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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

SPFBO: Interview with Linn Tesli (Interviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Official Author Website
Order The Fox and the Hunter over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

 is an author of fantastical stories, for people of all ages. As a previous freelance journalist, she's also written both magazine articles, movie reviews, and feature stories.

As a child, making up stories was how she made her days brighter. She believes that it's an extraordinary thing to be able to dive into words to escape the reality one lives in. 

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Linn Tesli? And why should everyone be reading your books?

First of all, thank you for the interview!

I’m a bit of everything. I always have my head in the clouds, my thoughts drifting into weirdness at any given moment, and I’m a total klutz. I can’t just Focus on one thing, which is why my days are spent writing, taking pictures, working with cover design and formatting, as well as working with translation—or when the mood strikes I’ll paint or make jewelry. On top of this, I’m always, and first of all, a mother to a couple of rascals, named Storm and Embla. 

I’m from Norway, though I write mainly in English. A lot of my inspiration for my stories came from my beautiful country, and I like to include Scandinavian history, mythology and folklore into my work. So, if you like those kinds of elements in your fantasy, then maybe pick up one of my books. 

I’ve also been hard of hearing all my life, and need hearing aids—something I passed on to both of my kids (I blame my mum, so they can too, although I’m sure they’ll blame me no matter what I say). I used to work with kids, but my hearing got worse as I got older, and it eventually became an issue, more or less forcing me to change directions. 

When and why have you decided to become an author?

I started reading and writing at an early age, and I began picking out English books in my school library at the age of ten, plowing through as much as I could. As for writing, I believe it started as I first learned how to make letters fit together to create words. One of my favorite writing memories is that I used to write stories with my grandad. We would write one chapter each until it eventually became a book (ish). I still remember my grandad telling me that I could be a writer if I wanted to (best man I’ve ever known). Those words stuck with me, and he continues to be an inspiration even now, after he’s gone.

I wrote all the time as a child and teenager, though mostly for my own eyes. Anyways, I figured I couldn’t make a living from writing, so I went on to other things like getting a film degree and a degree in social services, only to end up returning to my passion for the written word after my son was born in 2011, which was also around the time when my hearing got worse. Lucky for me, I don’t need my ears to write, and I’m finally fully convinced that it really is possible to make a living from writing, and a good one at that, even if I haven’t reached my goal just yet.   

How often do you write? Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired? Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

I write just about every free moment I can find as there are always words to put to the page. But as I said, I need to be able to do more than one thing so as not to get bored. Although, writing never bores me, there are other things, like cover design, that I enjoy. I don’t, however, have a set schedule or a word count goal. I’m a mum with two kids who both require a bit extra, and my days can be unpredictable in that sense. So, instead of a writing schedule, I make the choice to write instead of watching TV. It’s all about choice.

4. What made you decide to self-publish as opposed to traditional publishing? 
When I decided to write my first book back in 2011, all I knew was that I wanted to write that book. I wanted to write Fantasy and I wanted to write it in English. Needless to say, perhaps, that any Norwegian publisher was already a no-go. I looked into my options, and what I found made it easy enough to make up my mind about going indie. Besides, it’s my work, my art… I really didn’t want anyone else calling the shots, and I’m really happy I chose to self-publish. No regrets at all. If I want to change something in my book, the cover or the blurb, it can be done in a day or two. I decide everything, and that’s exactly how I like it.

One of the big challenges with self-publishing is finding readers. Was that your experience?

Sure. I didn’t know the first thing about newsletters or launch plans or anything like that, even with a ton of research before publishing my first book. My biggest challenge, however, was and still is to find readers who will also leave a review. It took me some time to figure out the marketing side of publishing, and I did a lot of mistakes the first time around. I’m still learning all the time, but I’ve been climbing this mountain for a while now, and I’m finally beginning to feel the wind tickle the soles of my feet. Of course, finding readers is a must, and finding the right readers is a lot of work. But every email from a happy reader makes me happy, and every book sold pushes me a step further up the mountain. I’m excited about the future. 

Why did you decide to enter SPFBO?

I actually wanted to enter another book but it didn’t get back from my editor in time to enter. Totally my own fault and not my editor’s though, she’s awesome. I wasn’t sure if The Fox and The Hunter would be a great fit for SPFBO but I’m really proud of that book, so I decided to give it a go. I have entered once before, though looking back at it now, I kind of wish I hadn’t as it was my first book, and I feel like I’ve grown a lot as an author since then. Still, the experience was great, and the awesome SPFBO community alone is enough to want to be a part of the fun.

What was your initial inspiration for The Fox and the Hunter? How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea? 

So, I just finished a book in three weeks, about 15K more words than The Fox and The Hunter. But TFaTH took me eight months to finish, granted in between other projects and a baby on my arm. 

I wanted to write something connected to Norwegian history, as well as portray the Norwegian landscape along with the northern lights. I guess the aurora borealis was my number one inspiration, and it has a role to play of its own in the book as a source of magic and wonder. Vikings seemed like an obvious choice when Fantasy is involved, but I didn’t want it to be like any other Viking story out there, so I decided to have my protagonist be a Sami girl (indigenous people in Norway). It’s not something I think has been done much before this, at least not in English, and the Sami history is a perfect fit for creating magic in a historical setting.

