Just stopping by, or an interview with Emmy Laybourne and a review of her new book Berserker (and a giveaway)



Berserker (Berserker #1)

By: Emmy Laybourne

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication Date: October 10th, 2017

Format: ARC

Are Hanne’s powers a gift from the old Norse gods, or a curse?

Her brother Stieg swears their powers are a gift from the old gods, but Hanne Hemstad knows she is truly cursed. It’s not Stieg’s fault that their father is dead, their mother has left, and their brother Knut has been accused of a crime he didn’t commit.

No, the fault lies with Hanne and her inability to control her murderous “gift”–she is a Berserker. When someone she loves is threatened, she flies into a killing state. The siblings must leave Norway for the American frontier or risk being brought to justice.

Aided by a young cowboy who agrees to be their guide, Hanne and her siblings use their powers to survive the perilous trail, where blizzards, wild animals, and vicious bounty hunters await.

Will they be able to reach their uncle, the one man Hanne believes may be able to teach her how to control her drive to kill? With Berserker, Emmy Laybourne, the author of Monument 14, presents her vision of an American west studded with Viking glory.

  1. What is on your desk?  What do you need to write?  Do you have a writer’s survival kit?

I have never been asked this question before and I love it!  On my desk I have two Himalayan salt crystal candleholders.  I read once that it’s good Feng Shui to light a candle, that it helps you persevere and helps you stay centered, so I like to light candles.  There’s also a very pretty mug that a good friend of mine from college made me filled with pens, and I havew a little brass clock my husband gave me.  It stands on a pedestal and the back is made of glass, so you can watch the clockworks move.

The cool thing about my desk is that it’s one of those sit/stand desk. I try to raise up to standing at least two or three times a day, because boy, sitting down, it kinds of kills you.  Do I have a writer’s survival kit?  Well, I sort of do.  I’m one of those people who believes in homeopathic remedies and vitamins, and amino acids, so I have rescue remedy and a supplement I love called, True Focus on hand. I also have an aromatherapy diffuser and all of these oils. Basically, and I like to be a little bit of a hippie when I’m in my office.

  1. Which you do prefer, drafting or revising?

Oh, this is hard — they’re so different.  Drafting is very pure and exciting.  I really work myself into a very clear and focused place, where I’m communing with the story and the characters. But revising is also absolutely delicious.  My favorite thing to do when revising is to go out into the world. I print out the manuscript and go sit in Starbucks and edit.  It’s very fun to  see the words on paper. I use a little mechanical pencil and get in there and fix stuff.

To be honest, I also kind of feel like a badass when I’m out editing. I’ll have the manuscript in a three-ring binder, and they’re like 350-450 pages. People will see me working on this impressively gargantuan binder, and I kind of feel like flipping up my collar. Like, “Yeah, I’m an author.  I’m a novelist.”  Makes me feel good.

  1. A book goes through a lot of different versions and rounds of editing before it’s complete. What are some fun facts or behind-the-scenes info you can share about the characters from your book that may or may not have made it into the final draft of the book?

I actually did an entire exploratory draft of Berserker.  (And by the way, when an author says “exploratory draft” what they mean is, they tried it one way, and it didn’t work, so they had to try it a different way.)   One of the main characters in Berserker is a cowboy named Owen Bennett/ I took a lot of his sweetness and trustworthiness from the love-interest character from the first draft.  I wanted to have a male character who was really deeply good and wants to do the right thing, even though he’s young and doesn’t always know what the right thing is.

  1. What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)? Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book? Or a scene that made you very emotional?

I’m really proud of the scene in Berserker where the three narrators of the book, Hanne, Rolf and Owen, all meet.  I think it happens in a really surprising way, and it’s an exciting scene — one I can’t stand to spoil for you. The scene played out in my imagination with great strength, and I had that awesome experience of feeling like it was being dictated to me while I was writing from some great spirit beyond.

One of the scenes that was surprisingly emotional for me was the scene where Hanne and Sissel, her younger sister, are taking a bath. They have been on the road for many days, and this is their first chance to get clean. Hanne sees her sister’s body and realizes she is much thinner than she thought. She feels so protective for her health. And at the same time as Hanne is feeling this, Sissel asks Hanne about what it’s like to be a Berserker — to have a drive to kill when anyone she loves is threatened. It’s a scene where the two characters are letting down their guard, and I found it a tender one to write.

Thanks so much for having me on your web site, Emily.  These questions are terrific! I am so glad for this chance to connect with you and with your readers.

Berserker is a weird mix of Norse mythology and the old West that not only works, but satisfies that craving I had for a good western fantasy. Hanne and her family possess Nyttes, powers from Norse legend that can be a blessing or a curse. This inevitably leads to trouble, especially for Hanne who is a Berserker and will go into a fighting fugue state if the ones she loves are threatened. In hopes of learning how to control her powers, Hanne and her family travel to America in search of her uncle, a fellow Berserker.

In addition to the fabulously developed mythology, Hanne and her family are realistic and tight knit. It was sweet to read about them and what they would do for each other and how they balanced what they wanted for their family and wanted for themselves. There was also a sweet romantic element between Hanne and Owen, the guide her family hires once they reach America. They are both very believably awkward around each other in the most adorable way, and Owen was a refreshing love interest in the fact that he was quieter and shy. The two of them together was precious and sweet, and I’d be happy to read more about them future books.

Berserker was a great read with only a few parts that felt slow or dragged. It was impressively gory for a YA book, and I loved it. It delivered it’s violence unflinchingly and kept it entertaining rather than gratuitous. Its a fun read and is highly recommended if you love Westerns or Norse mythology or both done in a unique way. Also, there is a super cute dog that I wanted to snuggle.

Emmy Laybourne is a novelist, screenwriter and former character actress. She is the author of the upcoming release BERSERKER (“You will love Emmy Laybourne’s vision of an American west studded with Viking glory.” – Hypable.com), as well as the MONUMENT 14 trilogy (“Frighteningly real… riveting” – NYT Book Review, Editor’s Choice) and the novel SWEET (“A gripping action-adventure survival story” – VOYA, rated Perfect Ten).

Before her life as a novelist, Emmy performed original comedy on Comedy Central, MTV and VH1; and acted in the movies “Superstar,” “The In-Laws” and “Nancy Drew,” among others. Emmy lives outside New York City with her husband, two kids and a flock of 9 nifty chickens.

Photo credit: Kit Laybourne

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author image, info, giveaway, and more  were provided by Jean Book Nerd Tours. An advanced copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Comments · 1

  1. This book sounds really great. I love Norse mythology! I’m so glad that you are posting reviews again, Emily!

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