Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Interview with Thilde Kold Holdt, author of Northern Wrath

Please welcome Thilde Kold Holdt to the Qwillery as part of the  2020 Debut Author Challenge Interview. Northern Wrath, the first novel in The Hanged God Trilogy, was published on October 27, 2020 by Solaris.

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing? TKH:  Thank you for having me. And what a potent first question.

The first one I remember was back when I was 12. Unable to wait for the sixth installment of Harry Potter, I stretched my fingers and wrote a fanfiction. It followed Cho Chang and there was a whole section from Draco Malfoy’s point of view where he got bitten by a werewolf and was in terrible pain but other than that I don’t remember much about it. I abandoned it after 9 chapters.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

TKH:  I used to say I was a plotter, pure and through. Then I wrote Northern Wrath and met Hilda. Now I’m a hybrid.

Generally, I like to plan, but I also remain flexible. With Northern Wrath, I plotted everything in detail, but then one of my main characters, Hilda, swung her axe right through my careful plans, so I had to adapt.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

TKH:  I love plotting and I adore the task of writing itself. I even love editing. But rewriting makes me shudder. It shouldn’t but it really does. I’ll do the work but I’ll grumble all the way through it.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

TKH:  Meeting people of different cultures influences a lot of my writing. I’m also continuously influenced and inspired by films. Particularly films made by Luc Besson, Christopher Nolan and studio Ghibli. They make me want to be a better writer and create new things.

TQDescribe Northern Wrath using only 5 words.

TKH:  The Hanged God abandoned us.

TQTell us something about Northern Wrath that is not found in the book description.

TKH:  In Northern Wrath you will find magical whispers in the wind, also a snow fox, a hawk and a white bear. There are fierce shield-maidens and mad berserkers, and, finally, giants and gods. These are the Vikings and Norse Gods as I imagine they really were. It’s a tale of the last true Vikings and our blind trust in our gods.

TQWhat inspired you to write Northern Wrath? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

TKH:  Growing up, I always loved fantasy. I was practically raised on the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and although I read other genres too, I always gravitate back to Fantasy.

Northern Wrath came about because I was given the advice to write about my roots. I feel like I don’t have any roots, so that was the prompt of a lifetime. I was born in Scandinavia and used to jokingly introduce myself as a Viking, so that’s where I started.

TQWhy do you think that Norse myths and legends are so popular?

TKH:  This is a great question and something I often wonder about too. I don’t know for sure, and I’d love to hear what readers think about this, but for now, here is my current guess:

I think all mythology fascinates us, but I sense that there is a special passion for the Norse myths. That might have something to do with Tolkien’s use of the myths, but I think it also has something to do with the tone of them. In many ways, the Norse stories are gruesome, but they’re also meant to be laughed at.

For example, to the question: “Where do rivers come from?” the Norse myths give us the inventive answer: “When the first being in the nine worlds was murdered at the hands of the god Odin, blood spilled out over the nine worlds to form rivers and oceans.”

These are bloody tales from a warrior people who dreamed of dying in battle. In that way I think the Norse myths match well with our modern-day twisted sense of humour and obsession with self-sacrificing heroes.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Northern Wrath?

TKH:  The extensive kind. It started innocently enough. I read the Poetic Edda and the Prosa Edda (the two original texts on Old Norse myths), then I reached for all the books I could get my hands on that had something to do with Vikings. Archeology book and history books but also some fiction.

After that I progressed to some slightly more challenging steps. I read the sagas. All of them. I visited a ton of museums. Then I took to studying half a dozen Viking Age law texts and taught myself the basics of Old Norse so I could decipher runestones.

By far the coolest thing I did was join the crew of the world’s largest reconstructed Viking warship.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Northern Wrath.

TKH:  I’m happy you asked! The artist, Larry Rostant ( ), did a magnificent job on it. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was included in this part of the process as a debut author.

