Author of the Viking adventure novel The Children Of Midgard Ask Me Anything

Siobhan Clark
May 10, 2018

I have been writing for many years, to start with it was part of my job to write for magazines and websites, but then recovery from a serious illness gave me the time to concentrate on my book.  I have a real interest in history particularly the Viking era, and love the research part of any project!  Since my book was published I've done radio interviews, readings and taken part in my first book festival.  Later this year I have book signings and more festivals to look forward to!

Ask me anything about writing, getting published, research, Viking era, overcoming ill health, determination/self-belief/pushing forward, pituitary illness, and just about anything else! 

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Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when it is finally told?
May 17, 7:24AM EDT0
Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with your main characters in the book?
May 17, 12:12AM EDT0
What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish your book?
May 16, 10:41PM EDT1
What do you enjoy the most about the writing process?
May 15, 5:21AM EDT0

I must admit I love the entire process, but coming up with pivotal moments in the story or deciding a characters fate is really exciting! When I start creating a character I always have a backstory for them and that in itself is really interesting, and the research for any project is fascinating too. I lose hours and days to research and creating a fictional world but I wouldn't change that process at all!

May 15, 7:07AM EDT1
How do you choose the names for your characters?
May 15, 12:09AM EDT0

Hi! I've always found onomastics and etymology fascinating, and the meaning and history behind a person's name or location. Usually, I write down key traits and distinguishing features of a character's personality, then I look at how they fit into the story, once I've done that I research names that would fit their background i.e where they have come from, popular names in the period and what those names mean. I also research the meaning of names in local folklore and mythology as that is always really interesting and sometimes how you find out strange and new information for ideas in the project.

May 15, 7:03AM EDT1
What other artistic pursuits do you indulge in apart from writing?
May 14, 1:17PM EDT0

I really enjoy photography and sketching, I try to take as many photographs as possible when out walking, the scenery in Scotland is really very beautiful. I would love to say I was musically talented but unfortunately, it's not to be!

May 14, 3:28PM EDT1
Do you feel that ‘Viking fandom’ is here to stay? If so, how long?
May 14, 8:33AM EDT0

There certainly is a huge fanbase for Viking themed films, television shows, books and even music, this is really encouraging as the Viking period itself is remarkably interesting! I think people possess a fascination with adventure, and legend, we love the idea of discovery whether it be based on reality or completely fictional. The Norse sagas have been inspiring to many for a long time, JRR Tolkien was one such writer and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy has been phenomenally successful. The Viking's television show is hugely entertaining and visually engaging too.  I would love to say that a strong supportive fanbase for Viking themed books etc is here to stay, as long as people are engaged and further their interests in the subject then there is no reason it won't be! Recently I did a radio interview talking about Norse and Viking beliefs, traditions, hierarchy and everyday life, it was the first time a lot of people I knew had heard me talk extensively about it and after the show ended I had so many messages thanking me for talking about a subject they didn't know and wanted to now find out more. This was more than I could have hoped for, I hadn't expected that response, it really is an enthralling period in history that many would enjoy and perhaps become a fan of.

May 14, 9:21AM EDT1
Which, if any, of your novels would you like to live out and why?
May 14, 5:06AM EDT0

Gosh, that's a brilliant question, and a tough one to answer too! The Children Of Midgard has some fantastic scenes and the characters travel through some wonderful landscapes, visually it would be wonderful to see the world they lived in. The novel I'm editing at the moment is also set in the Viking era and again I've chosen for the story to take place in a number of locations. Living in Scotland we are spoiled with some beautiful scenery, it is very inspiring to me, mountains, forests and the water are where I feel at home the most. There is a lot of discovery in The Children Of Midgard, I learned so much writing and researching for it, I think I would choose to live in that world but I wouldn't expect all of it to be easy! There was so much that challenged people in the Viking era, life was incredibly hard requiring far more work than we are used to nowadays. However, the prospect of exploration and seeing the ancient Norse people observing traditions and their beliefs would be incredible.

