Words matter. They're like icebergs; nine-tenths of their meaning lies beneath the surface. But that hidden meaning has mass, it has momentum. A single word can crush your pretty sentence, or paragraph or even scene, like tin. The Britain of Hild's time was a seriously multi-ethnic, multi-lingual place. She would have heard Old English of West Germanic origin (what she called Anglisc), a variety of Brythonic Celtic dialects (British), Ecclesiastical Latin (Latin), and Old Irish (Irish). Old English was foundational for me. I began by reading several different translations of the extant poetry. I also read the original/s (they come in a variety of recensions) -- though I admit my understanding of the language is pitiful. I can puzzle out a few phrases but I'm lost without the bilingual editions.
Authors and Editors in Conversation Sean McDonald: So, 7th-century England! How did that happen? Your last novel was a distinctly 21st-century crime novel. How did you end up writing Hild? Nicola Griffith: In my early twenties I was living in Hull, a depressed (and depressing) industrialised city in East Yorkshire. For a break, for my sanity, I went north up the coast, to Whitby.