Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Trolls, Dragons, and Draug… Oh My!

Today you are in for a treat! I am super excited to have Lou Anders on the blog discussing his book Frostborn. I heard him speak about his book several weeks ago, and couldn't wait to get my hands on it. The story didn't disappoint. First, check out what Frosborn about.

About the book:
Meet Karn. He is destined to take over the family farm in Norrøngard. His only problem? He’d rather be playing the board game Thrones and Bones.

Enter Thianna. Half human, half frost giantess. She’s too tall to blend in with other humans but too short to be taken seriously as a giant.

When family intrigues force Karn and Thianna to flee into the wilderness, they have to keep their sense of humor and their wits about them. But survival can be challenging when you’re being chased by a 1,500-year-old dragon, Helltoppr the undead warrior and his undead minions, an evil uncle, wyverns, and an assortment of trolls and giants

Lou Anders guest post:
Now, check out Lou talking about the different elements he incorporated in Frostborn. Without any further delay, here's Lou!

My novel Frostborn, which goes on sale in paperback today, takes place on an imaginary world, in a country called Norrøngard. It’s not a historical place, of course, though I modeled it heavily on Norway and the Norse culture. I believe strongly that credibility in fantasy comes from getting the small details right. Your readers will buy into a talking dragon as long as they believe that you got the exchange rate correct for arctic fox pelts and goat cheese. That’s why you won’t find any horned helmets in Frostborn. This may shock you, but the Vikings never actually wore horns on their head!

That’s correct—not a single horned helmet has ever been found in an archaeological excavation. Horned helmets were just an embellishment added by Scandinavian artists centuries after the fact, a misperception still perpetuated today. With apologies to Skyrim, How to Train Your Dragon, and the new female Thor (all of which are awesome), wearing handles on your face when going into battle is a really bad idea. In fact, as I’m fond of telling students during school visits, horns on helmets are as bad an idea as capes on superheroes (and we’ve all seen how that played out in The Incredibles, haven’t we?) That’s just one example of how I tried to be accurate to the history in crafting my fantasy.

The other place where I’ve tried to be accurate is in the portrayal of the supernatural. That may sound wonky— the idea of believably rendering the impossible. But I wanted to stay close to Scandinavian mythology. It’s a pet peeve of mine, in fantasy books and particularly in role playing games, when someone mixes up their monsters. I don’t want to go delving into a dark dungeon only to find a mummy in one room and a frost dragon in the next! In crafting the entire continent of Katernia, of which Norrøngard is just the westernmost corner, I’ve tried to make the monsters as regional as real world animals. So you won’t find gargoyles outside of Escoraine or Tatzelwurms beyond Nelenia. The sphinx of Neteru have wings. The sphinx of Thica do not. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

For Frostborn, this commitment to “monster realism” meant that we have trolls in Norrøngard, the quintessential Norwegian monster. We also have linnorms, the Norse equivalent of dragons (just as fierce but a little more serpentine that the traditional European variety). And we have draug (the “au” is pronounced like the sound in sauerkraut). Draug are often called “Viking zombies” but that’s not exactly correct. They are actually undead Norse warriors, buried in mounds below the earth, who like dragons enjoy dwelling amid all their hoarded treasures, and who enjoy messing with any living  person unfortunate enough to walk by their grave. Some can shapeshift, and some can swell to enormous size, but they are all bad news. The draug are some  of the scariest monsters in Norse mythology and writing them in Frostborn was a real joy.

To get all these details of culture and mythology right, I spent a lot of time researching. I studied what the Norse peoples ate, how they paid for what they bought, what their naming conventions were, what their values and prejudices were, how they dressed, how they lived, what their world looked  and felt and smelled like. I watched about twenty hours of a university professor lecturing at a podium on the Vikings, read books (both fiction and nonfiction), combed the internet, watched documentaries, researched sword fighting techniques, consulted experts, and even traveled to Norway on a research trip. All told, I think I’d filled a Scrivener folder with about 65,000 words of notes before I ever started thinking about plot. But this stuff is all tip of the iceberg, things that I have to know to build the story, but which only needs to bleed into the narrative in bits and bobs. It’s homework, basically, but if I’ve done my homework right, then it adds texture to a book that is fun and fast paced, at times humorous and at times scary, and at all times believable. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of pleasure, and as the Vikings (and thus the Norrønir) say, “No lamb for the lazy wolf.”

About author Lou Anders:
Lou Anders drew on a recent visit to Norway along with his adventures traveling across Europe in his teens and twenties to write Frostborn and Nightborn, combining those experiences with his love of globe-trotting adventure fiction and games (both tabletop and role- playing) However, he has yet to ride a wyvern. With the addition of characters Desstra and Tanthal, Anders hopes that his second book in the Thrones and Bones series will continue to appeal to boys and girls equally.

Anders is the recipient of a Hugo Award for editing and a Chesley Award for art direction. He has published over five hundred articles and stories on science fiction and fantasy television and literature. A prolific speaker, Anders regularly attends writing conventions around the country. He and his family reside in Birmingham, Alabama.

You can visit Anders online at louanders.com and ThronesandBones.com, on Facebook, on Tumblr, and on Twitter at @ThronesandBones and @LouAnders.

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