Please welcome Alis Franklin back to the blog! The 2nd book in her Wyrd series, Stormbringer, just came out and she answered a few questions about it, and more!
Will you tell us a bit about Stormbringer, the 2nd book in your Wyrd series?
One of the things I love about urban fantasy is its ability to switch between its “regu-lar” gods-in-the-suburbs style incarnation, and pretty much any other genre of specu-lative fiction you’d like to name. Just throw in some kind of Magic Portal to Another World and, bam! Instant steampunk, or space opera, or… whatever, really.
With Stormbringer, I wanted to write a more “traditional” faux-Medieval-European high fantasy story. Because I’m writing Norse mythology, and Norse mythology is the root, via Tolkien, of modern Western sword-and-sorcery. I thought it would be inter-esting to explore the relationship between the old myths, as embodied by characters like Þrúðr and Forseti, and the genre expectations of modern Dungeons and Dragons players like Sigmund and Em.
How would you say Sigmund and Lain have changed from the first book, Liesmith?
Sigmund is growing into his new life as an everyman hero; the God of Losers, as he calls himself. He’s self-depreciating in his narration, but he’s also the guy who’ll face down gods and monsters because he believes it might stop people being hurt in some way.
Lain, meanwhile, is struggling with his newly acquired “Loki-ness”. Loki’s worst enemy is always himself, while Lain isn’t always the most self-aware guy in the Realms. The combined result… ouch.
This series is steeped in Norse mythology. What was one of the most interesting things you learned while researching the books?
That the lives of the Vikings were nothing like we imagine them to be. We have this image of them as unwashed, rapacious barbarians, and that was certainly an element of their society. But it was a small element. The Vikings were also accomplished mer-chants and traders who bathed regularly, enjoyed board games, collected trinkets from far-away locales like Asia, and whose men in particular were notorious for their fashion and vanity! (The Anglo-Saxons used to obsess about the dangers of Viking men luring away women with their well-dressed, well-groomed ways.)
As mentioned, the Vikings were traders, working the western end of the Silk Road. Their world was much, much bigger than we imagine it. They journeyed to places like Istanbul, Baghdad, and Jerusalem. We have accounts of them written by Muslim scholars, and Islamic and Buddhist goods have been found in Viking graves. They also attempted settlements in north-eastern Canada. Not to mention that some of the most well-travelled Vikings we know of were women, who just seemed to like exploring for the fun of it.
Basically, the image we have of a dirty, parochial, violent people is a modern invention. The real-life Vikings were much, much more interesting.
Have you always wanted to write? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
When I was about five or so and people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my standard answer was “author and illustrator”. So yes, I’ve always written and always wanted to be a writer. But by the time I hit university I got bitten by the “must get day job, must get money” bug and went and did computer science and got into IT.
Just before my thirtieth birthday, I got burnt out by the industry. I ended up at a councilor, who suggested, amongst other things, picking up a hobby. I’d always written, but never pursued it as a career. But, like every aspiring author, I did have a much-rewritten-and-mostly-finished novel that’d been sitting in a drawer for a decade. So I decided my new “hobby” was going to be polishing it up and trying to get it published.
That novel turned out to be Liesmith and, well. Here I am!
Why fantasy? What do you enjoy most about reading, and writing, in the genre?
My dad always had a mountain of SFF novels in the house when I was growing up, so that’s always what “books” were to me. To the point where, the first time I encoun-tered contemporary, non-speculative literature, I thought it was weird and wrong! (Who would want to read about real life? I can have real life in real life! I don’t need to read about it!)
What are a few of your favorite authors?
Favorite and formative would be Stephen King, Anne Rice, Terry Pratchett, Poppy Z. Brite, and Michael Marshall Smith. More recent favorites are Jordan L. Hawk, Emmie Mears, Heather Herrman, Yoon Ha Lee, and Tansy Rayner Roberts.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Michael Marshall Smith’s Spares. My then-boyfriend loaned it to me when I was about sixteen, telling me it was the most mind-blowing thing he’d ever read. He was right. Every narrative tick I have around unreliable first person perspective, genre-blending, and plots twists stems from my experience with that novel.
What are you currently reading? Is there anything you’re looking forward to this year?
I always have about a dozen books on the go at any one time, because I am a sucker for buying stuff. This year, I’ll be punching my way to the front of the queues for the Welcome to Night Vale novel and Sir Terry Pratchett’s final Tiffany Aching book, The Shepherd’s Crown. I’m also holding out for Dr. Helen Young’s academically titled Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness, which is a critical look at race and white privilege in modern fantasy canons.
What’s next for you?
Finishing off the third Wyrdverse book, codenamed BAD MEME. After that… maybe a nap. Three books in two years, while still managing a day job, has been pretty intense!
Ragnarok—aka the end of the world—was supposed to doom the gods as well. Instead, it was a cosmic rebooting. Now low-level IT tech and comic-book geek Sigmund Sussman finds himself an avatar of a Norse goddess. His boyfriend, the wealthy entrepreneur Lain Laufeyjarson, is channeling none other than Loki, the trickster god. His best friends, Em and Wayne, harbor the spirits of slain Valkyries. Cool, right?
The problem is, the gods who survived the apocalypse are still around—and they don’t exactly make a great welcoming committee. The children of Thor are hellbent on reclaiming their scattered birthright: the gloves, belt, and hammer of the Thunder God. Meanwhile, the dwarves are scheming, the giants are pissed, and the goddess of the dead is demanding sanctuary for herself and her entire realm.
Caught in the coils of the Wyrd, the ancient force that governs gods and mortals alike, Sigmund and his crew are suddenly facing a second Ragnarok that threatens to finish what the first one started. And all that stands in the way are four nerds bound by courage, love, divine powers, and an encyclopedic knowledge of gaming lore.