Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Author Interview: Bill Arnott

Today it's my pleasure to welcome Canadian author, poet and songwriter Bill Arnott to the blog to talk about his travel memoir Gone Viking.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey?
Like most writers I started writing when I was young – poetry, lyrics and fiction, all of it awful. As I grew up (somewhat) and went to university, writing became a means to an end – essays, reports and case studies. But a writerly lifeline persisted by penning brief, inspirational messages, reminders of the strength and capabilities we all possess. A buddy spotted my scribbles, scattered over a bulletin board on post-its and index cards. “That’s a book,” he said. Which I hadn’t considered. 

A dozen years later I bundled my little empowerments into an offset print paperback, called it Wonderful Magical Words, and self-published it. To my delight it was a Canadian bestseller. Sales raised money for Make-A-Wish Foundation, granting wishes to children with life-threatening illness. Everything about the project felt good. Except the writing. Ten years after the book I began to find my voice – that lovely process of aging and no longer caring about appearances that tends to result in authenticity.

Your travel memoir is called Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, how did the title come about? And where did the inspiration for your trek come from? 
I was working on a follow up to my travelogue Dromomania (2014) when I learned the word viking was originally a verb, meaning to voyage (more or less). I’d already trekked around Scandinavia and realized with a few more years of travel and research I could effectively replicate history’s most famous Viking voyages, drawing inspiration from both verb and noun. As I left to complete this odyssey, I felt I hadn’t gone to lunch or gone fishing, I’d literally gone viking.

This might be a bit like asking about your favourite child, where was your most memorable place to visit?
A dear friend of mine, mother of six, insisted she loved all her children equally – no favorites. After a long pause she added, but if I had to choose, it would be Chris. 

I’ve had a lot of favorite destinations, but if, like my old friend, I had to choose, I’d say Greenland. You can still find unexplored places, jarringly isolated with stunning vistas. One of those rare places where spirituality’s very present. Something about the vastness of the land, and its methodical movement – a blend of ancient with a frontier feel.

In fact, every destination I’ve been to has had an appeal – geography, climate, people, cuisine. More often than not my favorites have been a function of who I’ve been with and our experiences. Sailing around the UK’s Isles of Scilly was beautiful, and scary, as we tried to outrun a force eight gale (with no motor).

Is there any place that you wish you had included in your travels that you weren't able to visit?  
I was fortunate to hit every historical site I intended to, which covered most of the northern hemisphere. Eight years of travel and research, while rewarding, was exhausting. There’s a wonderful map at the Vikingship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, showing exploration routes during the Golden Age of Vikings (C8-C11), with arrows pointing across the globe. I could find new places to explore forever, but that’s another book, or two.

Have you any future travel memoir plans? And what are you currently working on?
A couple of literary agents asked the same thing. Short answer is yes. I love the genre, reading and writing travel lit – armchair adventures, with substance. The next immediate project I’m working on is a graphic novel called Allan’s Wishes. The remainder of this year’s filled with speaking engagements and performances, sharing stories and spoken-word inspired by Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, which, if you’re interested, is at Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/author/billarnott_aps 

Thanks Sharon.


  1. Lovely interview! Adding this one to my "to be read" list! Thanks to both of you!

  2. Cheers Camilla - nice to connect with you :) - Bill.