Author Interview: Bjørn Larssen

a cup, a camera, tealights and an open book; small art of tree branch and leaves; text says 'author interview'

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  1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

    An e-book, most of the time. I can’t listen to audiobooks, my brain doesn’t work this way – I drift away and at some point I realise it got quiet, which probably means the book ended. E-books are convenient. Hardcovers are pretty, though! Sometimes I buy the e-book to read and the hardcover to just look at.

  2. Pick a genre, any genre!

    Rom-com. I always wanted to write it, but it’s so difficult to get right. So I’m doing research, by which I mean reading other people’s books. Much suffering, great hardship.

  3. What is the first book you remember reading?

    Winnie-the-Pooh.

  4. What book shaped your childhood most?

    The Six Bullerby Children by Astrid Lindgren. I never got along well with other kids, or the opposite, so those six were my friends. If I could have moved into this book, I wouldn’t be here right now.

  5. When did you first start writing?

    I always thought of myself as a future author and said things like “pftft, writing a book is really easy, I just don’t have time right now.” I started actually trying in my early thirties, but never finished anything – once I knew how the book’s going to end, I’d get bored and stop. It took me a while to understand that if I was bored of my own book, the readers were unlikely to get excited by it. I quietened a bit about how very easy it was and kept thinking, vaguely, of writing something that wouldn’t bore me.

    Storytellers, my debut, was the first idea that attracted and kept my attention for over two years and 21 rewrites. I started working on it on January 1, 2017, which is a very convenient date to remember and one New Year resolution I kept. I’m still keeping it.

  6. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

    I was a bullied kid from a troubled family. Books were my safe place to hide from the “real” world that was out there to get me. And there were so many worlds in the books! Fantasy offered the most variety, of course – dragons, magic, swords (and a seemingly infinite number of muscled, testosterone-dripping warriors, which had much more appeal back then than it does now). I think what made me want to write was wanting to be a part of those stories. The Six Bullerby Children or Emily of New Moon were incredible, but I wasn’t in them.

    Does it still hold true … yes and no. There’s a lot of me in Children, but it’s not my story, and it’s not really a story I’d like to be in, autobiographical as it is. Getting to know my characters, become friends, then fall in love with them gives me the same feeling I used to get when I was a kid, though. And this time it’s me who decides what will happen. (Kidding! They do what they want and I just write it down.) I can literally make my own friends.

  7. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

    So far, Children. When I worked on Storytellers I had no idea what I was really doing and whether it was any good. I gave Children my all. I combed through every sentence and rewrote a few scenes 40-50 times. After the book came out it got a review that wasn’t particularly complimentary, but the reviewer noticed everything I wanted the reader to get out of that book. He might have disliked some of those things; nevertheless, I felt so proud. I succeeded.

    Coincidentally, none of my favourite reviews are five-star ones.

  8. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

    Wellllllll … I published the first book I finished, Storytellers. I hope nobody, including me, ever reads those other “first books” I’ve mentioned earlier.

  9. How many books/collections have you published so far?

    Technically four, but I expanded the third (a novella) into a full-length book, then deleted the novella. Storytellers in 2019, Children in 2020, Why Odin Drinks (the collection) in 2022.

  10. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

    Storytellers is historical fiction, Children is a (grim)dark Norse mythology retelling, Why Odin Drinks is a humorous Norse mythology retelling – think Pratchett, Adams, Calvin & Hobbes. I still hope to write a rom-com one day.

  11. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

    I do a lot of research. There is one factual error in Storytellers and it’s a very minor thing. I will always know it’s there, though. I employed an expert in all things Norse to help me with research for the sequel to Children – he sent me 27 pages of detailed information. Nobody would know if I got any of those things wrong, but I would know.

  12. To plan, or not to plan your plot?

    This is awkward, because I plan things, then my characters refuse to do them. Magni in Children was particularly difficult. I’d try to steer him in a certain direction, and he’d cross his arms on his chest and say, “I’m not doing this.” I am a character-based writer – apparently – and I have to get to know those people really well before they start cooperating.

  13. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

    I self-publish. When I was still working on Storytellers I did a lot of research on publishing in general, and I was shocked to discover what “real publishers” actually do, or rather don’t do. Also, I’m a control freak and self-publishing gives me control over every aspect of, well, everything. I have never received a single rejection, because I have never sent a single query.

  14. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

    I’m scared to suggest The Six Bullerby Children without re-reading it first! I’d quite like to be a hobbit. Not one of those that go on adventures, though, thank you very much.

