Set in the forests of Northern Europe, Fargoer: A Viking Age Tale describes the life of Vierra, a tribeswoman of the Kainu, beginning with her ascension into womanhood. While her own tribal society is matriarchal, she is pitted against both men and spirits as she progresses through the years to her ultimate destiny.
This tale is delivered in an epic style, merging the mythologies of Scandinavia with fantasy, reminding me of stories from the spoken word traditions that place the main characters in situations to test their strength and determination against powerful opposing forces.
Constructed from a string of short stories, similar in style to Martian Chronicles by Bradbury, the novel leads us through the journey of Vierra, from her prepubescent years living with her chieftain aunt and cousin into the life of a quiet hunter, an outsider even among her own tribe. Throughout her life’s trials and triumphs, we are introduced to a variety of spirit identities. We observe the rituals and rites of her people contrasted with those of the Vikings and other tribes who appear in the narrative. The work is sprinkled with poetic chants and songs.
As I looked through other reviews of Fargoer, I noticed that some readers complained that the writing was boring, as if there was not enough action from page-to-page to evoke their interest. I found the opposite to be true, with almost every detail of this book drawing my attention, down to the very last description of the tribal huts. Action is important in any adventure: if the destination were the only purpose of writing, then there would be no point in telling a story at all. What is a story without setting a scene? – describing the landscape, the clothes, the homes of the characters. In between the bursts of exterior action, we need to dwell inside the characters thoughts, to see how the events affect their personalities, to understand how those actions affect us as the readers. To understand her destiny, Vierra must accept her actions and her own justification for each one. The reader is prompted to consider how he or she might handle those same events.
This novel evenly disperses meaningful description of the tribal lands and traditions with the swift fighting action.
This book receives an exuberant 5 Stars from me.
Find Fargoer on Amazon.com.
I asked Petteri to answer a few questions, and he obliged with some fascinating information.
Q: Where is your native country/state?
A: I come from Finland, and to be exact from Central Finland area. I was born and raised in countryside and even though my parents weren’t farmers there were lot of them among my relatives. Even though I live in the city now, originating from ”the end of the sandy road” has probably had an effect on me.
Q: Do you prefer writing in your native language?
A: Yes. I prefer to write in Finnish and then possibly to translate my texts in English. The translation projects have been joint efforts, as I am not good enough on my own do translate fiction.
Q: When (or at what age) did you first become interested in writing stories?
A: I started reading my first novels when I was eight. From those days I have linked fantastic adventures with books, but it took fairly long to get going. I wrote some poetry in the 90’s (horrible by the way) but it wasn’t until around 2008 or 2009 when I got going. It was a long process for me.
Q: What does your writing process entail?
A: I write a lot of short fiction which usually starts with a strong idea or an emotional state. From there flows the concept and the story itself in quite a short time. I am a sporadic writer with long times of non-productivity and then short bursts of creation. It is kind of stressful for me sometimes, but there has been no way around it. I am still experimenting with different working methods, currently I write my draft versions with pen and paper. It is interesting to find out how different ways of doing things affect the results.
For longer stuff I usually have a long ”incubation period”. Fargoer took four years to make, and it seems that my future projects take a long time as well.
Q: How do you create your characters?
A: My characters are a mix created out of my experiences with real people, the needs of the particular story, and quirky whims that my imagination stirs up. Usually they kind of develop themselves when they are written into the storyline, I do not plan so much of characters beforehand. This sometimes leads to re-writing, but for me it has been the best way so far.
A: Who or what was the inspiration for Vierra?
Q: I am privileged to have been lived my life around strong and independent women. My grandmother and mother are such figures, and I have had a chance to meet many more. This is the basis of the character herself. I have also been interested of the ”warrior women” or amazon-myths as they seem plenty and can be found within many cultures. I tried to create Vierra and her culture as a believable warrior woman and a culture to match: a pseudo-historical entity but without over-the-top implications that plague most of the explorations of these myths.
Q: Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?
A: Well, for the reader she represents a unique culture. A matriarchal hunter-gatherer society in the northern forests. But she is a kind of an outcast in her own culture as well. Perhaps the most overwhelming aspect of her is ”sisu”, a Finnish word for guts that we pride ourselves of. A person with ”sisu” goes through obstacles even in grim situations with sheer stubborn determination and inability to give up. This, and her other traits make her flawed, but interesting character in my point of view.
Q: Is there a moral/social idea you wished to convey through “Fargoer”?
A: I don’t like conveying agendas but I like to convey ideas and things for the reader to ponder with. With Fargoer I would say there are few: social status of an outcast is one of them. Anti-religious tendencies in a world with clear supernatural involvement is another. Clashing of cultures of different livelihoods is third. Destiny of an individual is probably the fourth.
Q: What drew you to writing a story based in the age of the Vikings?
A: I would say it is the way the era is underused in fantasy literature. Most of fantasy seems to be based on High Medieval period and different variations of Middle Ages. I think Viking Age has very interesting things to give for fantasy literature. There are more original cultures and different religions present than in later periods, when the influence of the church has grown. Vikings themselves brought an element of multi-culturalism as they traded and raided in many areas, creating an exchange of ideas and goods all the way from northern sea to the Arabs. Level of sophistication ran all the way from hunter-gatherers to quite sophisticated Caliphate.
Q: How closely do the spirits and chants in your book mirror actual tribal mysticism?
A: I’ve tried to mimic the feel and methods of ancient Finnish poetry for the chants. In Finnish version they are written in old Kalevala-meter but translated poetry uses rhymes as it is more natural to English language. Poems and mythology described in Fargoer is not an exact copy of the traditional Finnish mythology, but the ancient reality was not either. Especially Kalevala was created in an age of rising national awareness and does not represent the whole spectrum of myths and beliefs that really existed. In this light, my work is not authentic, but neither are the other works derived from ancient poetry.
Q: What’s the one major piece of advice you would give to a first-time novel writer?
A: I would say, try to find your own voice and your own way of doing things. Use tips and tricks used by others but do not get caught up with them, the best methods for you are the ones which make you pound those words in.
Q: What’s the biggest lesson you learned from writing your first book?
A: Writing a book is a huge task, especially if you are very self-conscious of your work. I guess I can say big accomplishments can come out of small things done regularly for a long time.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: Currently I am writing short stories. The follow-up for Fargoer is in the works but it seems to take longer than I predicted. I have learned not to fret over such things too much, so I currently write stuff that comes out naturally. I have many novel-size projects in my mind besides Fargoer’s sequels, it will be interesting to see when they decide to come out. 🙂
Q: How do you relax?
A: I practice aikido in addition to writing so physical activity is also very important for my well-being. Books, movies and music also seem to work, as they seem for the most of us. As a family man I enjoy being home and seeing my boy grow and learn new things.
Q: Any last notes or words of inspiration or encouragement you would like to leave?
A: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi
“Big things have small beginnings” – Lawrence of Arabia
To Connect with Petteri, you can click on the following links:
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Petteri-Hannila/e/B009QIJXP0
Creativia Publishing: http://www.creativia.org/fargoer—day-of-the-dead.html
Day of the dead is a short story set in the world of Fargoer (and it touches the storyline depicted in the novel). You can download it for free from Creativia’s web site.