This is a collection of the most common questions I get, grouped by subject. Click the links to choose your subject, or just scroll the page. Please feel free to use the answers in your article, thesis, school assignment or wherever you’re at.
Will you read my manuscript?
I would love to, but I can’t. I wish with all my heart that I could read every story ever written, but if I did, I would never have time to write my own. Every time I get this question, I am thankful and flattered, so it truly hurts to say no. The reality of being a writer is that you are always bombarded with must-read stories from publishers and colleagues, and honestly, most of us don’t even make it half way through that list, so bear with us.
Can you do a short videoclip for my party/daugther/event etc.
I used to, but have since grown older and wiser. As much as I apreciate you wanting me to, I regretfully have to decline. Even if it is “just saying hello for three seconds”, these things pile up, and they always take time. Time that should be spent writing. Sorry, don’t hate me.
Can you send me a signed book?
No. Sorry. See previous question :)
Can you share/promote my cause/book/post etc.
My reach is far overrated, but I still get this question so often that if I said yes, I would have chased everyone away with random, daily posts. So even though I care about your cause or project, I can’t pick and choose. I have to say no to everyone. Again, I’m sorry.
Place of birth
I come from a small town called Finnsnes, in the municipality Lenvik, in Troms county. It’s a two hour drive south of Tromsø, in the north of Norway.
I grew up an only child but had many cats. My mom was a cook, my dad was a carpenter.
I went to elementary school at ‘Gottesjord skole’, high school at ‘Sørreisa sentralskole’, college at ‘Bardufoss videregående skole.
What were you like as a kid?
I was a bit of a loner, always happy in my own company, reading, writing or drawing. When I tried to fit in, for instance by dressing “cool” like the others, there would always be something slightly off. Something I had missed. Like a pair of red tights that didn’t match, or the wrong type of shoes. I felt different (most of us do), but I embraced it, I think. I have sometimes told teens: “Don’t worry. The weird things they tease you for now, they will love you for later.”
Where did the idea for The Raven Rings come from?
There was never an epiphany, no one single moment or idea where it all began. If there was such a thing as a beginning, it would be the main character, Hirka. She started out as a character I made for a Dungeons & Dragons role-playing campaign, many, many years ago. Even if she is different now, there are similarities that became essential for the books: She was a redhead, she had two crows that she could talk to, she was into herbs and healing, and she had a strong sense of right and wrong.
Where did the idea for Bubble come from?
Bubble (“Bobla”) is based on a true fantasy. I say that, because it used to be my own fantasy when I was a kid. I dreamed about having a bubble that could fly and take me anywhere. It would be completely transparent, so I could see the world, but cozy, with a bed, pillows and everything I needed. When The Raven Rings launched, the series became very successful, and my life was turned upside down. I started to remember that feeling from when I was a kid, that need to just step out of the world and get away, sometimes. The book wouldn’t let go, it simply had to be written.
Childhood sources of inspiration
The North has shaped me, as a person and a writer. Wild nature triggers the imagination and shapes our myths. There would be stories about everything, from monster fish in the sea, to bottomless lakes, trolls in the mountains and enchanted trees. I was particularly fascinated by stories about how the northern lights would come and get us if we waved at it or teased it. It made me feel connected to the world. Not just nature, but also the traces of previous generations. In a city, old buildings are quickly demolished and replaced with new. But where I grew up, there was vast amounts of space, and no urgency for replacement. Houses had the opportunity to age, rot, until they eventually fell apart. And of course, there would be stories about abandoned houses and the people who used to live there. I think it gives people a more timeless perspective to be surrounded by things that has always been there, and will be there long after you’re gone. Then there is the weather, of course. The storms and the cold, it toughens you, and reminds you that you are here at the mercy of greater forces. All these things give northerners a particular mindset, often known as gallows humor, or dark humor. You can and should joke about everything in the North.
Youth sources of inspiration
I’m inspired by all the things that defined me as a youth: comics and graphic novels, roleplaying games, computer games, music (metalhead), films and TV-series. Dungeons & Dragons was a treasure chest for the mind, like an education in everything fantasy. Before that, there was a deep fascination for vikings, norse mythology and anything medieval.
Like most self-respecting fangirls, I started early with hero worship. After all, there was a lot to love: Sandman, Neil Gaiman's outstanding comic, Dave McKean's emo collages, John Howes Lord of the Rings calendars, (Yes, it's true that I cried at his lecture on Lucca Comics & Games) Boris Vallejo's overly perfect ladies and their monsters, the imaginative landscapes of Rodney Matthews, the vampires of Timothy Bradstreet, the books of Tad Williams, the saga of the Ice People by Margit Sandemo, Elfquest, Lone Wolf & Cub, Blade of the Immortal, Blind Guardian, Higlander, The Crow, Neverending story, Excalibur, Willow, Xena, Labyrinth and so on forever.
