Welcome to Get to Know…! Each week, I’ll interview a creatively inclined individual, such as a writer, illustrator, actor — all sorts of fun folks!
Tell us about your latest work.
First, allow me to say what an honor it is to be here! I’m thrilled to be able to tell you more about ‘Pandegnomium’ my first book in the comical, psychological fantasy series of ‘Heureka’. It’s a story about a world, originally part of an enormous, cosmic game of cards, on which an international crisis breaks out. The government decides to kick start the economy by inventing the gardening gnome and soon the strange little constructs become smashing hits. But alas, the gnomes are about to take back the gardens; possibly even destroy the world. So we follow the young wizard Etnil, who suffers from Arcane Deficit Casting Disorder and is therefore not very good at spells, as he sets out into the world to find the ancient weapon ‘The Banhammer’. A powerful relic able to stop the devious critters before there is no world left to save. But talking hippos, obese old ladies, tyrants and board games are but a few of the dangers he will meet along the way.
Of course, Pandegnomium is also a general introduction to the universe; I’ve always thought that was hard in fantasy novels. You easily risk the setting taking up more space than the actual story, but I’m quite satisfied how it all turned out. One of the big things about this universe is how existence is split in two; the real, material world known simply as The World, and the chaotic world of Heureka. Heureka is sort of like an existential nuthouse, in which the gods placed all ideas and creatures that were too dangerous for The World. Some of the inhabitants are fantastic, others are quite dangerous, and a big part of the Heureka series is how these two worlds (and their inhabitants) interact with each other. Not always in friendly ways, mind you.
Where did the idea come from?
I’ve never liked gardening gnomes much, feeling that they just can’t be trusted. So it seemed natural for me to write about them, eventually. As for the general setting, I’ve been an avid role player and gamer for most of my life, so needless to say I’ve been quite inspired from my countless sessions of GM’ing. Telling stories has always been a huge thing for me; it’s a thrill to see someone who enjoys what your mind made up.
I’ll also be honest and say that I owe my two favorite authors, Sir Terry Pratchett and R.A.Salvatore, a LOT! These guys have enriched my life in so many ways, and I won’t hesitate to admit that my style of writing contains some elements that I loved in their books.
Why do you feel this concept can fill an entire series?
That’s a really good question. There is definitely a lot of potential in the ongoing struggle between the prime material world, in which people go to work and live ordinary lives, and that of the wild ideas of Heureka. Pandegnomium is not only the first book of the series, but also the first of the Etnil Storyline; the main protagonist. He’s a character that leaves so much more to be had from his life, even though he has accepted it probably won’t be anything different. It’s not that he has given up on his own existence; he has just settled for something less. After all, he’s a wizard whose spells are unpredictable and dangerous, meaning people are afraid of him. To Etnil, things like career, prestige, sex, family and love are arbitrary in the same sense as we perceive other planets. We know they’re out there, but so far away that we don’t really bother much with them and instead move on with our lives.
The way Etnil gets involuntarily involved in the struggle is long and challenging. It’s not just about a personal journey, like we know it from so many other great stories, but how every crazy idea made up by man or god could possibly influence an otherwise boring world.
What’s the book’s opening line?
“The World is flat. This is not to be disputed, no matter what any deranged scientists or self-inflated missionaries tell you.”
Facts first. Though I mention it, science doesn’t play a huge role in Heureka, usually because people don’t bother too much. In Pandegnomium, an earthquake detector measures the intensity of the quake by the number of porcelain cups hitting the floor each second. As you can see, there is a long way to go.
As for religion, I’m careful about that subject, mostly just making up my own stuff and make fun of that. That being said, the primary antagonists in the series are quite religious, which will be explained further in the next book, “Bloody Peasants”
What do you most enjoy about writing?
There is an undeniable peace to it, let’s just be honest about that. But it’s also freedom, seeing as how we always strive to tell stories whether we’re talking about identity, careers, family and so on. Living our life is telling a story, both to ourselves and those around us. But when writing, nobody can mess it up for you.
Also, on a less philosophical note, I keep finding it interesting how the original concept for a story matches the final product in so very few ways. I think a lot of authors out there agree with me that a good story is born, not made. It develops. Often you come up with an idea out of the blue; perhaps it’s so great it will keep you awake at night or make you ponder how to incorporate it. When I began my third book, I’d only written around 10 pages, yet I couldn’t sleep for half a night because my head was teeming with ideas for the story. That was extremely unique, and not something I’ve ever tried before.
Please share a writing tip you’ve found helpful.
Just do it. Sit down, begin writing in the split of a second. Run like crazy into the sunset. Never look back. That’s what editing is for. It’s so easy to get caught up in procedures today, seeing as more and more guides will teach you how to write, what to avoid and what not to do. But we must never forget that which made us sit down in the first place; writing.
You will make mistakes. Lots of them, perhaps. But don’t stop writing; keep at it and love it. If you’re a true writer, it’s very hard for you to stop once you get going.
