Feelgood Fiction

Feelgood balloonChristina here. I recently attended a writers'/readers' conference in Sweden called the FEELGOOD FESTIVAL. 200 readers congregated in the very picturesque town of Sigtuna (founded by Vikings in the 10th century and full of runestones so paradise for me!) to hear a day-long series of chats/discussions about various aspects of feelgood fiction. To me that term means romance, but as I listened to the authors being interviewed it quickly became clear that to Swedes it has a much broader meaning.

Sigtuna townRomance as a genre is severely under-represented in Sweden, where the largest sections of the book stores are devoted to crime/thrillers/Scandi Noir and more literary oeuvres. The upswing in popularity of what they call feelgood books is a recent (and to readers like me a very welcome) development that seems to be growing in strength every day. And yet, when I visited the biggest book store in Stockholm afterwards, they didn’t have a dedicated section for such stories – not even a table with recommendations. Not good!

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Spelling it out in Viking Times

VisbyChristina here. I’m on holiday at the moment, so I’ve dug up a post that previously appeared on my friend and fellow author Anna Belfrage’s blog. Hope you don’t mind the recycling!

The word ”runes” is very evocative, isn’t it? It immediately conjures up images of fearsome Vikings, picture stones adorned with slithering snakes and dragons, as well as mysterious fortune-tellers or seeresses. Because runes weren’t just used for writing – they were also talismans against evil, part of secret rituals and carved into bits of wood or bark as protection. Magical!

Runes CopenhagenThe great thing about runes is that they are not that difficult to learn because they were loosely based on alphabets similar to our present one, and therefore use more or less the same principle. Although actually, that depends which runic alphabet you utilise of course – the older so called futhark (named after the first six letters f, u, þ, a, r, k) is the easiest one for us since it had a corresponding rune for almost all of our present-day letters (24 altogether). It can be roughly adapted to write modern words, which makes it fun. This elder futhark dates from the 2nd to 8th centuries AD, so had been phased out by the time my Runes series takes place (in the 870s), but I decided to stick with it anyway as it was easier for me – artistic licence! From the late 8th century the younger futhark took over, but this was a simplified version with only 16 runes which I believe requires you to speak Old Norse in order to know which one to use.

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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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Ten Favourite … Pieces of Viking Jewellery

Christina here with a new feature on Word Wenches, where we will list favourite objects in a category of our choice. Today I have chosen Viking jewellery, because I find it fascinating and beautiful to look at, and there is so much to choose from!

As part of my research into the Vikings, I have obviously visited an awful lot of museums to view artifacts from that era. I am always especially drawn to the jewellery and although it was incredibly difficult to choose, below is a list of my top ten favourites so far. The Vikings were superb craftsmen and I would happily own any/all of the following:-

1 Min ringNo 1 has to be the ring that inspired the first of my Viking stories. It is kept at the Historical Museum in Stockholm, and as I’ve mentioned previously I own an exact replica of it. Some jewellery company was given the right to reproduce part of the treasures kept in Scandinavian museums and I was lucky enough to be given this by my parents. The ring is a stylised snake or dragon with two heads, and I love the intricate design as well as the overall simplicity.

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Atmosphere and Memory

Dragon hillNicola here, pulling up a Wench classic blog from a few years ago as I’m travelling at the moment, far from my laptop!

Today I’m musing about the atmosphere of particular places. I’m taking us back a long way in English history, beyond the Regency, beyond those ubiquitous Tudors, to a time before the Norman Conquest when England was split into the Anglo Saxon seven kingdoms. The village where I live has a recorded history that goes back to this distant time – there are actual documents from the era relating to events that happened in this very place over a thousand years ago and I find that mind-blowing. As I walk along the footpaths and over the hills I frequently imagine how it might have looked in that time and try to see all the way back through the mists of history to think myself back there.  I can be pretty successful at this; when it’s quiet and I’m standing on the Ravens’ Fort and all I can hear are the birds singing and I feel the breeze on my face I can persuade myself, for a split second anyway, that I have travelled in time. Then an aeroplane flies over and I think perhaps not after all.

Certain places have a very strong sense of atmosphere. I’ve been to battlefields such as Flodden and Culloden where the whole landscape feels as though it is steeped in the bloodshed and suffering of the men who died there. I’ve visited historic houses that feel imbued with the personalities of the people who lived there, and I’ve wandered happily through gardens that feel peaceful or visited buildings that have a joyous atmosphere. How much of this is down to the emotional memory of the place and how much is down to my imagination, I cannot say. As writers and readers of historical fiction I think we all step into that other world. One of my books looks at “stone tape theory” which was an idea popular in the 19th century and later in the 1970s that places retain emotional memories in their very fabric. This is one theory said to account for ghostly sightings. It’s an intriguing idea around which to build a timeslip novel.

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