Welcome to one of the November 27th stops on the blog tour for Viking Voyage by Sverrir Sigurdsson and Veroica Li, organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for excerpt spotlights, other guest/interview posts, reviews, and a giveaway! (More on that at the end of this post.)
First we’re going to sit down with Sverrir Sigurdsson for an interview, then I’ll tell you a little more about the book and authors (and that giveaway) at the end.
What is the sweetest thing someone has done for you?
My wife and coauthor, Veronica, spent three years of her life helping me put together my memoir. She’s a former journalist and published author of several books of fiction and nonfiction. Aside from the writing part, she also did much of the legwork in finding a publisher, bringing the manuscript to print, and now marketing the book.
I started working on fragments of the book a long time ago. They were just reminiscences of a trip here and there. When I showed a few snippets to Veronica, she read them to humor me, even scribbling a few remarks on the margins. But one day, she looked up from reading and said, “Sverrir, you’ve really had an interesting life!” From then on, my project became hers too. Among other things, she added depth to my memoir by prodding me to probe into my feelings, something many men don’t like to do.
How would you spend ten thousand bucks?
I was born and raised in Iceland and have traveled back regularly after leaving home, but I still don’t tire of visiting. Ten thousand bucks will take me on a grand tour of the island. My first stop will be south Iceland, where I spent summers working on a farm from age nine to fourteen. This is part of the volcano belt that gave Iceland its name, “land of ice and fire.” Here, glaciers lie atop volcanoes gurgling and biding their time to erupt. My book cover shows the scenery of this area: a mountain that was once an island, a cliff with a doorway carved by the sea, and rock pillars sticking out of the ocean like spikes on a dragon’s back. The landscape is the wild and wonderful creations of violent volcanic activity. Each of the outcroppings mentioned above once sat on a fissure and was formed when fire met ice or seawater, causing the rapidly cooling lava to turn into a rock formation called “tuff” or palagonite. Iceland is full of such fantastic landscape, and despite the many times I’ve been there, I haven’t seen them all.
Where do you get your best ideas?
I find history books very useful. For instance, the Second World War was a major event in my childhood. I was one year old when Britain invaded Iceland, later joined by Canada and the U.S. I have nothing but fond memories of the five years of Allied occupation. For a child, watching a warplane crash and burn is exciting, foreign occupiers are nice because they give me chocolates, and looking for unexploded munitions is a treasure hunt.
Reading history books helped me put my childish impressions in context. The Allied occupation of Iceland was to stop Hitler from advancing into North America. That episode in my young life was a game changer for all Icelanders and the world. Many of us have such world-changing events in our lives, except that we don’t know it unless we know history. Throughout the writing of the book, I have set my experiences in the context of the history of my surroundings.
What comes first, the plot or characters?
Since my book is a memoir, I am the main character, the reason for the book. So in this case, the character comes first. Next comes the decision on which part of my life I want to write about. If I were famous, I could write anything about myself and readers would devour it. But since I’m not, I have to reach my audience with an interesting story. My story is about my coming of age in Iceland and setting out to conquer the world like my Viking forefathers. It’s also a story of Iceland coming of age and taking its place in the ranks of advanced nations. With this focus in mind, the plot unfolded naturally. The episodes pertinent to the theme became the building blocks of the storyline.
What does your main character do that makes him/her special?
I’m lucky to be “first” in several ways:
(a) First generation to grow up in an independent Iceland following hundreds of years of Danish rule. I saw my country transform from a dirt-poor nation to a prosperous one on a par with other advanced countries. Recent surveys rank Icelanders as one of the happiest people in the world.
(b) First Icelander to obtain a degree in architecture in Finland. Given the smallness of our national university, Icelanders had to go overseas to study. I decided to go to Finland because its storied architecture, both historic and modern, had been my childhood fascination. Also, it was exotic and a challenge that no Icelander had attempted before me. While we were all educated to be multilingual, the Finnish language is a totally different kettle of fish—Finno-Ugric in origin and as alien as Japanese. I arrived in Helsinki without knowing a word of Finnish, but by my third year, I was bantering with my Finnish colleagues and exclaiming, “Puhun Suomea (I speak Finnish)!”
(c) First group of international workers to help build up newly independent African countries. In the post-World War II shakeup, European colonialists lost control of their colonies. I arrived in Malawi shortly after it declared independence. My job was to use my skills as an architect to help with school construction and develop the education system. Following a stint in Africa and the Middle East, I landed a job at the World Bank, the largest international aid organization. My twenty-year career at the Bank took me to some thirty countries, including a couple of “firsts”—China right after its opening and the post-communism countries of Eastern Europe.
About the Book
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An Icelandic Menoir
by Sverrir Sigurdsson & Veronica Li
Published 3 November 2020
by Mascot Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Page Count: 284
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
This vivacious personal story captures the heart and soul of modern Iceland. Born in Reykjavik on the eve of the Second World War, Sverrir Sigurdsson watched Allied troops invade his country and turn it into a bulwark against Hitler’s advance toward North America. The country’s post-war transformation from an obscure, dirt-poor nation to a prosperous one became every Icelander’s success. Spurred by this favorable wind, Sverrir answered the call of his Viking forefathers, setting off on a voyage that took him around the world.
This book is on sale during the tour in eBook format for $1.99 USD!
(tour ends Dec 18)
I left Iceland to pursue university studies in Finland in August 1958. I was a nineteen-year-old embarking on my quest to see the world. In my youth I had deeply admired the adventures of the Vikings. Even after the Viking Age was over, young Icelanders often did a stint in Norway, serving a king or nobleman and performing heroic feats in battle. In the modern era, this tradition takes the form of studying overseas and competing in international business and professional arenas. Like my forefathers, I needed to travel to distant lands to prove myself, and then I would return home and use my skills to help make my country one of the greatest in the world.
I was giddy with optimism in those days. Actually, it wasn’t just me. The whole nation was in a state of euphoria. Everything was going right for our newborn republic. With financial aid from the U.S. Marshall Plan, the country reconstructed the ageing fishing fleet that had been decimated by war and neglect. The World Bank, a United Nations affiliate that would employ me many years later, provided loans to Iceland to build the groundwork for an economic boom. Many more bonuses came our way during the Cold War, when the two superpowers contended for our loyalty. Iceland played hard to get, driving the rival suitors to shower her with gifts.
About the Authors
Sverrir Sigurdsson grew up in Iceland and graduated as an architect from Finland in 1966. He pursued an international career that took him to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the U.S. His assignments focused on school construction and improving education in developing countries. He has worked for private companies, as well as UNESCO and the World Bank. He is now retired and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and coauthor, Veronica.
Veronica Li emigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong as a teenager. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and her master’s degree in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins University. She has worked as a journalist and for the World Bank, and is currently a writer. Her three previously published titles are: Nightfall in Mogadishu, Journey across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman’s Search for Home, and Confucius Says: A Novel.
One lucky follower of the tour will walk away with a $50 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, winner’s choice! Don’t forget to checkout some other stops on this tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway
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