New sources of inspiration
I avoided reading fantasy for years while writing The Raven Rings, for two obvious reasons: I didn’t want to be unconsciously inspired by whatever I was reading. And I didn’t want to read something so incredibly brilliant that I would have a breakdown over never, ever being as good.
Today, I rarely have time to read, but when I do, it's fantasy. Still, I’d say I more inspired by comics, role-playing games, and music than other books directly.
I used to blame Astrid Lindgren for writing fantasy, because of the children's book "My dearest sister". I read it when I was seven or eight, and it has a brutal ending. So brutal that I wrote my own...
Tolkien and "Lord of the Rings", of course, were important to me, like most fantasy writers. But there was another book that became my big fantasy awakening, and that was Tad Williams, with the book "The Dragonbone Chair". He is today best known for being the author who inspired George R.R. Martin.
Neil Gaiman and the comic "Sandman" defined me for a decade, for sure
Why/when did you start writing?
I love stories, in all shapes and forms, so I experimented a lot as a child. The type of medium was secondary: books, pictures, movies, comics ... I made the first books before I could write, with my grandfather’s letterpaper, that I folded and fastend in the “spine” with a needle. Then I drew everything that happened in the story. Surprisingly, it was often about crying princesses. It was always in the cards that I would write books, it was just a matter of when. The Raven Rings started with a few ideas that I thought was going to be a graphic novel, but it quickly outgrew the format.
I never chose to write fantasy, there was no other option. Book equalld fantasy, a genre I have always loved and always will.
Why Young Adult?
Writing for young people was never a conscious choice. I wanted to write fantasy, for fantasy lovers of all ages. People like myself. The fact that The Raven Rings was published as YA (14+ in Norway) has been debated, and was probably due to Norwegian publishing traditions, and their conviction that the majority of readers fall in love with this genre while they are young. The protagonist, Hirka, is 15 years old in the first book, 19 in the last, but my readers span every age, from 11 - 94 (true story)
How long did it take to write Odin’s Child?
The story matured for a decade before I took time to write it properly. Ten years is a long time. The story develops a strong “sense of self”, and it becomes easier to know what ideas belong and which don’t.
Did you always know there would be three books?
Yes. It’s fantasy. It’s a rule ;)
What are the sentral themes in The Raven Rings?
Xenophobia is the most central issue. The main character, Hirka, is different, simoly by being human. Chased, feared and despised. The contempt for humans also has a physical manifestation in the rot, the plague we are thought to spread. This theme has a strong predence in all the books, probably because it scares me how quickly we are willing to sacrifice strangers or what we perceive as alien. It is incomprehensible to me, how people can fail to understand that others people’s misery will affect us. We can choose to spend money fixing it now, or spend a lot more, when it’s too late. This is a small planet. Pulling up the ladder is simply impossible.
I was somewhat surprised by the themes in my own books. Some issues were obviously more important to me than I had been aware of. For example, to some extent, all books are about faith, class division and leadership.
What do you think is the best protection against feeling “out”?
I believe connectedness is vital. We need to feel connected to our environment and the people around us. I once read that there is a coping mechanism for panic attacks that involves grounding yourself by listing things you can see, things you can hear, things you can smell and so on. I found that said a lot. Sadly, we isolate ourselves often from our surroundings, and from other people. But when I feel really “out”, I know that it always works to help others. To do something for another person. Big or small, it makes you feel like a part of this world again.
What is it about ravens?
I love ravens and crows. And magpies. or any members of the corvus family, for that matter. But the raven above all. It's hard to say why, but it might have something to do with being dark, mysterious and misunderstood. Ravens are eerilty intelligent (like a four-year-old), they play, educate each other, and they are capable of planning ahead. This magnificent bird has a central role in mythology and folklore throughout the world, and it is well deserved.
My first encounter with crows was a pair of magpies living in my grandparents’ yard. Every spring, they would rebuild a huge nest in the same birch, and they made such noise! A familiar, rasping laugh. My grandma called them “tullsjur”, meaning fool magpie, because they seemed to do things just for the fun of it. Like teasing other animals and stealing teaspoons.
Like most, I struggled to separate crows from ravens, but you have to know what to look for. I have a simple rule: When you see a raven, you know it. If you are not really sure, it’s a crow. The raven is considerably larger and has a more “powerful" look. They flap less and glide more. The sound is also unmistakable. Crows give hoarse cooos or caws from the throat, while the raven has deep, throaty croaks, as if it comed from the stomach. That is, when they don't sound like a kitten or a human, just to tease us.
This crow fetish was reinforced sever times, like when I first read about Odin's ravens and when the movie "The Crow" came out in the 90's. The obsession was so overwhelming that I made a comic called "The Crows". A strange series of black and white short stories, always with no text, and often without any actual ending or point. Stripped of any commercial potential, obviously, but I loved making them.
