Saturday 5 December 2020

Author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott of Vancouver, BC.




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




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.



 4Q: As I mentioned in the intro, you’ve been a finalist in two book award competitions. Please tell us about this.


 BA: Thanks, I’m enormously proud of Gone Viking receiving these awards: firstly, as Finalist at the Whistler Independent Book Awards and also as Finalist at the American Book Fest’s International Book Awards. These competitions recognize excellence in writing, content and aesthetics—in other words, well written, enjoyable books. There’s a quote stating that I write “with a journalist’s eye, a poet’s perspective, a songwriter’s prose, and a comedian’s take on everything else,” which I love and feel encapsulates my style rather well.   



 4Q: Please share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.



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.




 4Q: You are a regular contributor and reviewer on The Miramichi Reader. Please tell us how you met James and became part of TMR and tell us about Bill Arnott’s Beat.



 BA: Like a lot of great connections, we met through a common acquaintance. Author Karen Schauber (The Group of Seven Reimagined) introduced me to TMR’s James Fisher, who was looking for a west coast editor to review poetry, fiction and nonfiction titles. I’d been doing reviews for the League of Canadian Poets and liked the idea of deepening this type of engagement. The column-series Bill Arnott’s Beat was running in a few magazines and blogs and became a tidy fit as an additional TMR feature. My Beat stories started as a window onto Canada’s West Coast lit scene. Since then it’s become a broader ranging series, including writers’ tips, analysis, and straight-up storytelling. It’s been a pleasure to share and I’ve been delighted by the connections and readership.




 4Q: Favorite poets, authors, novels or works?



 BA: I love a lot of classic poetry—Wordsworth, Shelley, Coleridge—while my favourite contemporary poets are Mary Oliver, Simon Armitage, and my writing partner Mala Rai, a talented, newer poet who already has great publications and accolades. For prose I’m a huge fan of travel lit. My favs would be Tim Winton, Anna Badkhen, Michael Palin and Robert Macfarlane. Mind you, these authors write in a manner I find poetic. I read Tim Winton’s Land’s Edge annually—a gorgeous nonfiction collection of his personal Australian beach experiences. I found the book in an indie bookstore in Sydney. And when I eventually had a visit with Tim at a Writer’s Festival (and got him to sign the book) I was able to say thanks. Firstly for inspiring me to write—which is what that book did, and also for the fact the first book I wrote, Wonderful Magical Words, raised a nice amount of money for Make-A-Wish Foundation (granting wishes to children with life threatening illness)—all of this the result of his influence as a writer. Being able to not only thank him but let him know how many lives he affected in profoundly positive ways made for a pretty special moment.  




 4Q: Tell us about your songwriting and are you a performer, as well?



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.




 4Q: What’s next for Bill Arnott, the author, the poet?



 BA: As a travelogue writer, COVID certainly affected planning as it has for all of us. I had a years’ worth of performances and travel scheduled that were obviously postponed. One I was particularly excited about was a collaborative excursion in which I’d visit eighteen specific pubs around the southwest of England, each of which is featured in a colouring book created by Pete Giles and Zoe Eaton who run Barnoon Workshop, a studio and art school in St Ives, Cornwall. I also connected with author Pete Brown, the UK’s beer guru, and we planned on sharing a pint or two as part of the adventure. I hope to pick this up again in the future.


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:

Bill’s Website:

Bill’s Amazon page:

Bill’s YouTube channel:

Twitter and Instagram: @billarnott_aps


  1. What a fabulous way to start a Saturday. Thank you for this introduction to Bill Arnott.

    My interest in Vikings grew exponentially when I discovered last year Norwegian blood runs through my veins. Now vicarious a-viking shall become part of my journey!

    Where can I get my hands on a signed copy?

  2. Thank Allan - this is super fun, and all the photos you've brought together are just great - cheers! - Bill.

    1. Glad you like it Bill. Thanks for taking the time to be my guest.

  3. Thanks for visiting and your comment. I think if you connect with Bill on his website, it will let you know whete you can get a signed copy.

  4. Now I want to go viking. I think we all should spend a few months every other year and go exploring to learn things we've never experienced. Great interview. I've always liked Vikings.


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