An interview with JG Harlond about her latest book

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Good afternoon Jane. Thanks for joining me on my blog to talk about your latest book THE DOOMSONG SWORD.

You are a successful novelist of historical fiction for adults. Why did you suddenly decide to write a fantasy novel for young adults?


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To be honest, there was nothing sudden about it: quite the contrary, in fact. Apart from my historical crime fiction, I also write school text book material for senior schools – middle-grade to pre-university students. Some years ago I planned a re-telling of Norse myths and legends to be used in schools. This was taken up by a publisher and I began the project, but then the financial crisis caught up with the publisher and it was cancelled. By that time, though, I had nearly completed a re-telling of the Sigurd the Dragonslayer legend and had various other stories at different stages. Somewhat annoyed, I stopped writing and put the material into a drawer the way writers do – because you never know when something might come in handy. It was just as well I did, because that Dragonslayer story wouldn’t go away. I can’t say precisely when or even why, but one day I started to write it all over again using a fictitious protagonist called Davor. This, in turn, produced all sorts of problems because the saga goes off at tangents. Trying to create a chronological timeline suitable for a work of modern fiction was more than a challenge. So the story went back in the drawer. But Davor wouldn’t stay quiet. He started nagging me and got quite pushy so I began work on his story properly, which is a new version or an adaptation of part of the Volsung Saga with the famous sword called ‘Doomsong and Truth-teller’ plus the evil dragon. It took a long time to get Davor’s story right, though. I wrote it in three distinct ways, and even then the ‘final’ version went through numerous drafts then hours of harsh editing until it sounded right.

Did you find it more difficult writing for a younger audience?

Well, I knew how to pitch the dialogue, but I made a conscious decision not to over-simplify the prose or narrative to ‘make it easy’. There was no ‘writing down’ whatsoever. ‘Is it more difficult to write for younger readers?’ I would say yes, definitely. Initially I was consciously writing for adolescent boys, but as the story grew so did the scope and nature of potential readers. To be honest, I’d like to think The Doomsong Sword is one of those books – like Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy or the Hobbit that appeals to all ages. The main character starts off a lazy adolescent and then gets younger, but he does grow up – I can’t say more because it would give too much away – but it’s not strictly a children’s story.

How important is it for a writer to keep within a certain genre with their writing?

Nowadays fiction authors are advised to find a genre and stick to it, at least until they have written a complete series. That, we are told, is how to get and keep readers. We are also advised to write what we read; and I read all sorts of books. I suppose my sort of fantasy – in this novel anyway – is essentially historical fiction without the facts: the hero, Davor, is abandoned in a Dark Age Scandinavia, and having been to the area where the story opens numerous times, I can assure you that when the clouds threaten or the mists come down anything might happen. In the not too distant past, I was addicted to magical realism, so I suppose there is an element of that in the story, as well. The Doomsong Sword falls into ‘high’ or ‘classical’ fantasy, I suppose, but I wasn’t bothering about that while I was creating the story itself. This genre question is a nuisance, useful for online marketing perhaps, but very limiting for a widely-read author. Margaret Atwood has written books in just about every genre and nobody criticises her for it – to my knowledge.

Are you planning to write any more books for younger readers?

Yes. As I’ve said, I have a whole file full of unused material, but this Davor character has places to go and people to meet before I can finish his story. He has some pretty amazing adventures from the old Norse sagas to get through before his story is finally told.

Well that sounds as though we’re in for a treat. I for one am looking forward to reading the further adventures of the fearless Davor.

JG Harlond’s books can be found on Amazon, other on-line bookshops and, if you’re lucky enough to still have one where you live, in high street bookshops. 
​You can find out more about her on her web page 
www.jgharlond.com

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Joan Fallon is a writer and novelist living in Spain.

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