May 14, 5:18AM EDT1
How do you begin adapting historical material for the book? How do you make characters from such a different society relatable?
May 14, 12:26AM EDT0

I did a lot of research for the book and I learned that hardships and challenges in life are universal, today we don't face the same problems but we still share the desire to overcome various issues in life. In that period life expectancy was shorter, manual and labour intensive jobs were commonplace for entire families, access and understanding of medicine and health wasn't as sophisticated as today. In a way, I stripped back all of our advancements we have now and looked at the core feelings, fears and hopes of an individual. Doing that I saw how I could explain the motivations of the characters, they had to have a purpose and drive that the reader could understand without rash, flighty or unbelievable actions. Layering the history of the Norse belief in the gods, the structure in their society, their laws and politics of the period became easier when I had already created the characters personalities and traits.

May 14, 5:30AM EDT1
Have you ever reached a point where history and narrative have come into conflict?
May 13, 9:43PM EDT0

The history of the Norse and Viking people is varied and because we don't have many written historical documents detailing that period it can become difficult to get exact dates right all the time. I had to be happy with the research before I committed the storyline to dates and a time period, in many ways the sagas and legends really helped as they gave me so much creatively.  The Children Of Midgard is a fictional adventure, the characters are unique and through their eyes, we learn a little about the history of the period but it is their personal story we are taking part in as readers.

May 14, 5:35AM EDT1
How do you unwind on a given day when you have exerted yourself mentally in your writing?
May 13, 5:50PM EDT0

Walking my dog is a great way to unwind for me, we are lucky that there are some fantastic places to walk where we live, and that can sometimes provide inspiration too. I tend to find exercise clears the mind and gives me a chance to think things over. Listening to music helps too, it's a good way to switch off mentally and stop too many things running through my mind. I also love to cook, I have a real interest in trying out new recipes and love having family and friends over to eat.

May 14, 5:09AM EDT1

Hi Siobhan. I accidentally wrote a novelette a year or two back by posting a short story on my facebook page and adding to it every week. I can see the potential for a full book, but cannot seem to motivate myself to even begin the project. Do you have any advice for me?

May 11, 7:59PM EDT0

Hi Patrick! Gosh, well done, that's a great way to start writing! Definitely, try and get back into it if you can. Things I sometimes do to help are listening to music, reading and making notes to myself about ideas I've had. Visualising how you would like a scene to work, or a conversation between characters is helpful too as you can imagine various ways in which the story might go.

Possibly if you looked back over the posts you could see if there were any comments made by readers, it could give you some insight into their thoughts on the storyline. Printing off your work might help too, sometimes making notes on a paper copy is more helpful than looking at a screen for too long. Asking someone to read your work and give you feedback is great, they might have questions or thoughts that could encourage you to expand in a certain area or help ease you back into the storyline. I hope that helps a wee bit!

May 13, 5:45AM EDT1
How hard is it to promote the book? What is more demanding, writing or what comes after publishing?
May 11, 8:27AM EDT0

Promoting your book takes a lot of work and at times can be a challenge, but the reward of having your book out there makes it completely worth it! The demands of writing are different than promoting for me, although you need energy for both. You also need to believe in yourself and your work, and that's really important for getting your book out there! When you are writing its just you, in your own space, when you suddenly have your book in your hands and wanting to spread the word you might have to appear at festivals, do a reading to an audience, interviews and a press release. That can be a little daunting if its the first time you've ever had to speak in front of people or pitch your book. 

May 11, 8:41AM EDT1
Why did you choose to write about the Vikings? Do you think it is the most interesting part of history to you?
May 11, 7:07AM EDT0

From a very young age, I was encouraged to read, books became a passion and I sound found adventure and fantasy novels to be exciting. My grandfather introduced me to Tolkien, and Dumas, and he had a keen interest in Viking history which he passed on to me. In my family genealogy, there are links to Viking ancestry in my Scottish and Irish roots. When I started researching Norse mythology, reading the sagas and legends I found myself thinking of my own stories, and creating characters who lived in this world of myth and legend. The actual history of the Vikings is incredibly interesting to me too, they were explorers and their reach to foreign lands in this period was really amazing.