The axe on the cover is one of the center-pieces of the novel. The image on the axe also has special significance that I won’t spoil. The fire and burnt shapes are important symbols throughout and then there are the artistic swirls that feel like the physical representation of the magic in the novel.

In conclusion: I think this cover is a both magical and accurate representation of the book.

TQIn Northern Wrath who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

TKH:  The easiest was probably Tyra. I wrote most of her chapters incredibly fast. Sometimes Hilda was just as easy to write, but she was most definitely also the most trouble.

About a third way through there was a very important scene. I had warned Hilda about what she should NOT do. Under ANY circumstance. Two pages in, and she had done it. From then on, she refused to listen to me and follow any of my plans.

Over the course of the trilogy, Hilda and I became great friends, but she made me rethink everything I thought I knew about writing. I had never imagined a character might take over and change the entire narrative.

TQWhich question about Northern Wrath do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

TKH:  You were born in Denmark and speak fluent Danish, how has that influenced your writing of this book?

One of the most obvious ways in which my knowledge of Danish influenced me is that I had access to more sources. A lot of fiction stories about Vikings or Norsemen rely almost purely on English language sources. Many sagas and “totter” (short-story sagas) have never been translated into English. Thanks to my knowledge of Danish I was able to access and understand sources in different Scandinavian languages. That shifted my narrative.

Aside from that, I’ve also brought certain language quirks from Danish into my writing and included some neat cultural traits.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Northern Wrath.

TKH:  “Death, pain, and fear.”

(It’s not a spoiler, I promise.)

Fun fact: my agent and I sign all of our emails to each other with that phrase.

TQWhat's next?

TKH:  Next year, the second book in the Hanged God Trilogy, Shackled Fates, comes out. Then in 2022 it’ll be the final tome, Slaughtered Gods.

Both books have been written so now they just need to be formally edited, approved and roll through the hands of our lovely publishing folk.

Outside of that, I’m writing another trilogy soon to be pitched, and working on other ideas too.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

TKH:  Thank you for having me. It has been an absolute pleasure!

Northern Wrath
The Hanged God Trilogy 1
Solaris, October 27, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 700 pages
"Packs a punch worthy of the Thunderer himself. It rocks!" -- Joanne Harris, author of The Gospel of Loki

“Holdt wows in her Norse mythology–inspired debut…an electrifying adventure” -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

A dead man, walking between the worlds, foresees the end of the gods. A survivor searching for a weapon releases a demon from fiery Muspelheim. A village is slaughtered by Christians, and revenge must be taken.

The bonds between the gods and Midgard are weakening. It is up to Hilda, Ragnar, their tribesmen Einer and Finn, the chief's wife Siv and Tyra, her adopted daughter, to fight to save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods in the process.

Following in the steps of Neil Gaiman & Joanne Harris, the author expertly weaves Norse myths and compelling characters into this fierce, magical epic fantasy.

"Ferocious, compelling, fiercely beautiful. Fantasy at its very best." -- Anna Smith Spark, author of the Empires of Dust series

“This is fantasy as it should be written: savage, liminal, full of wonder and magic.” -- Gavin G. Smith, author of The Bastard Legion series

“A promising start for a series that will gratify lovers of epic tales.” -- Aurealis

About Thilde Kold Holdt

Thilde Kold Holdt is a Viking, traveller and a polygot fluent in Danish, French, English and Korean. As a writer, she is an avid researcher. This is how she first came to row for hours upon hours on a Viking warship. She loved the experience so much that she has sailed with the Viking ship the Sea Stallion ever since. Another research trip brought her to all corners of South Korea where she also learnt the art of traditional Korean archery. Born in Denmark, Thilde has lived in many places and countries, taking a bit of each culture with her. This is why she regards herself as simply being from planet Earth, as she has yet to set foot on Mars…

Thilde is currently based in Southern France where she writes full-time.

Website  ~  Twitter @koldholdt


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