Nicola 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 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 …
Your 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
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.
I 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!
Rurik, 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 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!