Interview with a Fictional Hero

Christina here. Next week sees the publication of the fifth book in my Vikings Runes series, PROMISES OF THE RUNES, and today I thought I would interview the fictional hero, Ivar Thoresson, in order to introduce him to readers. He has quite an interesting story to tell! As long as you believe in magic, that is …

Promises of the Runes BlogHe arrives to the interview dressed in black jeans and biker boots, but with a Viking tunic instead of a t-shirt. It’s pale blue and trimmed with beautiful handwoven bands and he tells me a special someone made it for him. All manner of things hang off his leather belt – a pouch, a knife and what looks like a real battle axe. Intimidating if I didn’t know that he’s only brought it to show me. His dark blond hair is long, but pulled back into a manbun, and he has a closely cropped beard. Basically, he has the look of a very modern Viking.

Christina: Ivar, thank you for joining us today. I know you’re a busy man, basically living a double life. Can you tell us a bit about how it all started?

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Tempted by the Runes

OvernightChristina here. In just a few days, my new Viking time travel story TEMPTED BY THE RUNES will be published and it’s based on the first Viking settlement of Iceland in the 860s/870s AD.

The Viking era is usually said to be roughly from 793 AD to 1066 AD, ie from the first Viking raid on the monastery at Lindisfarne to the Battle of Stamford Bridge when the last Viking king, Harald Hardraada, lost his bid for the English throne. When I first started writing this series, I knew I couldn’t cover all that time and I had to decide which parts to base my stories on. So I made a chart of all the events that were known to have happened from 750 AD onwards, and discovered that the years between 850 and 900 AD were jam-packed with possibilities. At that time, the Swedes were heading east and south down the Russian rivers, the Danes (and others) were raiding and conquering in Britain and Europe, the Norwegians established a kingdom in Ireland and started settling on Iceland, and there were internal power struggles in Scandinavia too. This gave me a rich historical tapestry from which to choose events that my characters could be part of.

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An Interview with Christina Courtenay!

WOTR Medium ResNicola here, and today it is my very great pleasure to be interviewing the Word Wenches' very own Christina Courtenay about her new book Whispers of the Runes which is published tomorrow in the UK in print, e-book and audio, and in North America in ebook and audio with the print edition to follow in September.

Christina, welcome to the Word Wenches as a guest rather than a contributor today! It's very exciting to be chatting to you about Whispers of the Runes, which is book 3 in your highly-acclaimed and hugely successful Viking Runes series but also works brilliantly as a stand alone book. It's difficult to choose favourites from among the books in this series because they have all been wonderful but this may be the one I enjoyed the most!

Tell us more about this particular story and how it fits into the series.

Christina: This book features the best friend of the heroine from book 2, and also the middle brother of the hero of that story.

When jewellery designer Sara is propelled back to the ninth century, after cutting herself on a IMG_8404 Viking knife she uncovers at an archaeological dig, she is quick to accept what has happened to her because this is not the first she’s heard of time travel. Although acutely aware of the danger she faces when she loses the knife – and with it her way to return to her own time – this is also the opportunity of a lifetime. What better way to add authenticity to the Viking and Anglo-Saxon motifs used in her designs than to study the real thing?

As luck has it, the first person Sara encounters is Rurik Eskilsson, a Viking and fellow silversmith who is also no stranger to the concept of time travel. Agreeing that Sara can accompany him to Jorvik, they embark on a journey even more perilous than one through time. But Fate has brought these two kindred spirits together across the ages for a reason and it takes them a while to figure out what that is …

BroochesYour research is amazing, so much depth and fascinating detail that is dropped into the story lightly but enriches it so much. I loved the way that you incorporated such wonderful silversmithing and jewellery design details into the story and the way that their skill and shared interest in jewellery design was such a bond between Rurik and Sara. Please tell us more about that element of the book.

Christina: Thank you! The hero, Rurik, had already appeared in the previous book, and as he was a silversmith, I thought it would be fun for the heroine Sara to be a jewellery maker/designer as well, although obviously she’s used to 21st century techniques. It gave them something in common, but was also the perfect opportunity for conflict between them as they’ll go about things differently and won’t always agree on the best way. I decided to have her specialise in Viking and Anglo-Saxon designs so that actually ending up in the 9th century and staying there would be an opportunity she can’t resist. I love jewellery myself and doing research on silversmithing was definitely no hardship! I was supposed to have done a one-day course in order to try it out, but sadly that was cancelled because of Covid. Luckily, the lady running it was able to answer my questions via email instead (and I hope to do the course at a later date). And I might have bought one or two items as well in the name of research …

There were actually many different styles of Viking jewellery, depending on which era they are from. I prefer the so called Urnes Urnes Sleipnir detail
style myself, although that belongs to a later period so unfortunately I couldn’t use that for my characters.

I would agree that buying a few items for yourself is essential research! Your depth of knowledge of the era is one of the reasons your books always create such a vivid historical world. How do you research the Viking background and do you have any favourite discoveries from your research?

Christina: It’s been a long process of collecting all the information I could possibly find about the Vikings – their history, culture, customs, clothing, food, housing etc. I’ve read countless books, watched TV programmes and YouTube videos, spoken to experts and read scientific articles, and I have visited as many museums as I could. I’ve travelled in Sweden, Denmark and the UK, and most recently I’ve been to Iceland as well. There are so many wonderful museums telling the story of the Vikings and highlighting various aspects of their society and I’ve enjoyed them all.

Pic 1 Marsden BayI think my favourite discovery has to do with the Viking ships though – I get terribly seasick but when I took a trip round Roskilde harbour in a reconstructed longship, I found out that it was a very smooth ride and I was absolutely fine. In Iceland, there is another museum dedicated to a reconstructed longship and the information there explained how they were built so cunningly that they could easily cut through enormous waves without becoming swamped. I am in complete awe at their boat-building skills!