For a quite some time, I read everything I came across that was about corvids. I became a fan of writer and biology professor Bernd Heinrich, who has written a lot about them. Then I learned about Mathias Osvath, a cognitive zoologist at the University of Lund in Sweden. In recent years, there have been articles and startling video clips showing how incredibly intelligent ravens are. We can thank Osvath and his colleagues for many of those. I saw lectures and TED talks with him, and when I finally got the chance to meet him, I became proper starstruck.
It’s not often someone can school me in raven facts, but Mathias could! Did you know that the red tint in their mouth is strengthened by status? Or that their beaks are often half open when they are stressed? Or that they critically remove snacks from their offspring’s food, even though they practically eat everything? Mathias explained, and I was gaping like a child in awe. The flutter of wings circled me. Colours played in plumage. They came closer. Croaking. Asking. Warning. They had kids, which makes them a bit tempered, so I couldn’t hold them. But I could let them eat from my hand. That feeling, a sharp beak against my skin… Dear gods, I forgot to breathe. I love these creatures. There’s nothing like them.
One of Mathias’ findings is that ravens (and apes) can plan things ahead. This requires a type of intelligence and imagination that we like to think is uniquely human. They are also excellent problem solvers. A delightful example that you might have seen clips of: A plastic tube is filled half up with water. A peanut is floating on top, but the tube is too high for the raven to reach it. The solution: It drops pebbles into the tube, raising the water until it can reach the nut with its beak. Mathias gave the same assignment to a group of politicians visiting the university. They couldn’t solve it. Conclusion: Raven for president!
Myth & folklore
This story was never meant to be about Norse mythology. Many have written about that before me, and many will do it again. Maybe even me. I wanted to create something original, but familiar. Ymslanda, the world in the books, is parallell to our own world. Norse mythology was our religion, not theirs. They had their own myths. But the idea is that aspects of their world has travelled to us, affected us, and maybe even changed our stories. It is realistic to think that if travel between worlds was possible, there would be a cultural exchange. I think I made this connection stronger throughout the trilogy, and hopefully there will be a few “aha” moments by the end, where you recognise parts of norse myths.
Readers & reactions
What was it like to experience the success of The Raven Rings?
My life was turned upside down when the first book was published. I could drop everything, and just keep writing, which almost feels like cheating! It’s never supposed to happen that way. It usually takes years and many books. I have my insane readers to thank for that. Their dedication and enthusiasm has created a dream job for me, and I can’t thank them enough.
How did readers react to Bubble, which is very different from The Raven Rings?
It was a brilliant book to work with, because it was so different from the others. But that didn’t discourage people. The ones who read The Raven Rings, wanted to read Bubble as well, so I am guessing this children’s book has a very high average age on its readers :D And I am happy that they loved it as much as their kids!
What are the reactions you get from readers?
Most touching: The vast amount of fanart. The drawings, the cosplays, the cakes, the tattoos… I am humbled by the talent and dedication, and I try to show off fanart every friday,
Most creepy: Getting a message with the question: “Did you just walk up Thorvald Meyers street?”, followed by a picture of myself, actually walking up the street.
Most amusing: The fact that I oftne hear these two things: “I never read fantasy, but I love your books.” And: “I read a lot of fantasy, and I love your books.”
Most treasured memory: It was the Bookfair in Gøteborg. I was signing books, and saw this girl standing in line. She was young, with long, dark-blond hair. She looked both eager and terrified, standing there, clutching my books to her chest. When it was her turn, she put the books down, hands shaking. She looked at me, teary-eyed, and said: “I’m just so incredibly happy right now, you have no idea.” Then she started to cry. She desperately wiped her eyed, because a bookfair full of people is a rotten place to break down. I embraced her, allowing her to shield her tears for a moment. She was comforted by what I assume was her boyfriend, a young rocker in a leather jacket, with the kindest eyes. That was the first time I experienced someone crying at a signing. (But incredibly not the last.)
Why is fantasy so popular?
I have written a long rant about that. In short: Many people think fantasy is about getting away, about pure escapism. And of course that's part of it, but the genre also has a far more important role. Fantasy is often criticized for being unrealistic, since it is about saving the world. But for the very first time, saving the world is a realistic problem. Sadly. I think people swallow fantasy because it teaches them to tackle the big problems. It gives them motivation and inspiration to attack the big issues we are facing.
Why are young people so into fantasy?
Because they haven’t given up yet. Young people haven’t been molded yet, and haven’t succumbed to the patterns of adults. Young people refuse to accept “that’s just how it is” as a reason. They are alert, sharp, they notice when things aren’t working, and they burn with desire to fix it. They have utopian mindsets, and believe in all the best fairytales.