It’s Monday! This means one thing – it’s time to meet an author and I’m excited to introduce Christina Courtenay, author of Whispers of the Runes to my blog, who is loved by myself and those who visit the Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf.
Meet the Author: Christina Courtenay
Welcome Christina, I’m so excited you are here to chat about Vikings and your heroes. Over to you
The word Viking is one most people recognise and it instantly conjures up thoughts of fierce men, hellbent on plunder, rape and violence. But that’s not what I think of when I hear that word, because the majority of the Vikings were not like that. They were determined, courageous and adventurous, and totally fearless. They also had a well-developed justice system that was as fair as it was possible to be. Some totalitarian states of today could learn a thing or two from them!
With my Runes series, I wanted to show a different side to them. That yes, they did go plundering, but not all of them were bad people. They were just like us – some good, some not. And some of the things we think of as bad weren’t necessarily so to them. Also, those people who fell foul of their attacks weren’t really much better – in fact, some of them were far worse in many ways.
The hero of the first book in the series, ECHOES OF THE RUNES goes “a-Viking”, ie. he sets off on a journey with the sole purpose of bringing home thralls and treasure. Yet, he’s not your average marauder because his heart isn’t in it. The only reason he does it is to prove to his wife that he’s not a coward (she’s a horrible woman who knows how to push his buttons). And with the other books, especially WHISPERS OF THE RUNES, I wanted to highlight their intrepid travels across oceans and continents, all thanks to the amazing longships they developed, and their curiosity and sense of adventure. Setting off across the north Atlantic in an open ship, filled with supplies and even cattle, took true courage!
So I guess what I’m really saying is, I wish people would stop giving the Vikings such a bad press and really look at all their amazing achievements, rather than the small percentage who decided to terrorise Western Europe for a while. It would take nearly a thousand years before women in Scandinavia (and elsewhere) regained the sort of rights Viking women had, because once Christianity arrived, they became chattels. And whatever we think of them, an awful lot of us are descended from them because they spread far and wide. So beware what you say – you might be talking about one of your direct ancestors!
- Your Runes series is based in the times of the Vikings, what attracted you to write about this time in history?
- I’m half Swedish so the Vikings have always been part of my heritage, and of course at school there the teachers paid special attention to that era. There are reminders all around the country – runestones, graves and artefacts in museums – and as I was a history buff from an early age, I also read all the Norse sagas when I was quite young. They made a huge impression on me. Besides, there is something very romantic about Vikings, wouldn’t you say?
- Your novels are highly detailed and blend fact with fiction seamlessly, how do you tackle research?
- Thank you! Like any author writing historical fiction, I research the background and history in general first, then study particular aspects more in depth. I read lots of factual books, watched TV programmes, visited museums and attended events like the Jorvik Viking Festival. I also travelled to some of the places the Vikings were known to have occupied, and I went to outdoor museums where there are reconstructed houses and/or ships. I try not to get too bogged down in research as I’m always impatient to get to the actual story, which to me is the most important thing, but obviously I try my best to get all the facts right as much as possible.
- What inspired you to write time slip novels? Do you write other genres?
- Ever since I read one, I’ve wanted to write timeslip myself – it’s my favourite sub-genre. I think it was Barbara Erskine’s Lady of Hay that really tipped the balance for me – it was just such a great story and I loved the premise of having two timelines that intertwine. I have written other genres – pure historical romance and also contemporary YA – and currently I’m writing time travel which is slightly different. (It’s not a dual timeline, instead the protagonist from the present actually physically travels back in time). Timeslip is my preferred sub-genre though and I’d like to continue with that.
- Rurik and Sara are your latest protagonists in Whispers of the Runes and Rurik also appeared in a previous book. Did you always intend for him to have his own novel or did the idea develop later?
- He was always going to get his own book as I had planned a trilogy for the three brothers. Also, I really liked him as a character. I had to force myself not to let him steal any of the spotlight when he appears as Hrafn’s brother in THE RUNES OF DESTINY because otherwise the heroine might have fallen for him instead. That would have been awkward!
- I have a bookcase full of books I will keep forever and regularly reread them. Do you reread books, or do you only read them one?
- There are some books I reread occasionally – Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion for one as it always makes me laugh – but mostly I only read them once. There are just so many wonderful stories out there and only so much time, and I wouldn’t want to miss the next amazing one.
- What are you currently reading?
- I’m currently reading four or five books per week, so it’s a mixture of romance sub-genres. Among them Nicola Cornick’s The Last Daughter, Kylie Scott’s Fake, Kirsty Greenwood’s Big Sexy Love, Sarah Morgan’s The Summer Seekers and Loretta Chase’s Ten Things I Hate About the Duke. A mixture of timeslip, contemporary and Regency this week 😊
- If you could go back in time, which era would you go to and why?
- Obviously, I’d like to visit the Viking era to see if I’ve portrayed it correctly in my books, but I would also quite like to visit the haut ton of the Regency. Only if I ended up in a very rich household, of course, and not as someone’s scullery maid!
- What is your favourite book?
- Favourite ever has to be Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
- Who is your favourite author?
- I can’t really choose just one again, but if I must, Georgette Heyer again
- Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?
- I suppose we are all influenced by everything we read but I hope by now I’ve developed my own style
- Where is your favourite place to read or write?
- Anywhere I can sit with lots of cushions behind me (I have a bad back)
- When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?
- I began because I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum to my first daughter and not have to go back to work and leave her at day care, so I decided to try my hand at writing. As it turned out, getting published was a lot harder than I thought so it wasn’t until she left home, aged 21, that I finally made it into print! Good thing I’d been bitten by the writing bug and didn’t give up. I got my first book published following an introduction to an editor at an RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) party.
You can discover more about Christina Courtenay’s new release Whisper of the Runes here.
Purchase link: https://smarturl.it/WOTRCC
Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014) and the RNA Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year 2021 with Echoes of the Runes. Whispers of the Runes (time travel published by Headline 24th June 2021) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).
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Thank you so much Christina Courtenay for popping by and chatting about all things Vikings, books and writing. Good luck in your next project.
Have a wonderful week and take care!