Please welcome Fredrik Kayser and enjoy his wonderful interview!
Do you write under any other names?
I have one other name that I write under, mostly just personal thought-rants and the like though. Fredrik Kayser is my true name.
Is English your first language? If not, what other languages do you speak and does this reflect in your writing?
No, English is not my first langauge. I’m a born-and-raised Scandinavian and I speak both Swedish and Norwegian, they’re my first languages. Certainly, Swedish more so than Norwegian. I sometimes write and say things with English words but the way it comes out is scandinavian. It can be tricky to keep the languages apart, especially if I’m tired. However, even though English isn’t my first language it has more or less become my primary language over time.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on mainly two projects, one is a trilogy that I’m currently building a world for and the other is a stand-alone novel titled Valkyrjan, which is norse for The Valkyrie. Fantasy is my genre and I like it like I like my beer and chocolate, dark!
What inspired you to write your first book?
I have yet to complete anything since up until recently I’ve been searching for my voice. As a scandinavian of Swedish and Norwegian decent the Old Gods and scandinavian folklore has always been a very strong presence in my life. Just like my ancestors I’ve also had to face the reality of our mortality, death is another source of inspiration and not always a mobrid one.
I found a lot of the inspiration for Valkyrjan in the Edda, the Icelandic sagas and taking the magical aspect of the world and land in which I grew up and merging it with Fantasy only felt natural and something that I had to try. Heh! I’m certainly not the first to draw inspiration from Norse culture, but I hope to bring different things to light than what is typically the norm.
Do you have a specific writing style or one that you prefer?
I prefer to write in third person, but I’ll try different approaches if I think it would suit the story I want to tell.
How did you come up with the title of your book(s)?
With Valkyrjan it came to me in the form of a song by a Farose group called Týr that had the same title. I’ve had a story taking form in my mind for ages and the valkyries just fit. Again, norse culture and mythology plays a central part in this story and titling it Valkyrjan was a subtle hint to what’s driving events forward, the kogs turning the engine of fate if you will!
Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, but what the messages are will vary. With Valkyrjan I’m exploring things like duality instead of polarised concepts of good and evil. I also toy around with equality, sexuality and social norms. However, my ideal goal would be for people to read Valkyrjan and see the norse culture for what it is and what it can inspire rather than the social stigma that sometimes surrounds it in Northern Europe (and probably elsewhere too).
How much of the book is realistic/true?
That would depend on how anchored to reality you are yourself, haha. It’s fictional but I try to at least stay true to the folklore and asatro religion wherever I can. The part about Troll is real, very real. Troll will eat you if you don’t respect them and their forests. *Nods gravely*
Are the experiences in your writing based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I draw from my own experiences, certainly. I’ve had to deal a lot with coming to terms with death throughout my life. Very early on I experienced loss and through the years friends and relatives have passed away at a steady interval. It’s not always been easy. I’ve also had many near-death experiences but I’d like to point out that none of them were volountary. Haunted by accidents haha, no but I can thank my spirit guide and Oden for keeping an eye on me, it’s thanks to them I’m still here – and very glad to be! The borderline between life and death is something my main character becomes all but too familiar with in Valkyrjan.
What books have most influenced your life most?
I guess they’re not books as much as they’re a collection of stories and poems but as I mentioned above, the Edda and also many scandiavian folktales like the ones by Asbjørnsen og Moe. Askeladden, som Kappåt med Trollet is a favourite! It’s a tale about a boy who tries to outwit aTroll who inhabits the forest where the boy lives… by having an eating contest!
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a “mentor”?
While there are authors I admire and authors whose work I have read a lot I wouldn’t go as far as calling any of them my mentor. It’s never been that personal a relationship for me.
What book are you reading now?
At the moment I’m reading The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker. This will be my second time reading it.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Brage, the norse god of poetry, haha! I have a couple of close friends who keep nagging at me to write more and send them copies – something for which I am very grateful!
