I’ve a crick in my neck,
And tend to fall on my head,
My trouser-snake is soft,
And my hearing’s gone away.
Thinking about a talk I will be giving to the Tenby Historical Society on 23 June about Vikings in Pembrokeshire, I was reminded of Judith Jesch’s translation of this lament on old age by the 10th century Viking skald (or poet) Egil Skallagrimsson.
My second novel, The Viking Hostage, imagines a viking settlement on Caldey Island off the coast at Tenby. I was talking yesterday with a TV researcher about why contemporary people from the Welsh coast, might like the idea of having Viking DNA, despite the popular image of Vikings as brutal raiders and slavers (see the first idea for the cover of my novel above). We can’t help but be impressed by the adventurous spirit of the Vikings and their achievements as seaborne explorers. I’m intrigued by the way they might have seen the map of the world, inside out as it were, from the perspective of the oceans and rivers that were their roads. One of their ‘roads’ skirted through the Scottish islands and came down past the Isle of Man, threaded between Ireland and Wales, and moved on towards France. I tried to write about Vikings as fully rounded people, rather than two-dimensional villains: as tender and funny, as well as fearsome pagan warriors. 8th to 11th century Scandinavia (the Viking Age) was a rich and complex culture as the recent British Museum exhibition demonstrated. There is evidence that Viking women were on some of the ships. Vikings were also traders, farmers and mercenaries, integrating with the other cultures they encountered. Evidence about the Vikings in Wales is in place names especially islands and coastal ports; in the Icelandic Sagas; in recent archaeological evidence, for instance at Anglesey; and in the Welsh Annals written at St David’s Cathedral where they had good cause to moan about them since Vikings raided the cathedral eleven times.
See Judith Jesch’s Viking Poetry of Love and War (2013) published by the British Museum; Mark Redknap, Vikings in Wales: An Archaeological Quest (2000); Gareth Williams and Peter Pentz’s Vikings: Life and Legends (2014); and the Vikings television drama series. The book cover idea above is from a 19th century French painting by Evariste Vital Luminais. France was another place where there was also good reason to think of Vikings with less than fondness. My novel, The Viking Hostage, set in France and Wales, is published by Impress Books.
Five short book reviews by me are published today in the May issue of Historical Novels Review: biographies of King John, William Marshal and Queen Elizabeth I, Michael Pye’s The Edge of the World on the history of the North Sea, and a timeslip novel by Posie Graeme-Evans. You can read the reviews by following links on my Book Reviews page.
I am one of the writers and publishers leading workshops for fiction writers at the Gers Chateau residential writing event in southern France in July. I will focus on using the chateau and its surroundings to inspire writing (historical or otherwise) and talk about how I use old maps, plans, objects and pictures in my own writing process. I’m looking forward to discussing place and writing with the participants.
Please see the full details for further information and to book a place. Places are limited.
My review of a fascinating new biography of Mark Rothko by Annie Cohen-Solal has just been published in the Times Higher Education magazine. Links to my other recent book reviews are on the Non-Fiction page of this website.
Posted in Books
I am very pleased to be one of 25 recipients of this year’s Literature Wales Writers’ Bursaries. The Bursary has been awarded for work on my new novel, The Water Age, which is set on the triple river estuary at Carmarthen Bay. It has a historical strand in the 12th century, focussed on Nest who was the daughter of the southern Welsh king, Rhys ap Tewdwr, and a future strand set in the 23rd century. I am currently researching the history and the Welsh castles that will feature in the story including Pembroke, Llansteffan, Carmarthen, Cardiff, Narberth, Carew, Kidwelly and Cilgerran. Also doing lots of research on water which will be significant in both parts of the novel, and on climate change and sea level predictions for the future story.
The deadline for the 2015 Ifanca Helene James Short Story Competition is 1st July. Stories should be a maximum of 2,200 words. First prize is £100 and a bottle of champagne. This year’s judges are Jeni Williams, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at University of Wales Trinity St David’s, and published writers Tracey Warr, Robin Bloor and Amanda Miles. You can read the stories from previous winners on the website.
See the entry form and competition rules on the website for full details on how to enter. You can post your entry with a cheque for the £4 entry fee or you can email your entry to us and pay via Paypal using our email address.
We look forward to reading your stories.
The Viking Hostage, Impress Books, 2014
The End of Time: 10th Century Vikings in France and Wales
Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HH
Wednesday 1 April 2015
2pm – 3pm
Tracey Warr will talk about the history behind her new novel, The Viking Hostage, set in late 10th century France and Wales, weaving together the stories of three women living through turbulent power struggles, Viking raids, and fears of The End of Time. Their stories tangle with questions of freedom and courage in the often brutal society of early medieval Europe. http://traceywarrwriting.com
The event is free but it’s essential to book at