True, most of the time, writing a novel involves sitting by yourself in a not-very-exciting place. Any adventures are purely imaginary.
I, however, was lucky enough to undergo numerous adventures along the way. (And the way was long, indeed: eight years.)
Rotten Shark Meat and Steaming Lava Fields: Researching The Tricking of Freya in Iceland
Most of my adventures fall into the category of Research. Of course, researching a novel isn't exactly like, say, conducting laboratory research. Luckily for me.
Here, a few of my research adventures in Iceland:
- Floated in a boat on a glacial lagoon — the same lagoon, with its dramatic icebergs, that years later is now featured on the cover of my book.
- Sampled hákarl, an Icelandic delicacy consisting of rotten shark meat — enough said.
- Watched a sheep with spiraling horns climb on the grassy ruins of the turf-roofed farmhouse where my grandfather had been born in another century.
- Lived for a month as a writer-in-residence holed up in a stone mansion during the month of May, while the sun shone nearly all night long and blizzards swirled outside my window.
- Rode a snowmobile over Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier, and tried not to panic when it broke down in the midst of the vast icy wilderness.
- Spent a month attempting to learn the insanely complicated Icelandic language at the University of Reykjavik.
- Trekked a still-steaming volcano, where astonishing ribbons of lava seemed frozen in midstream, gleaming with the colors of undiscovered planets.
The other category of adventures in novel writing I am going to call Ordeals. These are things that seem almost admirable in retrospect, but were truly and utterly hellish at the time:
- Wrote a complete draft of the novel in the first person — then switched the entire thing to third person — then back to first person again.
- Realized that if I were going to finish the novel in this lifetime, I would have to completely cut out one of my two narrators (the one whose story went back over a thousand years).
- Developed a repetitive stress injury and attempted to use voice recognition software to compose a novel with a lot of Icelandic words in it (don't try this at home).
- Cut 120 dearly beloved pages from the final 600-page manuscript at the request of my newfound agent. (Looking back, a good move; at the time, it felt like I was amputating one of my own limbs without anesthesia.)
- Got diagnosed with advanced autoimmune disease, then cancer; realized that even if I didn't make it, at least my book would live to see the light of day.
- Made it.
Someone recently bought me a Norse Tarot reading to celebrate the launch of my book. It might be prudent to inquire about what adventures my next book holds in store.