I had the good fortune of meeting Bill as a member of The Miramichi Reader, an excellent review site owned by a previous guest, James Fisher (See James’ visit here.) Bill is a regular guest on TMR as a reviewer and a guest blogger.
Bill has been a Finalist at the ABF International Books Awards and Canada's WIBA Book Awards. His work is published worldwide. This is a quote from one of his 5-star reviews on Goodreads:
“You'll find yourself travelling through a range of emotions as one minute you're marvelling at the beauty of his writing, the poetic images, and the next you find yourself chortling at some funny, nay often wicked, observation of some character he has come across in his roving.”
The Scribbler is most fortunate to have Bill as a guest this week with a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from Gone Viking: A Travel Saga.
Author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Dromomania, and Wonderful Magical Words. His poetry, articles, and column-series Bill Arnott’s Beat are published in Canada, the US, UK, Europe, Asia and Australia. He’s the producer of Bill’s Artist Showcase and his Indie Folk album is Studio 6. When not trekking the globe with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, writing music and making friends. @billarnott_aps https://billarnottaps.wordpress.com/
4Q: Happy to have you as a guest this week, Bill. Let’s start off by telling our readers what to expect when they pick up your most recent work – Gone Viking: A Travel Saga.
BA: Hi Allan, thanks so much for inviting me! I admire what you do at the Scribbler. And okay, let’s talk about Gone Viking: A Travel Saga. It’s travel lit—nonfiction—a memoir of my eight year trek around the northern hemisphere, following the routes of Scandinavian explorers. It’s proper armchair travel with personal adventures, a bit of history, and a lot of humour.
***Thank you for the kind words, Bill. Its great guests like yourself that makes the Scribbler so much fun.
BA: At the risk of being indulgent, I’ll share a passage from Gone Viking in which I recollect a suitable childhood experience:
I was little. Maybe six. And I was a Viking. My tunic was a gunny sack, something you’d use for a picnic race but turned around like a garbage bag poncho, head- and arm-holes cut in the sackcloth. The waist was belted with a length of cord. I had a papier-mâché helmet with horns, a round shield and short sword—light wood wrapped in tinfoil. The overall look was pretty good as I recall.
We were a rag-tag army, about fifteen people similarly attired, marching down Main Street as part of Vernon B.C.’s Winter Carnival—next to Quebec City, Canada’s largest. The parade route was a good long march given the length of my legs at the time, a mile or so through the centre of town. We shook our swords and howled at spectators, threatening pillage, none of which I understood, but found the loosely organized chaos great fun, particularly yelling at strangers, a thoroughly enjoyable activity I plan to reprise in old age.
BA: Yes, I’ve written songs most of my life. (Only in the past few years, mind you, have any of them been any good!) I forced myself out of my comfort zone more recently and began performing professionally. Indie Folk is my genre and like a lot of musicians I play a few instruments, but acoustic guitar is my go-to these days.
Something I love about wearing a few hats—author, poet, songwriter—is the opportunities provided to meet, hang out and perform with a great array of diversely talented individuals, not to mention being able to collaborate, pursue mixed-media projects, and make friends, people I continue to learn from while growing artistically. It’s a privilege I treasure.
4Q: Anything else you’d like to tell us about?
BA: I’ve had folks ask about Gone Viking book signings, what with physical distancing, so I share personalized notes or emails with individuals who’d like that for their copies of the book, particularly when it’s a gift for someone. As a result, I’ve been privileged to create fun connections with people around the globe, and I’ll always offer this to readers.
Thanks again Allan, for this opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed it!
An Excerpt from Gone Viking: A Travel Saga.
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)
Sculls slice the bay, the softest splash in morning calm. Each stroke of oar swirls water into quotes, grasping at a poem, the reach and pull a heartbeat.
“They do that on the Rideau,” someone says.
A coxswain barks instructions. The boats move on, silent, save for an oarlock creak and gentle ripple of wake. Through this a bald eagle flies close enough to hear feathers moving air while at a sculpture park it states, “When you see an eagle, you know this is a special place.”
Last time I was this taken by the view it was nighttime. Winter Olympics were here. And we met new friends at the rowing club pub, facing this stretch of water that resembles a thumb on the mitt of the inlet. Large windows and a patio look onto Vancouver’s Coal Harbour, cruise ship terminal and the industrial port’s towering cranes. An Olympic cauldron anchored the scene, a pyramid of metallic beams crisscrossed into outsize kindling – a signal beacon, burning proud. The fiery glow dampened city lights, leaving only flame visible dancing on dark water, the look of a Viking funeral.
My journey begins with a pint. Another pub on a pier, this time seated on a timber dock. Sun’s glazing the water, surrounding me in radiance like I’m seated in a forge. Inspiring setting, beautiful day. And I’m formulating a travel plan, a trail north, east and west, envisioning waves and ice and mountains. The scene blurs at the edge like cloud – a winding path, romantically ambiguous. I think of the Far North and shiver. Why leave this idyllic spot to trek some of the world’s most inhospitable places? I ask myself this more than once, the one-word answer invariably the same … viking.
Through translation and time the word’s come to label a people, a capitalized noun outside Scandinavia. But the word was first used by those people, describing the pursuit of wealth or land – legacy-building quests, known as going a-viking, or simply to go viking. It was a Grand Tour before rail or the Renaissance, an overseas experience without synthetic packs or Swiss Army knives. Just wool and fur, wood and iron, axes as tools and weapons along with the power of sail, oar and effort. Instead of photos or journals, mementoes were gold and silver, ivory, amber, and slaves – by trade or simply taken. At times, plunder, ransom, and butchered bodies. Going viking was a rite of passage, a drive as strong as a nomad’s pull to migrate. Riches from abroad meant power, and the ability to write one’s saga – tales of conquest and bravery – the result, immortality.
Another pint and my plan takes shape – a trailhead at least, pointing me on my way. The journey, after all, being about departure as much as anything. A sense of discovery. Saxons called it wanderjahre, the equivalent of a student’s gap year – travel prior to settling down – education on the road in lieu of a structured workplace. This excursion, evolving as I go, will be my wanderjahre. Multiple trips over several years in fact, but a wander all the same – viking in its truest sense, my trail a personal saga.
Thank you, Bill for being our guest this week. Wishing you continued success.
For all you wonderful readers wanting to discover more about Bill and his writing, please follow these links:
Gone Viking: A Travel Saga: https://rmbooks.com/book/gone-viking/
Bill’s Website: https://billarnottaps.wordpress.com/
Bill’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07TLD7K4M
Bill’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmd9xUk3VPWjyHMM3SIOR9g
Twitter and Instagram: @billarnott_aps