In this new exclusive interview, OBS review Lee takes some time to chat with author Kelli Wilkins creator of The Viking’s Witch. They talk about the inspiration behind the story, research and magic, actors who she imagines as her characters, upcoming work and much more.
Read our review for The Viking’s Witch here.
Lee: What was your inspiration in writing The Viking’s Witch? Had you always been a fan of that period in history?
K.W: I can’t recall one thing that inspired The Viking’s Witch. Like many of my books, an idea just came to me. One day, the entire opening sequences popped into my head and I knew I had an idea for a new book. At the time, I had the basic plot (Viking warrior falls in love with Celtic witch), but I wasn’t sure about most of the details, like the character names, their backstories, and the subplot. For readers who don’t know, The Viking’s Witch is set in 803 A.D. on a remote island off the coast of Scotland. I like history and I love the U.K., so the plot and setting were a natural fit for me.
Lee: Did you do a great deal of research before writing the novel? Was the magic drawn on anything in particular you had seen or read?
K.W: I had to do research on where to set the story before I started plotting. I knew the book would take place in Scotland, where the Vikings traveled, but I didn’t want it to be a populated location. The isolation of the Orkney Islands adds to the tension in the story. The action is condensed into a few days on a very small island, so there’s really nowhere for the characters to go.
Odaria and Rothgar come from different backgrounds (and technically would have been speaking different languages), so I had to blend their two cultures together in a way that flowed with the book. I researched what life would have been like for each of them and weaved the details into the story. For example, Rothgar’s Norse culture intrigues Odaria and she is curious about their clothes, customs, their food, how they travel, etc.
The “magic” elements were a lot of fun to write! I’ve always been interested in psychic phenomena and other “New Age” subjects, so it was easy for me to incorporate what I know into Odaria’s character. I enjoyed letting readers (and Rothgar) see Odaria’s clairvoyance, telekinesis, and psychometry in action.
Lee: I couldn’t help but picture Chris Hemsworth, a.k.a. Thor, as Rothgar while reading. Did you have any actors or imagery in mind when writing Odaria and Rothgar?
K.W: When I wrote the book several years ago I didn’t have any particular actor or actress in mind for the characters. But when I saw the movie, Thor, I was blown away by how much Chris Hemsworth was Rothgar! Mr. Hemsworth can definitely play Rothgar whenever there’s a movie version of the book!
Lee: I noticed that you’ve written a lot of stories in various different genres. What would you say is your favorite? Is one genre easier to write than the other?
K.W: Although The Viking’s Witch is my first book with Medallion Press, I’ve published 14 romances with Amber Quill Press. I’ve written full-length novels and novellas in historical, fantasy, contemporary, gay, and paranormal genres. For me, the writing process is the same for any genre. All the same elements of the book are there (characters, plot, setting, theme, details) and they all have to be developed, whether it’s a fantasy or a contemporary romance.
Writing in different genres lets me explore different time periods (as I did in my Amber Quill Press fantasy, A Most Unusual Princess), plots (Beauty & the Bigfoot, a paranormal comedy) and characters (the world of pro wrestling in A Perfect Match). Each book and set of characters becomes an adventure for me as a writer. I never really know what time period or plot I’ll be exploring next.
Lee: The character of Nordskog is pretty interesting. Why do you think he evolves so smoothly from enraged beserker to ally of Rothgar?
K.W: I used to work with a woman whose last name was Nordskog and I told her that one day I’d use her name in a book, so I did! Nordskog has a history with Rothgar from Rothgar’s old fighting days. Nordskog’s hatred of Karnik draws him closer to Rothgar’s side as the story develops. Nordskog’s not stupid. He knows Rothgar is wealthy and will reward him for his services. But he’s by no means reformed – he’s more of a berserkr for hire. For the right price, anyone can buy his loyalty.
I like introducing secondary characters and subplots in my books to flesh out the story. Even though Rothgar’s and Odaria’s relationship is central to the book, The Viking’s Witch has a lot of adventure blended into the love story.
Lee: Brennan is a perfectly evil villain. How did he evolve in your mind?
K.W: I’m glad you “like” Brennan. I wanted to portray him as an arrogant, self-righteous villain – but not have his character be too over the top. Brennan is a lying, religious zealot and that makes him dangerous to Odaria and the other villagers. Most of the terrible things he’s done happen off page and we learn about them through Odaria. Each time I wrote a scene for, or about, Brennan, I made him a little more unstable and vicious, so by the end of the book readers see that he needs to learn his lesson and pay for what he’s done.
Lee: The love scenes are pretty steamy! What is it about writing erotic and romantic scenes that appeals to you?
K.W: The love scenes in my Amber Quill Press books are super-hot, so writing tamer scenes for The Viking’s Witch wasn’t hard. Each time I write a romance I let the characters determine what happens (and what doesn’t) in the love scenes and how intense and detailed they are.
I make sure the scenes are keeping with the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I base the book on the premise of two people falling in love and learning about themselves and each other. The story shows how the characters change and grow during the course of the book – and every so often they express their love and feelings for each other.
Lee: There is just as much gory violence as there is romance in The Viking’s Witch, which is fitting for the time and place the novel is set. Do you find yourself cringing when writing those scenes? Do you worry about scaring off readers?
K.W: No, I don’t worry about scaring off readers – if anything, a little realism enhances the story. Back in 803 life was completely different from how we live now – especially on a emote island. Life was dangerous. People got hurt, sick, and died. The Viking’s Witch is about a violent man (Brennan) and a group of Norsemen with violent reputations, so the violence in the story is necessary to move the plot along while also helping the reader get deeper into the minds and lives of the characters.
I didn’t cringe when I wrote the “gritty” scenes; I was happy to include them. I like history and it drives me crazy when people in 1500 or 1870 are perfectly clean and neat and look like they stepped out of a beauty salon. I loved the TV show Deadwood because it was a realistic, historically accurate look at an Old West town. Everything was dirty and gritty – there was mud and horse manure in the streets like it would have been back in the day. In The Viking’s Witch I included enough details to bring the story alive, yet showed how some degree of violence was necessary for Rothgar’s and Odaria’s survival.
Lee: Do you want to write any more about Odaria and Rothgar, or do you plan on moving on to something new with your next book?
K.W: Rothgar and Odaria are in a good place, so I won’t be writing a sequel – unless I get a really great idea! I did an “After the Story Ended” blog to follow up with my characters from Trust with Hearts (my Amber Quill Press contemporary) where I shared a few paragraphs about what happened after the book ended. I would write something like that for Rothgar and Odaria if readers were interested.
Thanks for letting me share an inside look at The Viking’s Witch with readers. The buy link for the book.
I invite everyone to follow my blog here to read interviews, reviews, excerpts, get writing tips, and catch up with my newsletter, Kelli’s Quill.
Look for author Kelli Wilkins on: