My first avatar. I liked the image, but being afraid of copyright infringement I felt I had to change it.
John Snow is a pen-name. I chose this pseudonym when I started writing my Viking stories. My real name is Terje Hillesund and I'm professor of Media and Communication at University of Stavanger in Norway. At the university I teach media theory to students in Journalism and TV and Multimedia Production.
In addition to media studies, I have a deep interest in literature and mythology, especially Norse mythology, and in Viking history. I enjoy reading the Old Edda, Icelandic sagas, and books on the Viking Age. One evening, when my wife watched me sitting among my books and computers, she asked why I didn't write a Viking story. "If you find a good pen-name, I will," I said. Knowing I read "A Game of Thrones" at the time, she suggested "Jon Snow", but I said no. "I will not steal the name of such a wonderful character," I said, and called myself John Snow. (Just as one of my characters was to be called Yljali and not Ylajali after one of Knut Hamsun's most famous female characters.)
My current profile image. It is made from an old drawing depicting Harald Hardrada.
In my academic research I have been interested in printed media (newspapers, journals, books), and their transformation in the Age of Internet. I have written reports and scholarly articles on e-books, XML, and open access, but I had never before written fiction. When I chose to self-publish my stories as e-books, it was partly out of professional curiosity. But first of all I meant I had stories to tell and believed e-book publication was a convenient way of publishing. I must admit I had little idea how difficult it is to reach a potential online readership when you have to manage everything yourself - in your spare time.
An even greater challenge has been to write fiction in English. Norwegian is my first language, and before I started on the Viking stories I was accustomed to use English in scholarly texts only. I don't why I chose to write in English, but a few years ago, on a publishing conference, a British publisher provocatively asked why Scandinavian authors didn't write novels in English. I found the whole idea ridiculous and argued strongly against it, saying that literature had to be written in the mother tongue; that it was a bad idea for a Scandinavian author to write directly in English.
My wife and I live in Stavanger near Hafrsfjord (where Harald Fairhair after a big battle united Norway into one kingdom in 872 AD.) We have two sons. One is grown-up and the other is ten years old.