The Norwegian connection
Last week RAVEN BLACK was launched in Norway to good reviews in the national papers. The book has done well throughout Scandinavia, which makes sense: Shetland belonged to Norway until the fifteenth century when the islands were given to Scotland as a bond after the default of a dowry. Many Shetlanders feel an affinity with their Scandanavian ancestors. There are traces of Norse in the dialect and the place names. Coming into Lerwick on the ferry a couple of weeks ago, the fishing boat moored next to us came from Oslo. From June, a direct flight will operate between Bergen and Sumburgh.
I was in Shetland at the end of January for Up Helly Aa, the fire festival that claims to have its roots in Norse tradition. My Norwegian publisher was there with two journalists from a Sunday magazine - a good chance to provide publicity for the islands and for me. We stayed in the Busta House Hotel, a stunning building, enormous by Shetland standards, that sits on the shore at Brae. Busta House provided the inspiration for Duncan Hunter's house in RAVEN BLACK. The place was heaving with people visiting the islands for Up Helly Aa.
My Norwegian friends found Up Helly Aa slightly weird. There's the fact that a lot of the guizers dress up in women's clothes (the locals call Up Helly Aa Transvestite Tuesday). Then some of the songs belted out during the parade before the galley is burned were familiar to them - one has the same tune as the Norwegian National Day anthem. And the streets where the procession takes place are named after Norwegian kings and a Norwegian saint.
I'll be back in Shetland in May - week beginning 12th - to celebrate the launch of WHITE NIGHTS with my friends there. If you'd like to join us you'd be very welcome. Check out the website www.visitshetland.com for a real flavour of the place.