Interview with Villi Asgeirsson

When did you first start writing?
I've been writing since I was a kid. I would create simple illustrations and write a story around it. In college, I created a series about a pirate and had my classmates play the characters. It was a hit, they forced me to hand in an episode every day. It wasn't very good for my grades, but it was fun. Serious writing didn't come until I was well into my 30s and my first novel was published in 2013, when I was 44.
What's the story behind your latest book?
It takes place in Barcelona in 1937, at the height of the civil war. I didn't know much about this part of history, so I read a couple of articles. This led me to read more, a book and I watched old British TV series and got totally fascinated. At the same time, I was reflecting on the past. How I, and probably most of us, was focused on what I'd like to become. And it's usually about being successful at something, rather than being particularly good at something. Developing a career, rather than developing as a person. So I put this young man that dreams of being a world famous journalist into the war to see what would happen. The title, Blood and Rain, comes from a song by a Dutch band, the Nits. It's calles Sketches of Spain and includes the line "the streets of Barcelona are filled with blood and rain".
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I'm not very good at selling myself. I am happy to write a novel, but I can't see myself asking others if they'd be so kind to publish it. Writing is a hobby and I haven't really gone out of my way to find a publisher.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I'm new here. My debut novel is on Amazon and Kobo, but having read through the FAQ and the site in general, I'm very enthusiastic to publish Blood and Rain through Smashwords. I may even pull my debut and distribute it through here.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I remember saying to someone that it was great being able to be a criminal, a 17th century woman, a spy, adulterer or whatever I feel like without having to break any laws or hurt any feelings. Creating characters and taking them on a journey, seeing how they react is a fantastic thing. It can also be nerve wrecking. I remember writing a scene where a man drowns his son. I wrote it as I saw it in my head, fast and without a break. Afterwards, my hands were shaking and I thought to myself, "what kind of a person can come up with a scene like that". Needless to say, my own son got a very tight hug as he came home from school. But it's that thrill of being anyone, anywhere at any time that makes writing unlike anything.
What do your fans mean to you?
Having someone come up to me and say my writing touched them is priceless. A reader once told me how she'd been sucked into the story world and how she felt like she knew the characters. She missed them after finishing the book. I never really thought, while writing, that the story would touch anyone like that. That kind of reaction keeps me writing.
Who are your favorite authors?
William Kowalski writes wonderful novels. They are written is such a human style, if that makes sense. George Orwell is a favourite, as are many of the mid-century authors. Nabokov, Huxley, Camus. And tomorrow I'd namecall others.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I have to get out of bed. My kid needs to go to school and I have a job. I need an alarm, not inspiration. I stay up too late though. I need inspiration to get back to bed at night. I should maybe read more.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I play guitar when I'm sure nobody can hear me, I used to make films and videos. Low budget things you've never heard of. Mostly it's doing groceries, working, cooking. Mundane things.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I browse the Kobo site. I have a Kobo ereader and allow it to surprise me. I also read books recommended by others and try to tick off the classics. Non-fiction is also a favourite. When I get fascinated by a particular period in history, I read a book about it.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
No. I remember that it was on a single piece of paper, written in green marker and illustrated. I bet it was a masterpiece and the rest of my life will be spent trying to find that genius again. I must have been around seven or eight.
What is your writing process?
Message, setting, characters, plot. That's how Blood and Rain came about. I wanted to write a story about fascism, how destructive it is. I chose Barcelona during the civil war, came up with characters, fleshed them out and let them do their thing until I was happy with the flow of the story. It ended up being more about human behaviour than fascism. I guess that always happens. We write stories about people. The debut, Under the Black Sand was different. It started as a short film, I worked it into a feature film screenplay, saw it abandoned as the economy crashed and budgets dried up in 2008 and wrote it into a novel. I think my future novels will be like Blood and Rain. I write a story because I want to get a message across and find a time and place for people to tell it.
What do you use when writing?
I am a substance user. I drink coffee like water. Apart from that, I use a MacBook Pro and Scrivener. I start by jotting down ideas in the research folder, links to articles and other web resources. I read about the subject, watch films and documentaries. If they are online, they all get added to the research folder. Then I create scenes in Scrivener. I may have 50-60 scenes in a single list. Or more. I haven't really counted how many scenes there are in my novels. Then I create chapters, put the scenes where they belong and start writing. Scrivener is fantastic at keeping things tidy and easy to organise. It's the only software I use when playing an author. When I start the proper writing, I put it in full screen mode where I see nothing but the page on a black background and hammer away. I don't want to sound like a commercial or a fan boy, but my writing life would be a lot harder without Scrivener.
You let the reader decide the price of your new novel, Blood and Rain. Why?
