|Speaking of adolescent male fantasy . . .|
A sexed-up version of Maddy on the cover
of the Russian edition of Runermarks
Runemarks and Runelight seem aimed at smart tomboys – Maggie is “too tall; too boyish; too clever; too pert; unwilling to play the seduction games played by other girls of her age.” This is totally understandable (and welcome), given the adolescent male fantasy of so much genre fiction (I’m looking at you, DC Comics editors and Game of Thrones producers). Aside from your daughter, were you writing with a specific audience in mind? What sort of response have you gotten from young women? From young men?
JH – I rarely think about my target audience. In this case I did – but my audience was an audience of one [my daughter], and I wasn’t thinking further than that. Later I began to receive fan mail, and realized that my audience is too diverse to be easily categorized.
|Runemarks & Runelight author Joanne Harris|
Photograph by Jennifer Robertson
My young readers, male or female, are Loki fans to a man (or woman). I think that, in many ways, Loki is the true hero of the books – even more so than Maddy. I’ve already spoken a little about Loki’s appeal, but I sense that my young readers see him as a reflection of themselves; they understand his feelings of alienation, so common in adolescence, and they enjoy his sense of humor and his irreverence towards authority. They like Maddy, too; but most of the time, it is Loki who has their heart.
|Maddy practices rune fingerings as red-bearded Thor looms behind|
Art by Les Kanturek
JH – I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jan Fries and his book, Helrunar. It was my main starting-point for developing the runes, interpreting their meanings and developing the “fingering” system that Maddy uses. The original source material of the Norse legends never explains all the methods in which runes are used, although study of Old Icelandic tells me that there are many, many different uses.
|You can find a lot of weird stuff on the internet|
KS – I’m curious about your use of the Bjarkan rune. The source poems all agree that the rune simply means “birch” or “birch twig,” and their verses are clearly about the tree or shrub. In the world of your novels, however, the fingering of this particular rune is peered through to gain “truesight” – to see the hidden trails of magic that light up the world when seen through the rune-shape, to see the “true colors” of the beings that surround you. It’s one of the most distinctive runes in your books, and many characters use it to gain insight. Why did you choose this particular rune to invest with this ability?
|Mystic moonlight, bright birch|
KS – Each section of the novels has a bind-rune frontispiece. Did you design these yourself? Do they have specific meanings related to the events they precede?
JH - I designed them with my editor, who has become a very enthusiastic participant. They can be deconstructed to make a kind of shorthand accompaniment to the chapter. Some of my young readers are also very enthusiastic in decoding these bind-runes and send me their various interpretations of what they mean, which makes me very happy.
|Frank Herbert and his awesome Viking beard|
JH – I don’t subscribe to any organized religion. I never have, although all belief systems interest me and I’ve spent most of my life studying aspects of belief. I didn’t want the Good Book to be the Christian Bible – although a number of people have assumed that it was – which is partly why I included the quotes. But patriarchal ideologies in general have overlapping areas of belief. My intention was not to portray one existing religion, but to draw on the concept of the evolution of religions in general and how they shape society.
|Norse Ragnarök meets Christian Apocalypse|
on England's 10th century Gosforth Cross
JH – No, but I was raised in a family with a strong Catholic background. I never intended the Order to be seen as Christianity, although it has some things in common with the early Christian church – most of all its ability to naturalize and assimilate native beliefs. The Elder Edda itself shows how this works, retelling the myths from a different point-of-view [that is] biased towards Christianity.
However, I do believe that this is the nature of religion. No belief system stands alone. All are part of a long process of evolution and re-invention, and however much believers may reject this idea, all are ultimately related to one another.