By: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews
It is perhaps not so strange that Terje Hillesund (57), aka John Snow, was inspired to become a Norse fantasy author: Living close to Hafrsfjord in Western Norway where Harald Fairhair in 872 AD after a big battle united Norway into one kingdom – it must be almost impossible not to get inspired.
In 2013, Terje Hillesund self-published his first e-book in the Viking Series under the pen name John Snow; “The Slayer Rune”, where the stage is set in Norway in 967 AD.
The story is about young Sigurd, the chieftain’s son, who is in love with Yljali, a pretty, foreign thrall girl. Helgi Blackbeard, the king’s captain-of-arms, has also discovered her beauty, and he wants to possess her.
The Viking Series has now grown to three books: The Slayer Rune (2013), The Lethal Oath (2013) and The Red Gold (2014) – read by Viking-fans around the world.
On a daily basis, Terje works as Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Stavanger where he teach media theory to students in Journalism and TV and Multimedia Production.
Author Terje Hillesund, aka John Snow (Foto: © Terje Hillesund)
ThorNews was so curious about the multi-talented Norwegian that we had to ask him some questions:
What do you think is the most fascinating about the Viking Age, and when did you caught interest for your ancestors and their lives?
– As a kid I was mostly interested in reading about the Norwegian hero-kings (Harald Fairhair, Olaf Tryggvason, Harald Hardrada) and their accomplishments, but as an adult I have been mostly concerned about the Viking’s culture, especially their mythology, democratic mindset and respect for women. It all started while I was studying philosophy: I did read Greek mythology, but I also started reading Norse mythology, and was hooked: Thor, Odin, Frey and Freya and the Norse worldview has fascinated me ever since.
When did you start writing the Viking Series, and where did you get your inspiration?
– I had a few drafts and unfinished manuscripts in Norwegian from the mid-1990s. A few years ago, I started to rewrite and translate them into English.
Why did you choose to self-publish the stories as e-books, in English? Does it not require both courage, money – and long nights?
– A friend of mine suggested that I should write the books in English and publish them digitally. He enjoyed the manuscripts and knew I had good knowledge of e-books, that the Norwegian market was limited, and that I could write academic English. Nevertheless, it has been a challenge to write fiction in a foreign language, especially because I had an ambition to create a certain modern Norse style, in English.
As Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Stavanger where you teach future journalists and media professionals – do you use your own experiences, or is John Snow, a well-kept secret?
– John Snow was long a well-kept secret that only my close friends knew about, but a few months ago, I gave up the secretiveness, mainly because it was hopeless to be involved in marketing without letting people know who I really was. It is also very exciting and instructive to work with literature in a digital environment, especially for me who has researched e-books and digital reading.
You live close to Hafrsfjord – is that a coincidence?
– Yes, the family found a house near the university and it is an advantage that we have a view to Hafrsfjord. As recently as yesterday I received a visit from two French friends who were in Stavanger solely to see ‘Sword in Rock “, the famous monument of the Battle of Hafrsfjord. This battle is the starting point for much of what is happening in my third book, The Red Gold. It is also no coincidence that Sigurd in my books (which becomes Sigve the Awful), grew up in Vik near the modern town of Grimstad: I grew up at Vikkilen in Grimstad.
You apparently look like a kind and friendly man, while your books are filled with violence, betrayal, jealousy and intrigues. Does John Snow represent your dark side?
– All authors probably take something from themselves when they write, but the conflicts I have taken from mythology, especially from the Greek tragedies. Both in the mythology (Greek and Norse) and in Norse history and saga literature there are plenty of blood and gore, erotic conflicts and killings. In other words: Lots to choose from.
Do you base your characters and stories on real events? How much is fiction?
– The stories are fiction, but woven into historical events, and with certain adaptations the historical persons’ actions and movements are authentic. I have emphasized to describe a world where the “supernatural” is a natural part of life and reality.
If you were born in the Viking Age – as who / what personality do you see yourself?
I suppose I have always liked Vagn Åkesson, the wild Danish Jomsviking receiving grid (quarters) by Erik, the son of Håkon Jarl, after the Battle of Hjørungavåg in 986. Otherwise. I identify myself a lot with Sigve the Awful, the main character in my books, who of course is a fictional anti-hero.
What type of response has the Viking Series received, and who is a typical reader?
– I have received a lot of positive response from American readers with Norwegian roots, but also from Norwegian readers with an interest in the Viking Age. I have noticed that many think the setting seems authentic and that the readers, when they have got used to the linguistic style, get a sense of being back in the Viking Age. In the books, there are also many strong female characters, both mythical, historical and fictional. Although there is much male violence and killings, nothing of this would happen without the actions of willful, erotic women. Therefore, I think that I write for both men and women.
Your latest book The Red Gold was published in December 2014 – when will the next book in the series be published?
– I have started writing the fourth book where the main character meets the infamous Queen Gunhild, wife of Eric Bloodaxe and mother of Harald Greycloak. It will be a very special meeting, but when the book is finished is too early to say.
Here you will find the links to Terje Hillesund’s books:
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