Author Timothy J. R. Rains joins me this week to talk about his latest release, The Blade from the Barrow.
SJJ: What genre(s) does this new book fall under?
TJRR: The Blade from the Barrow is a Viking Fantasy based on the Norse Sagas. In particular, it’s a mashup of The Saga of Hervor and Heidrik and the Saga of the Volsungs, featuring the protagonists Hervor Angantysdottir and Sigurd (or Siegfried) the Dragonslayer.
It’s worth noting, however, that this book takes place in 400 AD, a few centuries before the traditional Viking Age and that the word Viking does not appear anywhere in the narrative. That said, the Nordic cultures and religions depicted are very much what the average person would associate with Vikings. For example, a shieldmaiden berserker sailing around on a long ship practicing human sacrifice and praying to Odin.
SJJ: Is this a genre you normally write in or are you trying something new?
TJRR: I normally write fantasy, but this is the first time I’ve written fantasy that is anchored in a real historical period.
It was extremely challenging. The sagas themselves are full of anachronisms and many of the real-life characters that show up in one place are from different centuries. It would be the equivalent of George Washington joining forces with Robin Hood and Joan of Arc to fight the Nazis. It’s interesting stuff to work with, but as an author it puts you in a strange situation.
For instance, if you’re writing historical fiction you’re working within the parameters of that historical time period and you have to do a lot of research to determine what those parameters are and work with them as best as you can; when you’re writing fantasy, you might want to draw on history to influence your characters and world building, so you still have to do significant research, but your main parameters are something you’ve invented (ie. How magic works in your fantasy world). But in The Blade from the Barrow, I was working with history, and the sagas and the story, and I frequently had to choose which of those parameters I was going to hold. And each time I had to make that kind of decision I was giving something up.
SJJ: When was The Blade from the Barrow released and where can your readers purchase a copy?
TJRR: It was released in the end of January and is available now exclusively on Amazon.
SJJ: Please tell us a little about your new book.
TJRR: It has been sixteen years since the infamous berserker Angantyr Arngrimsson and his eleven brothers were struck down on Samso Island. But, on the cold coast of northern Scandinavia, echoes of their savagery linger on…
With a scathing tongue, a volcanic temper, and a punch that could drop a polar bear, Hervor: Princess of Lofoten is a hurricane of trouble. After discovering the truth about her father, she’ll do whatever it takes to retrieve his magic sword and carry on his name. But that means exhuming a terrible curse, and she soon finds herself with few friends and a whole lot of enemies.
The explosive start of the High Fire trilogy, The Blade from the Barrow is a Viking fantasy composed of an epic blend of history and Norse mythology. Fans of The Red Queen’s War by Mark Lawrence or Joe Abercrombi’s Shattered Sea won’t want to miss this visceral retelling of the Tyrfing Cycle.
SJJ: What is the time and place of this story?
TJRR: The story takes place all over Scandinavia, Iceland, and Germanic Europe in the year 400 AD during the decline of the Roman Empire.
SJJ: What inspired you to write this story?
TJRR: My brother was really into Viking stuff and at one point he sent me an article about bad-ass women, and one of the women mentioned was Hervor. It briefly outlined her story, enough to get me interested in reading the saga she featured in. I toyed with the concept of writing a book about her for a couple years, but the exact moment it all came together for me was once when I was watching 13th Warrior. And the part where they’re all standing up to go on the quest, after Antonio Banderas watches them sacrifice that girl on the longship, I knew that I needed to write this Hervor book.
SJJ: How did you come up with the title and did you have any other working titles?
TJRR: For the longest time I was going to call it Angantyr’s Daughter, but I thought that might be giving too much away, and Angantyr is kind of a weird name that not everyone can pronounce confidently.
Also, The Blade from the Barrow is more cohesive with the other two (future) working titles in the series, The Deathless Acre and The Norns’ Doom – all of which are from lines from the Saga of Hervor and Heidrik.
SJJ: I love the cover of your new book. Who designed it? Did you have much input in the design?
TJRR: I made the cover myself. I did a bit of photoshop/graphic design stuff when I was in cartography school, and there is actually a fair bit of overlap between making maps and making book covers. They’re both aesthetic forms visual communication. And in addition to being emotionally appealing, a book cover needs to communicate exactly what the book is about. So, I tried to put something together that looks sharp and screams this book is about vikings and magic swords.
SJJ: I think you accomplished what you wanted. Well done!
What is one of your favourite lines or quotes from the book?
TJRR: There is a scene where Hervor is about to stab one of her allies in the back—she finds a dagger in a treasure pile and tests the blade against her finger…
“Her skin parts at the slightest pressure, causing a red tear to dribble down her finger. Sharp as the kiss of Judas.”
I always thought that was a deadly line and I always felt proud of myself when I read it over.
SJJ: Did you enjoy writing any particular scene and can you tell us a little about it?
TJRR: The scene where Sigurd and Gunther are hiking up the volcano to meet Brunhilde the Valkyrie Queen of Iceland was really fun to write. I think it introduces the juxtaposition of their personalities pretty well and highlights the codependent nature of their relationship.
Bruhilde has sworn to marry any man who can overcome her in a test of strength, and Gunther has determined to be the one to do it—only he has no intention of defeating her himself. He has recruited the help of his giant-blooded friend Sigurd, a renowned champion and chronic worrier. Right away there is the sense that Gunther has somehow manipulated Sigurd into doing this against his will, because he’s clearly uncomfortable with it and thinks the whole plan is a bad idea. And Gunther doesn’t even tell Sigurd how he intends to carry out his plan until they’re almost at the top of the volcano – that they will have to cast a magic spell on themselves and change shapes so Sigurd can defeat Brunhilde while pretending to be Gunther. Presumably, Sigurd has already refused this suggestion, only for Gunther to spring it on him again at the last moment when he has no choice but to go along. He does, but he insists that the whole thing is a terrible idea and will all go horribly wrong.
And of course, he’s right…
Bewitched at a young age by all things to do with swords and magic, Canadian fantasy author Timothy J. R. Rains spent his youth slaughtering Minotaurs in the misty woods of rural Nova Scotia.
He studied cartography at the Centre of Geographic Sciences and has a degree in theology from Briercrest College. When he isn’t caught up in another dimension, he’s usually out in the middle of some cold river with a cigar in his teeth and a fishing rod in his hands. He lives with his wife and daughter in Riverview, New Brunswick.
Amazon Link for The Blade from the Barrow mybook.to/TBFTB