Imagine turning over your drawing paper to abruptly find a scene of chaos in a tenth-century Norse tavern. Previously, your main concern had been to see if the other side of the paper was blank, so you could draw another picture without having to make another trip to the scrap paper box; now you’re frantically digging through that same box, looking for the paper that holds the next piece of the scene.
From about 1995 onwards, digging through the scrap paper box in our family home was a bit like literary Russian roulette. Both parents were voluminous writers, but while Dad’s scrap paper would have code sequences and technical documentation that a seven-year-old couldn’t make heads or tails of, Mom’s papers provided brief glimpses of a strange, ancient world full of culture clashes and vivid characters. It sounds like the beginning of a joke: “A Turkish nomad, an Anglian wool merchant, and a Norse whoremonger walk onto a ship …”