An Interview with Elizabeth Tammi (Author of The Weight of a Soul)

When Lena’s younger sister Fressa is found dead, their whole Viking clan mourns—but it is Lena alone who never recovers. Fressa is the sister that should’ve lived, and Lena cannot rest until she knows exactly what killed Fressa and why—and how to bring her back. She strikes a dark deal with Hela, the Norse goddess of death, and begins a new double life to save her sister.

But as Lena gets closer to bringing Fressa back, she dredges up dangerous discoveries about her own family, and finds herself in the middle of a devastating plan to spur Ragnarök –a deadly chain of events leading to total world destruction.

Still, with her sister’s life in the balance, Lena is willing to risk it all. She’s willing to kill. How far will she go before the darkness consumes her?

Having recently read and reviewed The Weight of a Soul, Elizabeth Tammi has also kindly answered some questions about her new book. Due for release December 3rd 2019, I gave this book a four-star review for its fascinating and dark take on Norse mythology.

An Interview with Elizabeth Tammi

Q1) If you could summarise The Weight of a Soul in one sentence, what would it be?

The Weight of a Soul is a Norse-steeped story about sisters who will do anything for each other, and what happens after you go too far into the dark.’

Q2) Where did your initial inspiration come from? / When did you first decide to write TWoaS?

‘It was the combination of a lot of different threads that I was pulling at! Before TWoaS, all I’d ever written involved Greek mythology– including my debut, Outrun the Wind, which was a YA sapphic reimagining of the story of Atalanta. I probably know the most about Greco-Roman mythology, but most of my family came from Scandinavia and I’ve always been really intrigued by Norse mythology, even if I didn’t know as much about it! I’d been wanting to tackle the Norse myths for a while, but I also wanted to write a story centered around sisters. The two concepts crashed into each other in early 2018 when I was studying abroad at Oxford. I took a history tutorial, and one unit focused on Vikings and I felt instantly connected to that era of history and the myths intertwined in it. I’d just finished wrapping up final revisions on Outrun the Wind, but felt ready to jump into a new mythology. The relationships between the main three characters– Lena, Amal, and Fressa– came very quickly. I’ve never before (and never since) had a plot come to me so fast, even though it went through a lot of changes over the course of drafting/revising. Oxford was the perfect environment for the idea to come to me, and I jumped into drafting shortly after returning to the States.’

Q3) How did your family ties to Scandinavia / Sweden impact your writing?

‘I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve never been to Sweden or Finland, nor can I speak their languages (I do know that my last name is the Finnish word for “oak” though, haha!). Though obviously Scandinavian immigrants didn’t face even a fraction of the prejudice and injustices that others did during the early 1900s, my great-grandparents were extremely conscientious about “assimilating” as fast as possible. They vowed to only speak English, and tried to “Americanize” as quickly as they could out of perceived mistreatment and disrespect. All this is to say that though I still have some cousins in Sweden and Finland, I honestly can’t claim too much of the heritage because it’s just not something I felt like I was really raised in. In a way, I think that made me want to write about Vikings and Norse mythology even more– there was so much I didn’t know or understand about that history and region, and the best way I could think of to explore it was through my writing. My grandmother always wanted me to write something about Norse mythology too, so we’re both excited that this story is coming out!’

Q4) My favourite TWoaS character was Amal. Do you have a favourite character, or a character you enjoyed writing about the most?

‘I’m so glad to hear that, because Amal is definitely my favorite too! After writing a relatively romance-heavy debut, I wanted to tell a story where romance wasn’t a main component or focus for the main character. While I liked writing Fressa and Amal’s romantic relationship on the side, the thing I was most excited to draft was the bond between Lena and Amal. They’re best friends, but also like siblings too. Even though he’s in a relationship with her sister, I wanted to show that there’s no need to fall into tired stereotypes of jealousy or awkwardness. It hardly changes their dynamic, though Fressa’s death complicates things between them. Any scenes between Lena and Amal were my favorite to write for sure.’

Q5) The ending left a lot of hope for a sequel – is one currently in the works? Is there a chance of one?

‘I never say never, and I know it’s an open end for sure, but I actually did write this with the intention of it being a standalone. I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, but something that struck me in Norse mythology was its inherently cyclic and unending nature. The whole concept of the inevitability of Ragnarok, but then the knowledge that there’s a whole new world emerging after that, runs through everything. I wanted to pay homage to the openness and perpetual recreation that I think these stories are known for by writing an ending that leaves room for plenty of possibilities. I’m so grateful that readers are curious about what happens next, but a lot about this mythology doesn’t bring concrete or easy answers about the questions raised– which is partially why I think it’s such an exciting and fluid mythos.’ 

About Elizabeth Tammi

Elizabeth Tammi was born in California and grew up in Florida, but is currently double-majoring in Creative Writing and Journalism as an undergraduate at Mercer University in Georgia. When she’s not writing, you can probably find Elizabeth at work for her university’s newspaper and literary magazine. Her other interests include traveling, caffeinated beverages, and mythology. 

Tammi’s website can be found here.

Her Instagram can be found here.

Her Twitter can be found here.

Thank you again to Elizabeth Tammi!

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