They say there are a certain set of questions to help you really get to know a person. With that in mind, we’ve applied this to our wonderful digital-first authors and, more specifically, their books and asked them five vital questions to get better acquainted. Welcome, Jack Colman and THE RULE.
1. Have you always had an affinity for writing in the Viking Age? What are your favourite books that inspired this setting?
Well, The Rule is the second book I’ve attempted, and the first was about Vikings too, so I guess you could say always. I’ve read everything Horrible Histories has to offer on the subject, but other than that I don’t recall any Viking books. I think it more likely came about through my upbringing. My siblings and I have spent our lives being mistaken for Scandinavians, so I probably got to thinking there’s a bit of Viking in my blood. And as I mentioned in a previous blog piece for HarperVoyager, I grew up in what was once the Danelaw. We’ve got the place names, the dialects, the Jorvik Centre in York. It felt natural to use that period.
2. The inspiration for your book came to you in a lecture about historical legal systems. How have your own experiences with law informed how you wrote the concept behind The Rule?
My own experiences with law mostly informed me how to photocopy for three hours straight and how to fall foul of the stuffy rules of ‘seniority’. It introduced me to the soullessness of big business and corporate life. If law did anything for the book, it probably convinced me that I needed to write something good enough to get me off that career path. But I did meet some very nice people! (Phew, saved it.)
3. What made you decide to write the story from a variety of different perspectives from the citizens of Helvik?
At the risk of sounding like an amateur, this wasn’t a conscious decision. In fact, I didn’t realise that’s what I’d done until you mentioned it. I just started writing and that’s how it came out. I think sometimes it’s more effective to have the characters involved in telling the story rather than one detached figure relating it in the manner of a fireside tale
4. The book grapples with themes of kinship, betrayal, jealousy, and vengeance. Did you seek to develop these themes or did they arise from the plot of The Rule?
I like when a character is faced with a conflict of values. Family is so precious, especially when you have nothing else, and I wanted it to be central for Gunnarr. However, his devotion to the rule has come to define his life. How will he respond when forced to choose between loyalty to family and adherence to the rule? Worse, what will he do when pursuing his duty towards one family member could potentially destroy another? As for jealousy, I don’t believe in characters that are born evil without further explanation. There has to be something that drives them, and few emotions can sour a man like jealousy.
5. Do you think a society can survive or thrive with only one rule to govern it?
Oh come on, don’t make me use my brain! In theory I suppose it could, but, as the book perhaps shows, it would only take one divisive person to ruin it for everyone else. It would require all members of society to exercise a high degree of empathy in their every action, and widespread tolerance. But people are so divided in their views these days, and selfishness is such an innate characteristic in us humans, that I doubt it would succeed in practice. Is everyone either a) asleep or b) thoroughly depressed now? Great. Bye for now then.