  15. Do you currently have a WIP?

    I’m working on a sequel to Why Odin Drinks, Bloodbath & Beyond. For those who have read my books and enjoyed them, this one will mostly be about Freya’s coming of age (… of approx. 1200 years old) and an explanation how Thor ended up marrying Sif when there was a perfectly good Járnsaxa available.

  16. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

    Gunnar in Storytellers. He isn’t based on me, even though he’s a black-haired and black-bearded blacksmith. He’s a very tender, unhappy person, full of feelings he can’t articulate, coming out as weird and unlikeable, and believing himself to be weird and unlikeable. He’d be really surprised and probably throw me out, but what Gunnar really needs is someone to hug him for a very long time without wanting anything in return. Even if he doesn’t know that, and if he did, he’d be ashamed to admit it.

  17. What do you consider your current magnum opus?

    Land, which will be the sequel to Children. (The one with 27 pages of research.) I redrafted it a few times, then for various reasons I stopped working on it once, then again, and now it intimidates me a bit. Largely because I never stopped working on it in my head and it’s really cinematic. It’s a book about independence and whether such a thing even exists, especially when love is involved. It’s also my second love letter to Iceland. It’s sad and queer and complex and beautiful in the way a misty October afternoon is beautiful. In my head, that is … Once I’m finished with Bloodbath & Beyond I’m going back to Land. I can’t see it selling well, I’m not sure what reviews to expect, it’s just a book I have to write. It’s the book. It’s the reason why I self-publish.

  18. Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

    Weirdly, even though I am very happily married, all relationships in my books seem to be toxic in one way or another. My editor pointed out, worried, that the only m/m relationship in Children is very unhealthy, suggesting I might want to balance it with a happy m/m couple. I said, “If you can find any healthy relationship in this book, let me know, so I can remove it.”

    (This might explain why I haven’t managed to write my rom-com yet.)

    I like the friendship that builds between Magni and Maya in Children – one always wants to do the right thing, but sometimes gets it wrong, and the other doesn’t know what she wants to do, but she’d like to just be a good person. They learn a lot from each other, one of those things being what love can be.

  19. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

    Storytellers exists because of Ásgeir’s first album, Dýrð í dauðaþögn. I played this record on repeat for two years, it made me set the book in Iceland, go to Iceland, even spend some time learning the language. (It’s incredibly difficult FYI.) Nowadays I play Taylor Swift’s folklore a lot. I actually have a playlist with my favourite, uh, 69 songs of hers. I don’t really listen anymore, because by now I know it so intimately, I just like hearing it. It has become comfort music. Like having someone say “It’s gonna be alright” (which she does, in ‘Shake It Off’, but don’t let me go on a Taylor Swift tangent …)

  20. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

    Yes! I commissioned illustrations for Why Odin Drinks from Chelsea – first just for the cover, then also a few extra “Odinojis.” I don’t have fan art yet – that’s an achievement still in need of unlocking.

  21. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

    The very first thing people see is your book’s cover, and absolutely everyone judges the book by the cover. If it looks cheap or amateurish, I’m going to assume that you didn’t care enough for the book to make it look good. If you don’t love your book, why would anybody else?

  22. Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

    Last year I took part in SPFBO, Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, where ten panels of judges pick ten finalists out of 300 books, and then of course there’s one winner. The experience was immense, even though I haven’t won anything. Of course some people enter competitions to compete, but most of us created this … camaraderie. We celebrated the good reviews and sympathised when someone got a bad one.

    The amazing thing is that it’s not really about winning. The next round opens two weeks after the previous one ends, and it’s very “The King is dead, long live the King.” 300 new books arrive. 300 authors. A few take part regularly, but this year I think I have heard of … maybe ten of them? So that’s 290 worlds to dive into. Theoretically I am aware that lots of books are published each year. When you see 300 of them on a list, though, they become real. They also showcase both the range of talent and of fantasy as a genre, from middle grade humour through steamy romance with magic and swords, to bloodied bleakness full of bloodied blood.

    In 2020, Storytellers won a Readers’ Favorite gold medal. I actually forgot I entered that contest (oops) and when I got an email encouraging me to look at the results, I just grumbled “Yeah, like there is a point.” I was not expecting anything. I didn’t believe it really happened until I got the medal in the mail (the ceremony was cancelled because of Covid – not that I would have made it to Miami). It hangs in my line of sight now, so I can always see it. It’s so…real, made of metal (not gold, I suspect) and heavy. You can hit the impostor syndrome with it.
  1. Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

    At first I listed about thirty, then told myself picking five will make a good challenge … Sir Terry Pratchett, Joanna Chmielewska, Judith Krantz, Carrie Fisher, oh Gods, I should have said ten, uhhh, Julio Cortázar.
  1. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

    Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Books | Goodreads
Author photo of Bjørn.

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