In March 1920 Icelandic days are short and cold, but the nights are long. For most, on those nights, funny, sad, and dramatic stories are told around the fire. But there is nothing dramatic about Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith who barely manages to make ends meet. He knows nobody will remember him – they already don’t. All he wants is peace, the company of his animals, and a steady supply of his medication. Sometimes he wonders what it would feel like to have a story of his own. He’s about to find out.
Sigurd – a man with a plan, a broken ankle, and shocking amounts of money – won’t talk about himself, but is happy to tell a story that just might get Gunnar killed. The blacksmith’s other “friends” are just as eager to write him into stories of their own – from Brynhildur who wants to fix Gunnar, then marry him, his doctor who is on the precipice of calling for an intervention, The Conservative Women of Iceland who want to rehabilitate Gunnar’s “heathen ways” – even the wretched elf has plans for the blacksmith.
As his defenses begin to crumble, Gunnar decides that perhaps his life is due for a change – on his own terms. But can he avoid the endings others have in mind for him, and forge his own?
- When and where do you prefer to write?
Our attic was converted into my mancave. I have a comfy armchair that I associate with writing so much that the moment I sit down Scrivener opens by itself. If it’s cool enough to have a fire it’s going to help as well. Afternoons and evenings are my favourite time of day to write. And 1am onwards is my ideas’ favourite time to pop into my head.
- Do you have a certain ritual?
I don’t know whether that counts as a ritual, but I have a few albums that I tend to play on repeat while I’m writing: Ásgeir’s Dýrð í dauðaþögn [this is correct capitalisation in Icelandic – B.], Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells II and Songs of the Distant Earth, Enya’s Only Time compilation. It’s either one of those records or silence. Anything else, no matter how quiet, will distract me.
- Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
There is no amount of black tea with lemon that I wouldn’t be able to consume. But that’s kind of cheating, because it also keeps me company while I’m not writing!
- What is your favourite book?
The Hours by Michael Cunningham. I had to buy the e-book, because I had read the paper version so many times it fell apart. I still discover little details I missed every time I re-read it. It’s an absolute masterpiece.
- Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
I am accidentally writing a two-part novel right now where the first part is historically accurate fantasy, and the second – historical fiction with fantasy elements. I have no idea what the readers will make of it. Even I don’t know what to make of it!
I always wanted to write what used to be called chick-lit, then I tried and found out it’s extremely difficult. This is neither a joke nor sarcasm. Well-written romance and erotica are also out of my reach. I hope to learn the required skills one day.
- Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
I try my best not to. Except for Ásgeir (the carpenter), who is based on Ásgeir (the singer) in Storytellers. If you’re reading this, I’m sorry about the accident. Please remember it’s Arnar, not me, who calls you “the weaselman”. And please don’t sue me.
- Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
I have an app called Evernote both on my phone and on the laptop. The notes made on one sync with the other. My ideas often arrive when I’m taking a shower, so a waterproof phone is much better than a paper notebook.
- Which genre do you not like at all?
Horror. If I want to be scared I can always watch the news.
- If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
That’s an extremely difficult question! I’m going to go with Kylie Minogue. I’d love to ghostwrite her autobiography, so I could find out everything about her in a non-creepy way.
- If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
I’ve gone to Iceland twice while I was working on Storytellers. I considered writing a novel set in Scotland just to pretend I have a legit reason to go there. It looks like I’ll have to go Norway instead, though. The things I do for my readers!
Thank you, Bjørn Larssen and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
Bjørn Larssen was made in Poland. He is mostly located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, except for his heart which he lost in Iceland. Born in 1977, he self-published his first graphic novel at the age of seven in a limited edition of one. Since then his short stories and essays were published in Rita Baum Art Magazine, Writer Unboxed, Inaczej Magazine), Edurada.pl, Homiki.pl, and Holandia Expat Magazine. He is a member of Alliance of Independent Authors and Writer Unboxed.
Bjørn has a Master of Science degree in mathematics, worked as a graphic designer, a model, and a blacksmith. He used to speak eight languages (currently down to two and a half). His hobbies include sitting by open fires, dressing like an extra from Vikings, installing operating systems, and dreaming about living in a log cabin in the north of Iceland, even though he hates being cold. He has only met an elf once. So far.
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