck away on your keyboard when… *BAM* a giant berserker comes out of nowhere and charges toward you! What happens next?

Stop, drop and roll. The Berserker is high as a kite on his time period’s equivalent of PCP and hallucinating like mad, so if you play dead you should be okay.
There may also be some defecating in the general trouser area involved, but that is purely strategic.

Ehm – and never mind the ‘roll’ bit, actually. Just stop and drop.

Geiri and Ulfar have some good humorous banter between each other. Do you go into that dialogue like you would stand-up comedy?

 

 

The mental image I get is you with sock puppets and changing your voice.

Might actually be Snorri

I think they have the kind of banter you’d expect from two guys who have been on a loooong road trip. I write a fair bit of dialogue-based stuff, so that thing came relatively easily.

I can say with conviction that no sock puppets were harmed, tortured or scarred, physically, emotionally or mentally during the making of this book.

Did they at least get washed after?

I admit to nothing.

This novel is mainly contained to the city of Stenvik. How much larger in scale will things get with this series? I suspect we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Without giving too much away, I can indeed confirm that we’re starting small. Or, you know. For a given value of ‘small’.

I personally found it nice, the geographical focus. It allowed more time for character development. What character was easiest to write?

I think I found Sven the easiest to write. It felt like I always knew how he’d react, what he’d do and how he’d say the things he’d say. In a sense he didn’t surprise me that much – but everything about him felt really natural. I can but hope that that means he’s an accurate representation of myself when I get a lot older. I could deal with that.

And who was the hardest to write?

The hardest? Jorn, I think. I found him in the end, though. He’s got a lot going on and is playing on many fronts, but doesn’t necessarily get a lot of space for the reader to draw conclusions about him.

Here’s one of those questions authors often hate to answer, but what are a couple of books that heavily influenced you as a reader and a writer?

My first answer to this question was a relatively breezy ‘oh, don’t worry. Natural question. Peace, happiness, fondant fancies’. Then I started thinking. I made a list at one point; I punched a chive plant.

You’ll be hearing from the Chives lawyer.

I think the ‘writer’ books are easier to answer. The Blade Itself felt fresh, smart and funny. Not without flaws, but a damned sight more interesting than what I’d been chomping down. And while I know it’s cliché, Stephen King’s On Writing is an awesome book.

As a reader – ah. Yes. Sorry – subconscious tucked that one away. Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho had a profound physical effect on me. I’ve never again met a book that I couldn’t physically read more than 60 pages of in one sitting. Took me a good while to realize why, too.

And there’s probably a joke in there about Lawyers for Vegetables or some such.

As far as I know, Swords of Good Men is your first published works. Any awesome, terrible, or terribly awesome stories no one knows about from your younger days?

Swords is indeed my first published story. I dunno. I’ve kept variously whiny journals here and there, but nothing too embarrassing. I’ve written a couple of plays that have been staged and left; standup shows, jokes, this that and the other. It’s pretty much like a quote I’ve heard attributed to Liberace: “You work in the business for 17 years and suddenly you’re an overnight success.”

Reading that, I sound like a bit of what the Brits none-too-kindly describe as a bell-end. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been generating content for an awful long time for various purposes, and have kind of lost track.

Alright, one more thing then you’re free! I’d like to hear your best Viking joke. Do you accept this challenge?

How do you steer a Viking ship?

You helm-et!

Haha, thanks a lot! I enjoyed chatting. 

Likewise, Sir!

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Beware of papercuts

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UK readers, Snorri’s book will be available on August 1st! Buy it here. 

For all you US folk such as myself, it releases January 7th. Preorder here.

 

This is definitely a fun action book and a very quick read. Stay tuned for my review that will be posted early next month!

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