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Historical inspiration for my fantasy novel: Early Finns, Sámi, and “unnatural” magic

By April 2022 I had almost entirely lost steam with Seeker of the Lost Song. I had already changed the setting once, from a generation-ship in space. For the type of story I was writing, the characters needed movement. They needed a quest. Deciding that the closed environment of a spaceship wouldn’t do, I put them on a planet. Specifically, a tidally-locked planet, with one side permanently facing its star. This was something I’d long been interested in and was excited to set a novel in a place like that.

However, before long I realized yet again that what the story needed clashed with the limitations of the setting. I was spending so much time on researching the most realistic-seeming way life would evolve on a tidally-locked planet, and keeping all those very specific logistics in my head at all times was making me hate writing. And it showed.

At the end of the month I talked to my friend Susanna about it. Not only is she an amazing artist and photographer, but she’s Finnish too. And she’s someone who shares the same spirit and mind with me when it comes to creativity. During our conversation I’d started telling her about a vague “historical fiction in Finland” idea I’d had for a long time. The more we talked about ideas and inspirations, the more home it felt. The more urgently I wanted to be there instead. And so we said – why not just do it?

Could I really fold the historical Finland idea into my novel? It seemed like a perfect fit. Early Scandinavians thought Finns and Sámi were forest weirdos who practiced unnatural magic. It could still be a secondary world, but one that was Earthlike. Firsthand accounts by/about Finns were scarce to nonexistent, both before and during the Swedish rule of Finland. And I’d always felt that the Finnish story was missing in the Viking/Norse saturation of books, video games, movies, and TV (woe betide the poor soul who inadvertently gets me talking about how Finns are Nordic but technically not Norse/Scandinavian**). BUT. ANOTHER new setting?! I’d spent so long working on this book. I just wanted to write it.

Possible new Finland-inspired direction, May 5 [2022] – 9th-10th c? In Viking Age but before Xianity in Finland. – Swedes beginning to come into the area – basis for formerly the TUs? – Karelia area. Too far east?*


I wrote the above notebook notes few days later, and a few days after that I sent my writing group a long, anguished email about my dilemma, which ended with “In essence, ARRRRRGH WHAT DO I DO.” Because they are incredible, they told me that the characters and the story were what they liked, and they supported me changing the setting if it meant I could write the book I wanted to. Though, they cautioned me against over-researching this setting too. I agreed with them. I had no intention of writing about goddamn hill forts, for example. This would be a world of its own, the history of Finland and the Philippines and Scandinavia a foundation.

I started notebook 4 with this new direction in mind. Everything opened up. Writing became joyful again.

I finished the first draft four months later.


*Karelia was not too far east in the end. I won’t go into a long history lesson here but Karelia is one of the regions ceded to the Soviet Union in the Winter War and the Continuation War. This is a gross oversimplification of Karelia which has a rich and complex history besides this. However, my family comes from Salla/Kuolajärvi, one of the other ceded territories and, as such, that overall story has been in the back of my mind all my life. It actually formed the basis of what became Seeker’s sequel.
**Disclaimer: I consume and enjoy some Norse/Viking media and this book is not a diss track about Sweden. These are just my knee-jerk reactions as a Finn and a history lover! It’s okay if you consider Finland culturally part of Scandinavia today. The distinctions are more blurred than they were thousands of years ago.

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