Your books shine a light on the role of women in Viking society. Could you tell us some more about this fascinating subject?

Christina: Viking women were valued for being intelligent and hardworking. They were equal partners in running a farm and had charge of all things domestic. If the husband had to go away for any length of time, the wife was trusted to manage everything in his absence. He didn’t leave another man in charge in his stead because that wasn’t necessary.

Most of them expected to marry – not for romantic reasons, but purely practical. Marriage gave a woman social status and economic security, and family connections and kinship on both sides were extremely important in Viking society. If, by any chance, a marriage didn’t work out, the woman could divorce her husband so they had rights that the ladies of other countries had to wait nearly a millennium to gain!

Thor's hammerRurik, the hero of Whispers of the Runes, is no stranger to the concept of time travel and this was a refreshing change in this genre. What do you enjoy about writing timeslip and time travel books?

Christina: With timeslip (or dual time) books, I love the fact that you get two love stories for the price of one. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to connect them and keep the reader invested in both timelines – not always easy! Time travel stories are a bit different and I like that I can have a lot of fun with the characters as they try to adapt to each others’ centuries and ideas (sometimes unwillingly). Throwing a person into a situation where they are completely out of their depth really shows you their true character. There can be clashes on all sorts of subjects, as well as the discovery of shared beliefs and values, which might surprise them.

Would you be open to the idea of travelling in time yourself? If so, where would you go and what would you want to do?

Christina: I would only want to do this if I had a guaranteed way back and it was for a very limited time period. Also, I would need to know exactly what year and where I was going to. No point ending up in Salem, Massachusetts during the witch trials for example! I think that if it actually happened for real, it would be quite terrifying so I’m not sure I’d like to go alone either. And I’d want to make sure I brought enough gold or silver to buy myself out of any sticky situations – being poor in the past was definitely not a good thing.

That's very well thought through – you've obviously considered it thoroughly! Perhaps some of us could form a time travelling consortium and make the trips together! or if not there is always the books…

Can you give us a few hints about the next book in the series?

Christina: Yes, it’s called TEMPTED BY THE RUNES and will be out in December of this year. It’s the story of Maddie, the younger 51lVL62xcWS sister of Linnea (heroine of Book 2) and Geir, younger brother of Rurik and the hero of Book 2, Hrafn. When Maddie happens to find a small knife with runes on the handle, she knows exactly what it represents – the chance for her to time travel and have her own adventures in the past. Unfortunately for her, the brief visit turns into a somewhat longer one, and when she meets Geir he becomes determined to persuade her to stay for good …

Thank you so much for telling us more about Whispers of the Runes, Christina, and very best wishes for publication day tomorrow! You can find out more about Christina's book on her website here. To buy a copy of Whispers of The Runes, click here!

Feel free to ask Christina anything about Whispers of the Runes, her books, writing, research and of course those fascinating Vikings!

Christina's question for you is this: "Are you a jewellery fan? What sort of items are your favourites?" One lucky commenter between now and midnight Thursday will win a signed copy of Whispers of the Runes!

Travelling with Vikings

Christina here. Next week sees the publication of the second book in my Viking series – The Runes of Destiny. It is the story of Linnea, a twenty-first century woman who ends up travelling back in time to the Viking age. Here’s a short blurb:-

TROD Medium“When helping out at an archaeological dig, Linnea uncovers an exquisite brooch, but blacks out after reading the runic inscription. She wakes up surrounded by men in Viking costume, who seem to take re-enactment very seriously. Lost and confused, she finds herself in the power of Hrafn, a Viking warrior who claims her as his thrall and takes her on a journey across the seas to sell her for profit. Setting sail, she confronts the unthinkable: she has travelled back to the 9th century. Linnea is determined to find a way back to her own time, but there’s a connection forming with Hrafn. Can she resist the call of the runes and accept her destiny lies here …”

This story was inspire3d by the incredible Viking travels I’d read about. Despite their reputation as ferocious marauders, there was much to admire about the Vikings, and the one thing I am in total awe of is their fearless exploration of the world around them. It didn’t happen overnight, of course, and Scandinavian people had been travelling in all directions for decades (perhaps centuries) before the era we call the Viking age. However, the refinement of their sleek, clinker-built ships allowed them to go further and faster than ever before because of the invention of the keel. It gave the ships a stability they’d lacked and allowed them to take to the high seas. The fact that the vessels were shallow with a fairly flat bottom also made it easy for them to land on any beach and to travel far along most rivers without getting stuck.

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In Conversation with Christina Courtenay

Christina Courtenay 2020Nicola here. Today it is my very great pleasure to welcome back to the blog one of our favourite Wench guests: Christina Courtenay. Christina is an award-winning author of historical romantic fiction and in particular time slip and time travel romance in the great tradition of Barbara Erskine and Susanna Kearsley so it's no wonder her books are an auto-buy for me and will appeal to a lot of Wench readers too! Her latest novel, Echoes of the Runes, is set in the present day and in the vivid 9th century world of the Vikings, and she is here today to tell us more about the book.

Christina, welcome back to the Wenches! Echoes of the Runes is getting some wonderful reviews and rightly so! Please tell us about the book.

Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say!  Echoes of the Runes is a Viking timeslip/dual time novel set mostly in Sweden, both in the present and the past. It tells the story of Ceri, a Welsh noblewoman who is taken hostage by a Viking, Haukr inn hvíti (“the White Hawk”), in 869AD. Back in the present day, an archaeological dig at her late grandmother’s home leads Mia Maddox to uncover secrets of the past which will influence her life in ways she could not have imagined. As the present begins to echo the past, and enemies threaten, they will all have to fight to protect what has become most precious to each of them.

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