The idea of the story never changed much once it was decided upon. What took so long was the research.

What sort of research did you do for Where Vikings Roam series? 

The story is set around 998-1000AD, so I had to get all the historical facts straight, as much as is possible with a limited amount of resources and known facts from this time period. Even though the story is mostly set in my own country, though moving out of Norway in book two, I still had to figure out what the geography was likely to look like back then, what animals lived in certain areas and what plants or trees grew where. The hardest part was getting the Sami culture to seem believable to those who are Sami themselves. Then there were questions like how exactly do you skin a bear? I have no hunting experience at all, and I don’t really want to hunt anything ever in real life, but it was necessary to learn for this story to be told. I was lucky to find some Sami beta readers, completely invaluable to my research.

Would you say that Where Vikings Roam series follows tropes or kicks them? 

I don’t think it’s especially tropy. Elva (meaning the river in my language) is shaped by her culture and the harsh climate she’s brought up in, whereas Haakon has lived a more sheltered life. I didn’t want my female protagonist to need a guy to rescue her or to help her survive, but rather have her teach him a thing or two. In the end, they both learn from each other. I do have the brutal, cold-hearted Vikings that we all know, but I didn’t want to just show this side of history either. The northern society consisted mainly of farmers, they had strict laws (and punishments), they valued hospitality and had specific social codes. If you’re looking for a Viking story a bit out of the ordinary, this book is for you.

You have quite a few distinct characters in the book - was it difficult to manage them in a satisfying way?

I believe that characters are what makes a story tick. The very essence of any tale is the personalities within the framework. It’s hard to engage readers without having engaging characters. My characters are always based on what I know of their history, and how I believe this, along with their environment, shapes them as people. Elva always felt right to me; she acts on instinct, and in ways her instincts are often more animalistic than human. Her companion in the story, Haakon, was more difficult for me as I wanted him, the son of a Viking earl, to be kind and gentle, but not completely one-dimensional. I had to juggle them based on their different beliefs, both politically and religiously, and I’m happy with how they turned out. 

Christianity in this book doesn’t really come out on top, and I wanted Haakon to be the redeeming factor, whereas King Olav plays the other side of this coin. That said, even though Christianity plays a role in and of itself in the series, it’s not about religion at all, but about people. Everyone has both good and bad in them, and they are not defined by their convictions of faith. 

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell me about the idea behind the cover of The Fox and the Hunter?

So, I do my own covers, and I also did this one. I wanted to convey the cold north, and include elements of magic without the typical orbs and flashes of light often seen on Fantasy covers. There are quite a few elements on the cover: a wolf, a reindeer, Vikings, Elva, the fox, and in the background, I have an image of a Sami lavvo (a picture I took in Northern Norway years back). All in all, it’s meant to give off a sense of magic, to be mysterious and also reflect the historical aspect.

Can you tell us about your editing process? Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

I do both. I write the full draft, then do a full edit before sharing with beta readers. After their feedback, I do another full edit before I weed out as many repetitions and grammar mistakes as I can. Once I feel confident that I’ve done as much as I can on my own, I send it off to my editor for proofing, go over it again before my editor takes a last look at the e-book for final corrections. English isn’t my first language, and I think it would be quite arrogant of me to think I didn’t need outside help.

Can you name three books you adore as reader, but that make you feel inadequate as a writer? 

Nope. Haha… I mean, I can name books that I think are great, and that I know I won’t be able to replicate in any shape or form. But I’m not supposed to. That someone else is able to write perfect and beautiful prose doesn’t make me feel inadequate. It just makes me feel inspired and happy. Comparing ourselves to others rarely leads to good things. I have my own voice, and I love to write. No other author or book can take that away from me.

Do you have a plan for your career as an author? At the moment, you are wrapping up WVR duology. Do you have any other authorial goals that you are striving towards that you want to talk about?

My plan is to become a writer full time, and to be able to say that writing is my main income. Honestly, I don’t ever plan to stop writing, so I’m feeling pretty confident that I’ll reach my goal eventually. I have truly found my calling, however cheesy that may sound. While I’m working on the next part of Elva’s journey (currently titled The Fox and The Serpent), I’ve got a stand-alone ready to release in August, as well as book four in another series. I’m also currently co-writing a 9-book Urban Arthurian Portal Fantasy series (How’s that for a mouthful?), which is planned to start rolling out in January 2020. Aside from that, I’m hoping to finish the third book in my children’s Fantasy series, Life and lore of Wondrous Creatures, though it might have to wait a while. The second book should be out in English soon though. The children’s books are the only ones I’ve written in Norwegian first. 

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers? 

I’d like to thank you for the interview again! It was fun! Also, I’m happy to know that more people might discover my books. Anyone who loves fantastical stories mixed with history, folklore and myths should be able to enjoy what I have to offer, especially if they don’t mind a bit of gore. I’m much more of a pacifist in real life than my writing might imply. Promise! 

I put a lot of time and effort into my work, and every single reader who picks up any one of my books is precious to me. Finally, I love to interact with readers, and I’m easy enough to find online, so do swing by my inbox or my Facebook page and drop me a message at any time.

– Stay magical! X Linn


Cindy said...

The Fox and the Serpent sounds like a wonderful book title. I’m looking forward to reading your work.

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