I think the jury is still out on what a good price is for an ebook. Especially when the author hasn't made a name for him- or herself. I would rather have a thousand readers pay a dollar than a hundred pay a tenner. Exposure is everything and the more people read our work, the better. I am not writing to make money, I am doing it because I want to get a message across, ideas about the world. I don't want the price to be an obstacle.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember the moment I realised I could read. I was six or seven, at a girlfriend's house and saw her schoolbook lying on a table. And I read the title. I opened it and I could read the text inside. I ran home and shouted at my mom, "I can read!". I read a lot after that. Ben Hur, lots of outlandish 1950s science fiction, Enid Blyton, Hergé. The first book that really affected me was Christiane F, a biography about a teenage heroin junky in West-Berlin. It was my first glimpse into the darkness of the adult world. I read it in a couple of days and desperately wanted to travel to Berlin, hug the girl and save her.
How do you approach cover design?
I do it myself. Under the Black Sand was based on a short film, so it was easy. I used images from the film. For Blood and Rain, I wanted to portray the anarchist flag and a character. The danger of being in a war zone. I considered photographing a model, but that would have created an image in the mind of the reader. I am a strong believer in letting the reader create the story along with the writer. They should visualise the characters in their minds. So, state the theme but don't be too literal. On the Blood and Rain cover you can see two characters, even if there is only one face, the anarchist flag, the fate of one of them, the danger. Subtle, placing clues that the reader may get after finishing the story.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I'm not really a believer in creating lists of favourite books, LPs or whatever. I could mention Christiane F, because it portrays a human tragedy that could happen to any of us. 1984 by Orwell is incredibly powerful, and sadly gets more relevant as the years go by. Eddie's Bastard by William Kowalski is fantastically written. Savage Continent by Keith Lowe is a horrible work, a non-fiction book that deals with the aftermath of World War Two in Europe. And I'm trying to recall the title of a Dutch novella I read last summer about a girl that loses her brother in an accidental air raid at the end of the war. I read it in one day, but the title and author escape me. It was such an honest story of a time that is mostly gone, where the Protestant school teacher would not buy bread from the Catholic baker, but how they all stood together when tragedy struck.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kobo Aura. Bought it 2-3 years ago. After researching online for too long, I developed an obsession and had to have it. Glad I did. It's a lovely little thing. I think I have feelings for it.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Marketing techniques? Effective? I am as obscure as that filmmaker in Paul Auster's Book of Illusions. See what I did there? Talked about literature rather than marketing.
What do you read for pleasure?
Honestly? The news and online chatter, mostly. I should read more fiction. At the moment I'm reading Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon. So far, so fantastic. I recently read The Stranger by Albert Camus, In Diamond Square by Mercè Rodoreda and Lolita by Nabokov. I don't have a specific taste. I read whatever I stumble upon.
Describe your desk
My lap is my desk. I write on my laptop. I usually sit on the sofa, even if I have a nice little desk in the attic. A simple little desk we bought secondhand from a lovely old lady. She used it for her sawing machine. But I usually sit on the sofa.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Reykjavík, Iceland. Even if I've lived abroad for over two decades, the city has a way of creeping into my stories. Under the Black Sand is set in Reykjavík and Blood and Rain starts there. Legend has it that Icelanders are the most prolific writers on earth. No nation writes as many books as we do. Per capita. There aren't too many of us. Maybe that's the biggest influence. This notion that we can all write. If they're doing it, why shouldn't I? It legitimises the writing process.
What are you working on next?
I just finished Blood and a Rain, a novel set in Barcelona during the civil war. I may want to write a sequel to that one. I also have ideas regarding my debut, Under the Black Sand. That novel spans a millennium and there are countless stories in there that I could flesh out. I have a concept ready for a story taking place around a thousand years ago. And I am probably about 70% done with a dystopian story based on David Bowie's Diamond Dogs. Hunger City follows a young girl, Luna, as she tries to make sense of her world. It's a fan fiction, so I'm not sure if I'll actually finish that. In other words, plenty of ideas. First though, I need to get Blood and Rain out into the world.
Published 2017-02-14.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Under the Black Sand
Price: Free! Words: 82,950. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: February 22, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller, Fiction » Historical » Paranormal
Under the Black Sand is Villi Asgeirsson's debut novel. A Nordic Noir with a hint of murder and paranormal, money and love. Pétur, the successful businessman has no time for his nightmares until the nightmares become more real than the physical world around him.
Blood and Rain
Price: Free! Words: 60,660. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: March 3, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General, Fiction » Coming of age
Gunnar was a young journalist in Iceland. As Spain erupted into Civil War, he saw his opportunity, his road to greatness. The price of entry into this war was betraying his friends. After Barcelona burst into flames, on 3 May 1937, nobody could be trusted, friends turned on each other and survival was the only thing that mattered.