Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Interview with Anna Chant, Author of Call of the Viking Dead (Mysteriously Medieval)

6 March 2023

Special Guest Interview with Anna Chant, Author of Call of the Viking Dead (Mysteriously Medieval)

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

AD 851: Ceorl, Alderman of Devon defeats a Viking attack. But what if killing them is not enough?  A band of Norse raiders are sailing up the River Dart… While the raiders hope for plunder, Fiske, their leader, is there only for the kill. 

I'm pleased to welcome author Anna Chant to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

I love history and medieval history in particular. But rivalling that is a great love of myths, legends and folklore. There has always been some mythology and folklore included in many of my books. Writing about the early medieval era, there are frequently legends surrounding some of the figures of the time, such as the legend of the Merovingian dynasty that Merovech’s father was a mysterious sea creature called the Quinotaur which I included in my book Dawn of the Franks.

Up to now these myths and legends have appeared as small details in the larger story. But in my most recent book, Call of the Viking Dead, I wanted to write a story where the folklore is the main element of the story. My love remains with the medieval era and this book is to be the first in a series called Mysteriously Medieval, combining the history with folklore, myths, legends and superstitions of the era.

My youngest son, who is very keen on mythology, gave me the idea for this book. During the Covid pandemic he set himself a lockdown project of creating a website of mythological creatures. And one of these was a creature from Norse mythology called a draugr.

A draugr is a living corpse, usually the remnant of an evil man rejected from the halls of the gods. Incredibly strong, they have a range of unnatural abilities including controlling the weather, shapeshifting and being able to enter dreams.

A creature from Norse mythology allows for a wide range of settings – Scandinavia, the British isles, Ireland, Francia or even as far afield as North America or Constantinople. But the setting was decided for me in the form of a Facebook post on a local history group on an entry in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle describing a Viking raid on what is believed to be the edge of my home, Torbay. How could I resist? This gave me the date – 851 and the name of one of the characters – Ceorl, the Alderman of Devon who defeated the attack.

The Anglo-Saxon chronicle describes the slaughter Ceorl and the men of Devon made of the Vikings. But in my book he keeps two of them as slaves – Fiske, the vicious leader of the raid and Ari, a troubled young man. Captivity does nothing to improve Fiske and after continuing his acts of cruelty to animals, slaves and fatally, Ceorl’s daughter, he ends up dead. And with him buried on unhallowed ground that, they assume, is the end of Fiske.

When smoke rises from Fiske’s grave, animals act strangely and a mysterious figure stalks the estate, only Ari realises what is happening. A draugr has a weakness and Ari knows what has to be done. But he is just a heathen, just a slave with none listening to his warnings. As the spirit of the dead Norseman circles his prey, the danger edges closer, poised to strike at the heart of Ceorl’s home. And powerless to act, Ari can only wait for the draugr to claim his first victim, to see who must answer the call of the Viking dead…

What are you planning to write next?

I am working on the second of the Mysteriously Medieval books. The inspiration for this one is a Devon legend, set among the tin miners (stanners) of medieval Dartmoor. Their history is very interesting as they lived by different laws to the rest of the country with their own Parliament and free of the feudal system. The stanners of this book live near a valley which they believe holds a rich stream of tin, but this valley is a forbidden one, rumoured to be the haunt of a terrifying creature.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

There were a lot of scenes I found hard when writing Fisher King. This was a story I started planning in the autumn of 2019 and is set during the Plague of Justinian, a pandemic that swept Europe in the sixth century. I started writing in 2020 and we all know what happened next. Writing about a pandemic while living through one was very difficult with many of the scenes feeling all too familiar – the isolation, covering the nose, the blame, the denial, the conspiracy theories and the never-ending fear of whether my own family, friends or even myself might be the next victim. Most heart-breaking of all was seeing the fate of some of my characters echoed daily in news reports throughout 2020/21. 

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Research is always exciting. It’s like a treasure hunt and you never know what you might find. While reading up about medieval tin mining, I was struggling to visualise the smelting process. So I went on YouTube in the hope that someone had made a living history video on this. The closest I could find was one on medieval iron smelting in The Netherlands. And that video mentioned a name – a woman who had been powerful and notorious in that region. I had not previously heard of her but upon finding out more, I knew I had the next subject for another of my book series – Women of the Dark Ages. I am currently researching her story. 

Anna Chant

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About the Author

Anna Chant grew up in Essex before moving to Yorkshire to study history at the University of Sheffield. In 2015 inspired by her love of history and her Scottish ancestry, Anna started writing her first book. Kenneth’s Queen, the tale of the unknown wife of Kenneth Mac Alpin, was published the following year. Call of the Viking Dead is her twelfth novel and the first in the new Mysteriously Medieval Series. Taking inspiration from both history and legend, she particularly enjoys bringing to live the lesser known people and events of the past. When not writing, Anna enjoys walking the coast and countryside of Devon where she lives with her husband, three sons (if they’re home) and a rather cheeky bearded dragon.  Find out more from Anna's website and follow her on Twitter @anna_chant

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