May 11, 7:39AM EDT1
Was it difficult to publish your first book? How did the publishing process develop and how long did it take?
May 11, 3:59AM EDT0

It takes a lot of patience and determination to find an agent or publisher willing to look at your work. Every submission is slightly different and it takes time to make sure you've followed the guidelines for each case. Once my publisher accepted me it was so rewarding, they are a fantastic company and have a real interest in the genre I've chosen, from that moment until the actual printing of the book it took nearly two years.  The manuscript goes to an editor and is checked for copyright issues etc. Proofs of the edited manuscript are sent back and the writer goes through it, this can happen a few times until the writer and editor are happy. Next is the cover design, marketing plans, author bio and final proofs. I found every step exciting and was thrilled to be so involved.

May 11, 7:31AM EDT1
How long did the research process last and how long did it take you to complete the book?
May 10, 6:21PM EDT0

We continue learning new information about the past as techniques, our understanding and new discoveries are still being made and so I never really finish researching for a story, it's a process as I'm learning new information all the time but one I really enjoy! I have a huge resource library and try to keep as organised as possible, my workspace is something else! It took me around a year to write the book, then I had to prepare it for submission to agents and publishers, after I was accepted by my publisher we began another editing process to prepare the book for printing. Up until that point, I could still make changes although I'm happy to say the finished manuscript isn't that different from the original, all my characters and their adventures are still there.

May 11, 7:24AM EDT1
Was writing in time of recovery some sort of consolation to you?
May 10, 5:35PM EDT0

Writing and researching for the book really helped to give me a focus when I was recovering. I had gone from working an incredibly long week to suddenly being at home, not feeling great, and aside from reading writing kept me going! I had written articles for magazines and websites as part of my job, and from a young age I had written short stories, so it felt like the right time to put all of my energy into a project. The recovery phase took some time, so when I couldn't walk very far or exercise without becoming exhausted at least I could sit down at my desk and make notes, research, and create storylines characters and plots.

May 11, 7:15AM EDT1
What exactly is a pituitary disease? What is the treatment process? Are you healthy now?
May 10, 12:40PM EDT0

Hi! I had a pituitary tumour that required surgery to remove but not all require this treatment and can be managed with medication. The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain, tumours are usually non-cancerous and represent about 8-10% of brain tumours. The pituitary gland controls other parts of your body like the thyroid and adrenal glands, which are essential for everyday living. Treatment can vary from patient to patient, I was unlucky and now require medication every day and will need to have scans for the rest of my life, I attend an endocrine clinic where I receive the best care I could ask for! Thankfully I'm really healthy now and as long as I take care I'm pretty much free to live life as normal. There are times when it is trickier because I have an impaired immune system, so viruses like the flu can be harder to recover from. Travelling can take a bit of preparation, I need to have medical letters when I'm travelling internationally as I have so many different meds to treat my condition. These are things I've gotten used to now, it doesn't hold me back too much at all!

May 10, 1:01PM EDT1
Who are the female characters in your book? Is there any of your personality traits in one of them?
May 10, 10:51AM EDT0

There are two main female characters who play important roles in the book. The first is Liv, she is the central character of the storyline, she is a young woman who has become the guardian of a child said to be the progeny of Odin. This was something that was forced upon her but a role she takes very seriously. She is aware that being a woman on her own at this time is dangerous, she doesn't make decisions lightly and is fiercely protective of her charge. Life has taught her some very harsh lessons but she is still a warm, honest caring individual.  

The other character is called Gytha, she is a healer, and comes from a very different background to Liv. She has been under the care of her brother who is an unpleasant character, she wishes to escape from his household but cannot do so on her own. She is determined but far more hesitant than Liv, the two women see something in one another that they wish they possessed themselves.

I like to write female characters who are strong and intelligent, Liv and Gytha gave me the opportunity to write about women who were very aware of the realities of their lives but long to change them. I guess I could say they share my sense of determination!

May 10, 11:06AM EDT1
Do you plan to continue writing on this subject or will you switch to something else?
May 10, 1:28AM EDT0

I've just started the editing process for my next book which is also a historical fiction work set in the Viking era. Its a subject I really enjoy and luckily have had the chance to visit places steeped in this rich history. I have also started research on a non-fiction work that has become really exciting as I will be travelling to a few new locations. I have a great passion for literature and tend to make a note of any ideas I have for storylines, these include different genres that I would like to work on in the future.

May 10, 7:14AM EDT1
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