Would you murder your brothers to keep them from telling the truth about themselves?
On a long, cold Icelandic night in March 1920, Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith, finds himself with an unwanted lodger – Sigurd, an injured stranger who offers a story from the past. But some stories, even those of an old man who can barely walk, are too dangerous to hear. They alter the listeners’ lives forever… by ending them.
Others are keen on changing Gunnar’s life as well. Depending on who gets to tell his story, it might lead towards an unwanted marriage, an intervention, rejoining the Church, letting the elf drive him insane, or succumbing to the demons in his mind. Will he manage to write his own last chapter?
Did or do you like to read comic books/graphic novels? Which ones?
I haven’t read a graphic novel since Ellen Forney’s Marbles, but Calvin and Hobbes shaped my sense of humour (and continues to do so, it’s one of my yearly re-reads – I have everything, the complete box set plus a few unreleased strips plus an exhibition catalogue, I’m a bit obsessed there).
Back when I was a kid I was obsessed with the Thorgal series – by Grzegorz Rosiński and Jean Van Hamme. The next Vikings is just waiting there to be filmed.
Whom did you inherit your love for books/reading from?
Myself, I think! I had, like, five favourite books and forced Mum to re-read them to me over and over again, until, exasperated, she burst out “you’ve memorised each word by now, you can read them yourself!” She was right. I was four. I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to teach yourself reading at the age of four, so I just did it. I was going through all books in the house, my Mum’s romance collection that got quite steamy at points and stepfather’s SFF collection. It took them a while until they believed I was ACTUALLY reading all that and introduced me to the concept of “age-appropriate books.” They were right to do so, the sex bits were super boring and kept interrupting the aliens fighting robot dragons.
When you need a murder victim or someone you can diagnose with a serious disease or someone who is involved in a fatal accident do you sometimes picture someone nasty you have met in real life and think ‘got you’ LOL?
I was going to say no, but I wrote a guest chapter for Sheila Patel’s The Magic Vodka Wardrobe series, immortalising my nasty neighbour and her yippy shit-zu (not a typo). If the neighbour ever reads it, she’ll probably explode. Like her shit-zu’s bowels do in the book…
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
In my Norse mythology books the Gods obviously come complete with names. Otherwise, most characters name themselves. In Storytellers Juana was so determined to be named Juana that I had to come up with an explanation of how a white girl from Wisconsin in the 1880s could have possibly be called that – I went through a list of 100 most popular American names in the 19th century and none of them fit. Gunnar was just Gunnar, I can’t explain this better. His paternal name was supposed to be Larsson until I suddenly realised that enough people think he’s me (he isn’t). I changed him to Karlsson because it was the first name that came to my mind, and it wasn’t until after the book came out that I noticed one of my resources was History of Iceland by professor Gunnar Karlsson…
I had to change one name right before publication. My proofreader pointed out that she had problems sometimes differentiating between Sigurd and Sigríður. I forgot that not everyone is Scandinavian… She became Elísabet about five minutes before the review copies went out.
Do write other things beside books (and shoppinglists 😉 )?
I did quite alright as a songwriter and music producer – not great, but “#37 on Billboard Dance Chart for one week” alright. When remixes I’ve made for another artist got released on vinyl I decided it was the right time to quit. My heart was no longer in it and I wanted to focus on books.
Oh, and I write a lot of tweets…
If a movie or series would be made from your books, would you be happy with the ‘based on’ version or would you rather like they showed it exactly the way you created it?
I’m a control freak – one of the reasons I decided to self-publish, so nobody would interfere with My Artistique Vision. I’d want to have the final word on everything. Mainly casting. (Meryl Streep for all the roles, please, including Gunnar.)
Who would you like/have liked to interview?
Ásgeir, the musician whose debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn inspired the whole Iceland thing. It was because of his music that I even thought of Iceland as setting for Storytellers, why I went there to do a bit of research, fell in love with the country, went again for a month, started learning the language… I have so many detailed questions that would never get asked in “regular” interviews. Word choices in English translations vs originals level of detail.
Do you have certain people you contact while doing research to pick their brains? What are they specialized in?
Dr Ewa Krawczyk, a microbiologist, helped me do various horrible things to my characters (like Sigurd or Halldóra in Storytellers), then find treatments that would have been available in 1920. Helga Maureen Gylfadóttir, a historian from Reykjavík, helped me with Storytellers a lot, then became a friend. Steven T. Dunn of Fjorn’s Hall (https://fjorns-hall.com/) has done a lot of my research for an upcoming book, Land, because despite my reputation as Twitter’s Resident Viking Author I’m actually not interested in Viking life at all. Those people either know everything, or know where to search for it, and they can answer questions I didn’t know could be asked.
Is there someone you sometimes discuss a dilemma with?
Yes – other authors. Sometimes just explaining what the problem is to someone who hasn’t been stuck with it for a while helps. And you don’t need to add disclaimers or hear gasps of horror when saying things such as “…so I have this one leg that won’t fit in the freezer…”
What is more important to you : a rating in stars with no comments or a reviewer who explains what the comments they give are based on (without spoilers of course)
Definitely the latter! Storytellers was my first book and I had no idea what I was doing well or wrong. (To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing at all.) Reviews explained so much to me. I didn’t even know that in a book with two timelines there was only one protagonist, I thought there were two. My favourite reviews… it’s not really a spoiler, but Storytellers has an open ending… are ones where people either try to guess what happened next, or even tell me what should happen next! The reader becoming the storyteller. Maybe it’s not every author’s dream come true, but it surely is mine.
Thank you so much for having me, this was fun!
Thank you, Bjørn Larssen and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
Bjørn Larssen is a Norse heathen made in Poland, but mostly located in a Dutch suburb, 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, following this achievement several decades later with his first book containing multiple sentences and winning awards he didn’t design himself. His writing is described as ‘dark’ and ‘literary’, but he remains incapable of taking anything seriously for more than 60 seconds.
Bjørn has a degree in mathematics and has worked as a graphic designer, a model, a bartender, and a blacksmith (not all at the same time). 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. He owns one (1) husband and is owned by one (1) neighbourhood cat.