Do you see writing as a career or a hobby?
“Oh, well. What’s a royal ball? After all, I suppose it would be frightfully dull, and-and-and boring, and-and completely… Completely wonderful.”
Ah, to write full-time for a living. A person can dream, right?
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Haha, I’m sure there will be something once I finish it. There’s always something!
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Writing came as a well-needed rescue for me. I struggled with an addiction when I was in my late teens, I won’t go into detail here but picking up the pen is what got me out of it. I continue to write because it’s what keeps me sane. That and the fact that I’m in love with words and langauges.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Blood, death smells so much like blood. Glimpses of reality, distorted fragments strung together incoherently. They always scream when the ravens cry out in song. Why? The screams of dying men and women merged with the fragments connecting him with reality. He knew well the dread symphony of steel clashing against steel, of mauls shattering shields and breaking bones. The dead are still, patiently awaiting the valkyries while the dying moan. The thunder of war, the exhilaration of the kill and the thrill of hot blood splashing against his cold face, he relived his past as if through the cataract of a dream. So much blood, he whispered to the darkness. The stench of rotting flesh intermingled with piss and excrement invaded his nostrils. Of what use have the dead for dignity? He couldn’t breathe. So much death. Has my time come?
The images vanished. The sounds of death, the sounds of his life vanished save for the crowing of ravens somewhere beyond the darkness. Soon all he had was the fading memory of an echo, a vestigial recollection of crowing birds beyond the dark. Tell me, Allfather, am I sinking into Hel’s hall? Did I not die well? Have I not lived honourably? Have I not fought bravely? Is this soul-crushing void the price I must pay for betraying my destiny?
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Keeping the main character alive. With all the things I’ve been putting him through it becomes a balancing act. On the one hand, I don’t want to kill him off without ensuring that the story goes on smoothly and on the other I’m afraid of making my characters seem too overpowered. I’ve taken to introducing random factors like dice to determin battle prowess and whether or not a character makes it out a fight unscathed or crippled. That random element adds a challenge.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Many favourites, but one author I admire is R. Scott Bakker. His ability to weave philosophy and the shitty sides of life together in fantastical prose that flows almost like dark and seductive poetry. I wouldn’t pick up his books if I wanted to read something that makes me feel happy… but his writing is gorgeously dark!
Who designed the covers of you books?
Haven’t gotten that far yet but when the time comes for one to be designed I would like my grandmother to paint a cover for me. I’ve always admired her art.
What was the hardest part of writing your any of your works?
Finding my voice has been the hardest part for me up until now, especially when my Swedish and Norwegian sneak into my English a little too much. The words that come out, like I mentioned earlier, have been English but the way they came out has been Swedish/Norwegian. Learing how to use that to my advantage I’d say.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Exercise! Strengthen both body and soul and you will find spending hours writing in front of a pc or laptop to be more bearable. Look after your back and it will look after you.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Two things. Firstly, a humble thank you. Secondly, follow your passions. Think with your head, know with your heart.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your stories to to life?
It’s not always been easy to get ahold of accurate and reliable sources in regard to how life was lived and lead during the viking age (year 793 to about year 1000) since there are a lot of romanticised notions and guessing going about. Thus, imbuing them with a feeling of authenticity in spite of them being a mix of religion, Fantasy, folklore and names that are hard to pronounce!
Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr, go on, give it a go. No? That’s alright, I can’t pronounce it either!
What character from your writing is your favorite and why?
I try not to get too attached to my characters as it becomes so much more difficult to kill them, if the need for such action arises. In Valkyrjan my favourite character, at the moment, would be a woman named Farideh (a name of Persian origin). She is a woman who starts out as a slave owned by a small group of human traffickers. I’m fascinated with her ferocity and the drastic transformation she undergoes after coming into contact with the main Character, Hreidar Haraldsson.
To stay up to date on with Fedrik is up to, please out his blog: http://fredrikkayser.wordpress.com/
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