Gunnar Olafsson plays the role of his ancestor King Harald at Stamford Bridge

Gunnar Olafsson plays the role of his ancestor King Harald at Stamford Bridge

I began writing fiction in 2016, when I decided to write a historical novel inspired by some of the many people I have met while working for Yorkshire’s Dalesman Magazine.

People I met spoke of the Harrying of the North, of the vibrant city of Jorvik, and of the origins of the language, a mixture of Old English and Old Norse.

I began to imagine, what must it have been like to live in those times?

And, I thought  – I’ll bring it all back to life.  I’ll write a historical novel!

How much easier to say than to do.  After years of checking facts and ensuring I quoted people accurately, I needed to learn a whole new way of working: creative writing.   So I joined a creative writing group and began writing short stories.

I was very pleased when I won a place on a writer development scheme, Writers’ Block North East 2017

Writers’ Block showed me what I needed to do: to let go of worrying about evidence and sources, and begin creating.  I joined a local group, and began writing short stories.  Each one taught me something about style, about content, pacing.  And, most of all, about creating characters.

Since then, I’ve had a some short stories published, details on my published page.

And, I worked on my novel.  I’ve done four now, two of which I am pleased with, one is still in progress.

The completed novel I’m most pleased with is Bladesmith.   Set against the Harrying of the North, it tells of Gudrid, an 11th century village blacksmith’s daughter who dreams of crafting the world’s finest, most desirable swords.  But when William the Conqueror decides to crush English resistance, Gudrid sees the swords she coveted deal death.  She and her six-year old sister escape into the wild, but how can Gudrid keep them alive amidst snow, hunger and marauding armies?

While I wait for Gudrid to find a home with an agent, I have begun The Healer.  Again, set in 11th century Yorkshire.   Frida, daughter of Scandinavian immigrants, was trained as a healer by her mother.  As part of Earl Edwin’s retinue, she tends hundreds of men injured in a battle against Earl Tostig and Harald ‘Hardrada’, King of Norway.  It’s a battle that leaves her a widow.  She goes home to raise her young son alone.  But a new invader comes: William the Conqueror, with a policy to ‘blend the races under his jurisdiction.  Forced to marry a foreigner whose language she cannot even speak, how far will Frida go to regain her independence?