Once upon a Longship: An Interview with Giles Kristian
LB: What made you first put pen to paper?
GK: The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell was so inspiring to me, and I was somehow arrogant enough to think, ‘Oh, I wonder if I could do this!’, so I started working on a book which ended up with 160,000 words, but I never did anything with it.
Then, I went on a stag do to the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. I saw the ships and realised that this bunch of guys standing around me were so similar to Norsemen a thousand years ago – getting into the longship, having all this camaraderie, the mentality to find out what was across the other side. That inspired me to think, ‘Well, why don’t I write a Viking novel?’
It made perfect sense, being half-Norwegian and having spent so much time growing up in Norway.
LB: How did you go about finding an agent?
GK: I was living in New York, I’d finished Raven: Blood Eye and I was writing to different agents, getting rejection after rejection. Eventually, Writers House expressed interest, but they weren’t too sure about the whole Viking thing. Plus they knew Bernard Cornwell had a Viking novel out, so I basically had to convince them that it would be a good idea! When I was taken on by them, I was absolutely ecstatic. I was so naive, I thought that was it. Then they couldn’t find me a publisher in the States for the Viking series! Historical fiction is a tough sell in America, especially when it goes as far back as Raven.
Back in London, I approached another agency – A.M. Heath – and said ‘I’m signed in New York. Would you be interested in taking me on in a sub-agent capacity?’ They said yes, and within four weeks they came back with an offer from Transworld. Now, they’re my primary agents.
I still work with Writers House in the U.S., and they recently got me a deal with Random House for the Raven books: Blood Eye was released in America in August.
GK: I finished writing it in 2004, got the publishing deal in 2007, and it was released in 2009. It was a long road from finishing the story to trying to get an agent, then the agent trying to get a publisher, and then waiting for ages for the book to finally be published. Publishing just moves so slowly – it’s infuriatingly slow!
LB: How many rejections did you have?
GK: Initially, I had loads of rejections, from agents and U.S. publishers. It must be something like 50, which is a lot! I’d see my envelopes come back and kind of get excited. Then I’d open them and read the first few lines and see the standard form letter. It was so disappointing. But, every time I got a rejection, I’d post another submission and think, ‘This one might get accepted!’ That was my way of dealing with it. It was a way of feeling that I was doing something positive in the midst of all that disappointment. I refused to accept ‘no’.
LB: What writing advice has helped you the most?
GK: ‘Show, don’t tell.’ It’s such an important little one-liner when it comes to writing fiction. Also, don’t submit something until it’s really ready!
Giles Kristian is the author of popular Viking trilogy, Raven. Book one of his English Civil War trilogy, The Bleeding Land, was released earlier this year. http://www.gileskristian.com/
About the contributor: Lois Bennett is HNS Membership Secretary (UK), book reviewer for
What the Dickens? magazine, a prize-winning poet and an aspiring historical fiction novelist.
Published in Historical Novels Review | Issue 62, November 2012