Danny Weston on Postcards From Valhalla and novels for teens inspired by mythology

Postcards From Valhalla by Danny Weston. Book cover and author photo.
A chilling mystery, family drama, Norse mythology and an intriguing cast of characters come together in the second book we've shared with our Macaw subscribers this month, Postcards From Valhalla by Danny Weston. With a stunning Shetland setting and a hint of magical realism, this book had us gripped from the very beginning. We're delighted that Danny was able to answer our questions about what inspired the book and which novels for teens inspired by mythology he recommends you read next.
What inspired you to write Postcards From Valhalla?
It began with the intention of writing something inspired by Norse Mythology, but I decided from the start, that I didn’t want it to be the usual comic-book fantasy thing that has been done so many times before. You know the kind of thing, characters in spandex, hitting each other with swords. 
I decided that my take on it would feature real characters, the kind of people you might actually bump into on your travels, but these characters would have hidden depths - something lurking just beneath the surface that would make them more than just ordinary people. Something powerful and troubling… And when I visited Shetland I knew I had found the perfect place to locate the story.


Are any of the characters or events based on real people and their experiences?

No, that’s not really how I work - though I can think of one character in Postcards from Valhalla who might remind readers of somebody who actually exists in real life: Zack Stride is a tech-mad, billionaire who feels that his immense wealth and power put him on a par with the heroes of mythology. But of course, any similarities to a living person are entirely coincidental…


What research did you do for the book and did you learn anything that surprised you?

I travelled around Shetland for a week, from Sumburgh in the South to the Northernmost point in the UK in Unst and decided that my characters should travel the same route.  I filmed some stuff along the way which can be accessed via 5 QR codes hidden in the book. I learned a lot about Shetland - how it was first given to Scotland by a cash-strapped Danish king as a dowry when his daughter married James III in 1648. I also learned that there are no trees on Shetland because the Vikings cut them all down 5000 years ago so they could rear sheep! And a combination of hungry sheep and harsh weather ensured that the trees never grew back again.


Which character do you have most sympathy for and why?

Viggo, the lead character. He has lived most of his life in the shadow of his older, more reckless brother, Magnus, who is a bit of an expert on Norse mythology and has travelled all over the world having wild adventures. 

Viggo is also still in mourning for his father, Jonathan, who went missing in Shetland years ago and has never been seen since. Viggo still isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life but by the end of the story, he has found his direction.


What do you hope young readers will take away from the story and how it unfolds?

If there’s a message in Postcards from Valhalla it’s about the importance of family and of discovering your true self, which is often hidden deep within you and only really emerges in times of crisis. I also hope that after glimpsing the parts of Shetland hidden in those QR codes, readers might choose to visit the place for themselves. It is truly extraordinary.


Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

I was a teenager myself (back in the middle ages) and I like to go back in my mind and try to recapture the things that were so important to me back then - whilst also marking how much things have changed! When I was a teen, there were no computers, no mobile phones, no internet and I was certain of only one thing. I wanted to be a writer.  My mindset hasn't changed much. Writing is still the most important thing in the world to me and I enjoy the challenge of trying to reach young readers.


Do you have a favourite place to write?

I do. It’s the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, just fifteen minutes walk from where I live. Up in the reading rooms, it’s warm and comfortable and you can hear a pin drop. I go there most days, sit at a computer and write like a demon. It’s free to use if you live in Edinburgh and have a library card. I would heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to write. It’s a place that simply oozes inspiration.


Which other books with mythological themes for tweens and teens would you recommend our subscribers read next?

I would highly recommend the wonderful novel, The Owl Service by Alan Garner, a brilliant tale based around Welsh mythology. It’s not exactly a new book (it was published back in 1967 and I first read it as a teenager myself) but it’s an object lesson in how to mix the traditional and the contemporary in one seamless adventure. 


Copies of our Postcards From Valhalla pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our bookshop.org page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!


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