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Interview with Melanie Karsak

Today, I have the pleasure of having an interview with Melanie Karsak! I have read and enjoyed her many series of books on some of history's more obscure or misunderstood women. Often, little is known about their true histories, either from not being recorded because of their gender and the unimportance given to women or else intentional character assassination. Mrs. Karsak seeks to bring light where much is shrouded in darkness. As a result, we are enriched by their lives and these fascinating women can speak to us through the centuries. In this interview, Mrs. Karsak talks about what drew her to these women and her writing process! Thank you Mrs. Karsak!



You have written books on Lady MacBeth, Hervor, Queen Boudica, Queen Cartimandua, and now Freydis. What drew you to write about these women?

I like the unsung and maligned heroines. Hervor is a significant character in the Norse Hervarar Saga. In fact, there are two Hervors in that tale—grandmother and granddaughter. But Hervor’s story is largely forgotten. Aside from Tolkien using Hervor as his inspiration for Eowyn, I don’t think Hervor is on anyone’s radar. I wanted to fix that. In the cases of Lady Macbeth, Cartimandua, and Freydis, I felt like these very real women had their legacies ruined by the writings of others. With their stories, I’m trying to drag them back out of the mud and depict them in what I hope are more realistic and sensitive ways. Shakespeare was just after a good story. Roman writers didn’t want to show a strong foreign queen, so they turned Cartimandua into a two-faced tart. Freydis was later depicted as a conniving, unfeminine “heathen.” None of these depictions feel fair or right. Boudica is our most famous heroine, but we only ever see her at the end of her life. Her origin and her struggle were missing. I wanted to fill that gap.


What characteristics do these women have in common?

I think they all care deeply about the ones they love; they try to do the right thing, and when their backs are against the wall, they fight back—sometimes ruthlessly. They are like Freyja, a warrior and a lover. There is a lot of the divine feminine in each of these women, as she was originally perceived.

How do you plan your series? Do they all follow a particular formula?

I generally have the major plot moments in my mind when I set out. I know how things will end and the important points we must move through to get there. The rest is a matter of letting things unfold. I don’t outline, but I will say that most of my heroines follow the classic Joseph Campbell style hero’s journey.


What is your research process like?

I’m an academic at heart. I was a professor for many years prior to writing full-time. When I research for my books, that side of my personality activates. I have a hundred tabs open at once, old maps on my desk, and sticky notes and books everywhere researcher.


You are excellent at weaving mythology into real history. It takes a deft touch to make it realistic. What developed your interest in mythology?

I have always loved mythology and history. As a child, I really wanted to be an archaeologist. Add to that a father who humored my whims and bought me all the books I wanted on the supernatural and unexplained, and you end up with my books today. I remember pouring over photos of Loch Ness and memorizing charts of the Greek gods for fun.


What were some of the challenging aspects of writing about these women and their world?


Many times, there is just so little recorded about them. We have huge gaps in their stories where we have no idea what happened to them. In those moments, I try to embrace universal struggles—motherhood, marriage, loss, betrayal, love, etc.

What surprises did you encounter when writing about these women?

There is just so little recorded for some of them. It almost feels intentional. Often, their male contemporaries, husbands, or fathers are fully detailed in the histories, but their mother’s names are not even recorded. Aside from Boudica’s tragic end, most just fade into nothing, with no real end to their tales. It’s sad that they weren’t valued.


What is the most rewarding aspect of writing these novels?

The most rewarding part is hearing how my books touch or help my readers. The publishing industry is a hard business, and many times, I feel like I’m doing things out of step—not writing to trends, not writing “spicy” enough, writing obscure genres, etc. But then, I’ll get an email from someone who really connected with a character and felt seen. Or, maybe, some difficulty a character faced helped a reader overcome a difficulty in their own lives. In those moments, I’m glad I write where my muse pulls me.

What nonfiction books do you recommend for readers looking to know more about the women you have written about?

For Norse myth, I recommend the website Norse Mythology for Smart People by Daniel McCoy and his book, The Viking Spirit. https://norse-mythology.org/

I recommend Boudica: The Life of Britain's Legendary Warrior Queen by Vanessa Collingridge for a full analysis on Boudica’s life.

For Hervor and Ervie, I’d love for people to read the actual Hervarar Saga. You can find a translation here: https://www.germanicmythology.com/FORNALDARSAGAS/HERVARARKERSHAW.html


Which historical figure that you have written about is your favorite?

That is such a hard question. I think my favorite is Ervie, who is the second Hervor from the Hervarar Saga. She is the heroine of the second generation of my Road to Valhalla series. I think there is something very moving about a character who constantly feels like she will never be good enough but grows to see her worth. I suspect something of me went into her making ­čśŐ


What projects are you working on next?

This year, my focus will be on completing Cartimandua’s and Freydis’s stories. Next year, I would like to return to the Isle of Skye either with Scathatch or Scathatch’s legacy with an Arthurian twist…that concept is still loading.




About Melanie Karsak:

Melanie Karsak is a New York Times and a USA Today bestselling historical fiction author. Her latest series, The Vinland to Valhalla Saga, is about female Viking warrior and explorer, Freydis Eriksdotter. She is also the author of The Celtic Blood series (a series about Lady MacBeth), The Road to Valhalla series (a series about Hervor), The Celtic Rebels series (a series about Queen Boudicca), and the Eagles and Crows series (a series about Queen Cartimandua). She lives in Florida with her husband and two children. For more information, please visit her website here:

Also, check out my reviews of Melanie Karsak's novels:










Comments

  1. Very interesting interview! I really like the insight into Mrs. Karsak’s writing style! Keep up the great work, Lauralee!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank You for this interview! I have truly enjoyed Melanie’s books.

    ReplyDelete

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