It’s a real pleasure today to welcome Sarah Dahl as my guest on Being Anne, on the day that Bonds – Under the Armour, the fourth Tale of Freya, is published and available through Amazon in the UK and US. My path first crossed with Sarah on THE Book Club, and we’re also both members of the excellent Writers, Authors and Readers group on Facebook. Bonds is a Viking steamy romance short story that will form part of the collection Tales of Freya which Sarah plans to publish next year. Here’s a description of the collection:
In a world of crackling fires and rough landscapes, long winters and bloody raids, the immediacy of life and death ignites undeniable passions. Warriors and monks, healers and housewives – all follow the call of their hearts and bodies to indulge in pleasures that may forever change their lives.
Now that’s something a little different for the blog, isn’t it? Maybe not entirely the kind of stories that I usually feature, but Sarah has a strong following for a very good reason, and it might well be that this is a series others would like to try. Here’s the blurb for Bonds – Under the Armour:
Viking warrior Aldaith and his shield maiden Nyssa engage in a heated skirmish to prepare for an imminent battle. But the looming slaughter makes their sensual duel get out of hand in more ways than one…
Bonds – Under the Armour is the fourth Tale of Freya, and Sarah wrote it after readers asked to read more about the Viking warrior Aldaith and his fierce shield maiden Nyssa (introduced in the first story The Current) because of their particular chemistry. So after two stand-alone stories (2, The Awakening and 3, Monk), she now plans to let Aldaith and Nyssa’s story continue. Stories 5 to 7 will follow next year, with the final story concluding the collection.
Sarah, it’s a real pleasure to welcome you to Being Anne – would you like to introduce yourself?
Thank you, Anne, it’s really my pleasure. I’m Sarah Dahl, an English Studies-geomorphologist-translation agency-manager-and editor turned fulltime-writer. Looking back, I think I could have arrived at the decision much earlier that writing (creatively) is my calling and the thing I want to put all my energy into. You can see that from the fact that having to disembowel pigs’ halves as assistant to a vet didn’t leave the same impression as breathing JRR Tolkien’s literal air. Yes, I had the honour of working IN his former office at UCD Dublin. I sat where he sat and enjoyed the same bland view out … while helping Prof. Terry Dolan with his Dictionary of Hiberno-English. Amazing months, really, and I got to spend hours and hours each day in the library, when I wasn’t exploring Ireland’s rich Viking heritage in my spare time.
Tell me more about your published writing. I can see the historical backdrop, the romantic elements, the sensual touches…
I would describe my stories as gritty-romantic – and very steamy. As Newsnibbles’ Claire Evans put it, “steamy historical romances, known for their gritty realism and authenticity to the period in which they are set. Dahl is not afraid to shy away from difficult issues.” This just sums it up perfectly.
In my Tales of Freya I use the straightforward frame of long short stories to get to the core of my characters fast. There’s a sensual buildup – I just love anticipation and crackling tension – and the final encounter always has to be this mind-soul-body lovemaking which changes the characters’ lives and goals forever. This is especially interesting to explore with Viking-age characters. I’m not a fan of pigeonholing and think I don’t follow the romance-rules, but I take readers on an early medieval rollercoaster ride of sensuality and emotions.
Why the Vikings? What is it that particularly fascinates you about that era?
I just love the North. The not-so-sweet weather. The not-so-sweet lines – in faces, landscapes and mindsets. I’m not a sweet girl myself and so the rough elements and weather I got to love when studying geomorphology/climatology just appeal to me. As do straighforward, no-fuss people. The men of the North could and can handle sass and equality. I don’t do the damsel in distress-thingie; the elements I use in my stories have a more balanced dynamics between the sexes. Women often overpower the men in several ways. In Scandinavia you did and still do find a very advanced mindset and adventurous people with uncomplicated confidence. And their ancestors, my characters, were fearless explorers and fighters, who conquered territories and people – and both men and women took part in this, often side by side (due to their belief that their fate was already woven by the Norns, and all they had to do was die honourably to enter Odin’s eternal feast). I love playing with these myths and mindsets, and the harsh circumstances that shaped them.
How do you write? What’s a typical writing day?
Like most writers, I struggle with too few hours in the day. Being German maybe helps with sticking to routines and to-do-lists, but every day is different, especially with two small kids. So I use the time they are at school: social media and promo first, then late breakfast. I write or edit (depending on the urgency of each project, and there are always half a dozen at once) until lunch, which can be as late as 2pm. Before the kids return, I try to squeeze in non-fiction reading to always stay on top of research and the era as such. Unfortunately, it always sparks even more ideas …
And what’s next for you? What are you working on?
My collection of sensual Viking romances is ongoing in that I release the individual stories successively at the moment. Bonds – Under the Armour is the fourth, with three before it and three more to come. Next year they will all be bundled into a proper paperback as the Tales of Freya collection.
The next and fifth short story will be Healer. For the first time I infuse a story with mythological and magical elements that I so far rather avoided. It’s still extremely sexy: there’s evidence that the Viking healers used physical and even erotic elements, which I of course exploit here, but I’m not going to say more …
As in many of my stories, I stare at my work and think “By the gods, this is daring and quite a new angle …” – but dammit, that’s what good writing should do: challenge as well as entertain.
Absolutely right, Sarah – and thank you! Here are the details for the first three stories in the Tales of Freya series:
Introducing Aldaith and Nyssa – and currently FREE.
The Viking warrior Aldaith meets his real match only after the battle: Marked from the latest fight, Aldaith wants to recover by a stream. But instead of finding solitude, he stumbles on the fearless shield maiden Nyssa. The fierce beauty invites Aldaith into the water to engage in a very different kind of battle – one for which his training leaves him unprepared.
Ingrid leads a quiet, joyless life with a husband who is oblivious to her needs. Every time the dragon boats carry him away, she resigns herself to the solitude of their modest hilltop farm by the fjord. But her uneventful world is shaken to the core when the shadows of her house reveal a secret that sets her passions afire.
Captured monk Alistair is taken to a Viking farm as a slave. In the dead of night, he is disturbed by his new masters’ carnal reunion. The monk turns to fervent prayer, but soon he is interrupted by his alluring pagan mistress: Runa challenges him to break his vows …
Sarah is currently endeavouring to move publishing platforms with her books – a necessity that she really wasn’t expecting and that has caused her a bit of a nightmare over the last few weeks. The links above are to the Amazon UK site. If those hyperlinks change – as they are likely to do so soon – updated purchase details can be found on her website book page.
About the author
Sarah Dahl lives on the edge of the rural German Eifel and writes historical fiction (novels and short stories) primarily set in the Viking age. She also works as an editor, translates, and coaches new writers in German and English. She is interested in everyday life in bygone centuries and the human stories that may have occurred behind the hard, historical facts.