And in that line of thought; learn to embrace (constructive) critique. It’s much harder said than done.
So you have a pet hedgehog. Tell us about the little fellow.
My hedgie and familiar, Mr. Tanglefoot, is about a year old and keeps making me smile. Perhaps because his preferred way of having fun is to stick his head into an old toilet paper roll and walk around with it. I had the idea during an RPG session, where one of my characters owned a hedgehog for a long time, making me wonder whether they’d make good pets. So I found out, much to my surprise, that such a thing is very feasible today. Hedgehogs are adorable and faithful companions, as long as you take the time required to cuddle (the common notion that this is impossible: false) and play with them. I was surprised at how easy going (and curious!) they can be, but it is an exotic pet that I had to read up a lot about.
How do your experiences as a clinical psychologist contribute to your writing?
I’ve been a clinical psychologist for some years, mostly working with anxiety and PTSD. It’s pretty evident in ‘Pandegnomium’ that a psychologist made up the characters, seeing how anxiety and degrees of depression from a troubled childhood torment all of the protagonists. Some have asked me whether this is intentional, to which I can only say no. I just don’t think I could write without including that element. Some protagonists in various stories never seemed that convincing on a psychological level, even though the author tried including it in a rudimentary sense. I suppose we’re thrilled by the ideal of a psychologically invulnerable hero, but I need my characters to have real issues to fight with, as well as orcs.
When I look back, the second book of the series, ‘Bloody Peasants’, is likely the one most influenced by my profession. It was written when I worked with traumatized patients, who’d seen torture, war and horrible tales beyond counting. I never really intended for it to be so, but when I look back at it now, I can clearly see how this story turned out way, way more dark than anything I’ve ever written.
For me, much writing has been a mechanism of coping, I suppose. Part of being a clinical psychologist is to realize how overwhelming it is to fight against your own mind, and how some people go at it for their entire life, even with little hope of remission. That’s what I love about fantasy; we might not be guaranteed victory, but hope is there as long as we try. Ultimately, I’m not very concerned with the heroes reaching their goals, but want to know more about how they got there.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I know I’m betraying my craft by saying that the greatest stories have come to me from games. Dragon Age, in particular, was likely the story that had me stunned, crying, laughing, thrilled and empty inside when it ended. That being said, “Guards! Guards!” by Terry Pratchett was the first Discworld book I read and (almost) fully understood as a child. English is my second language, after all, so it took a lot of time getting used to; yet this story was entertaining, interesting and had some strangely appealing characters.
Who is your favorite fictional character? (Any medium)
I’m generally fond of the misanthropic, grumpy and silent antihero; an archetype I haven’t really played that much around with in my books. Mostly because it seems difficult to portray them properly, and often these people aren’t interested the slightest in being a hero. I suppose you could say the same thing about Etnil in Pandegnomium, yet he pretty much goes along with the events because he’s too insecure to say no. Not because he rarely gives a damn about anything but himself.
Characters such as Garrett from the Thief-games, the assassin Artemis Entreri from the Drizzt series, and Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead are all up there on the top of my list.
If you could have one super-power, what would it be and why?
This is actually one I’ve given a lot of thought. I usually say ‘the ability to freeze time’ but some people argue that’s more like a god-power. So I’ve settled with unlimited teleportation, seeing how that can solve basically all my problems. I’m a strange person like that; late at night I can have a desire to take a stroll in London or visit one of my friends in Germany. Also, I’m terribly lazy when it comes to shopping and consequently arrive too late for most appointments. Teleportation would make my life so much easier! Also, to teleport annoying people on the bus away, yes please.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on the third book in the Heureka series, which will likely be done this Summer. I won’t really make too many promises, seeing as I’m rather satisfied with publishing three books within half a year; things just have to develop in a natural way. I can assure you that the third book is perhaps the best I’ve ever written; it just keeps improving. And if you liked the strange elements of Pandegnomium, you will definitely love the third one.
Part of me still wants to go back to the psychiatry one day, and I might just do that for some time. A lot of people have told me they are sad to see me stop being a therapist, which I am of course thankful for. But now that I’ve started with the books there is definitely no going back. Some people have asked me whether they will see paperback editions, to which I’ll sadly say no. It’s not something I’m looking into. Instead I am contemplating the possibility of audio books; something I believe is coming in strong in the next couple of years.
Where can people learn more about your work?
The central hub for all information would be my homepage, really: http://www.nicolaigrunnet.com/ There you can find information about the books, me and links to my Facebook page, twitter and personal blog. It really pays off to join in on Facebook, as a lot of stuff happens there.
Pandegnomium is currently on a wide array of platforms, such as Smashwords and Amazon.
Tell us one fun fact about yourself.
I watched The Fellowship of the Ring 11 times in the cinema. Only because I wanted to beat a friend who watched Titanic 10 times.
Thanks for joining us, Nicolai!
If you, too, are an artistic individual and would like to be featured in a future Get to Know interview, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.