Last Winter’s Snow is released April 6th, by Beaten Track Publishing
Feels like it’s been forever, yet it isn’t. My last cover release was just a couple of months ago, for Common Sense. Now I’m back with fiction, and this book has been in the works for almost a year. I began writing Last Winter’s Snow in May last year, shortly after I was done with my short story collection SHORTS. After a chapter I realized that this would be a book that was different than anything I’d written previously. Why? Well, you’ll see at least one of the reasons when you read the book. I won’t give that away.
The second reason is no secret. I think I’ve shared many details of this book earlier, when I was traveling north for research: my main character revealed himself to be Sami. Not something I’d chosen consciously. But I had read a lot about how being gay and being Sami wasn’t all that easy, all that given even, and I know from friends who come from many different ethnic backgrounds, that very often, although far from always, homosexuality is still a bit of a taboo. As I did my research, I learned that – traditionally – the Sami lived in small family units, and that marriage and children was a necessity for the survival of the family. There just was nothing else. No priesthood, like the catholics have, and even the shaman was married with kids. But, after pressing and asking quite directly “do you never have unmarried people?” that question was answered with a “yes”. Grant you, not being married is far from being equal to being gay, they could be a-sexual, a-romantic or just unlucky, i.e. never having found a partner. But it’s an indication anyway, and it’s happened more than once.
Many indigenous Peoples have understood that the LGBT community has always been a part of their genetic makeup, while others, we see that primarily in former colonies of the west, being LGBT is still considered a “decadent western import”. Sadly. In other countries, e.g. India, being LGBT was only criminalized during the colonial age. Sadly it still is. And literally millions of people suffer all over the world, including risking the death penalty.
Nilas is a strong character, and his story is one of hope. While he chose the path of leaving his home to study and to be able to be true to himself, he always returns, the roots reaching deep into his subconscious. In the end, he is faced with the ultimate choice. But Last Winter’s Snow is so much more. Since the novel begins in 1982, things like the AIDS-panic of the era are a mandatory ingredient. LGBT history is long, but progress slow. I’ve often said that I feel that the HIV-epidemic is the main reason why we’ve reached marriage equality in so many societies. Call it a gay conspiracy theory. I have no proof, just a hunch, that straight majorities wanted to make sure we conform to the monogamous dream relationship of heterosexuals. An illusion, but still, everyone dreams about having one.
Just a year before Nilas meets Casper, the love of his life, the New York Times published its infamous first article about the gay cancer, and only three years earlier, Sweden removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. After that, things happen a lot more quickly, and in a way, the book is also a history of recent LGBT history in Sweden. This is, by the way, my first novel that plays out almost entirely in Sweden. It was an intensive write, a difficult one at times, but rewarding, as I’ve learned so much about Sápmi, the people and their amazing culture spanning over 8,000 years back in time. Not many people who can say that about themselves. India maybe?
Anyway, I feel I ramble… So, without further a due, here’s the cover of Last Winter’s Snow:
The cover of Last Winter’s Snow was designed by Natasha Snow, as she has for the past seven of my fictional releases, again a cover that really fits the story and the emotion the book conveys. I hope you like it. Pre-ordering has begun on Amazon, Smashwords and from my publisher, the latter particularly if you wish the be among the first to receive the paperback. Prices are set at US$ 4.99 for the e-book and US$ 11.22 for the paperback.
Here’s the preliminary blurb (I understand that I’m not the only one struggling with these…):
The story of native Sami, Nilas, and how he navigates life, trying to reconcile being gay as well as being Sami. Set over several decades, we follow Nilas and his Swedish partner Casper, as they build a life amid the shallows of bigotry, discrimination, and the onset of the AIDS crisis.
Last Winter’s Snow portrays recent LGBT history from a Swedish perspective, from the days when being gay was considered a ‘mental disorder’ to today’s modern anti-discrimination legislation and full equality. It’s also the story of one couple and the ups and downs of everyday life, as they navigate society’s changing rules and attitudes toward them and their relationship.
Last, not least, it’s a book that celebrates the rich history and culture of the Sami and their country Sápmi, as well as their ongoing struggle to achieve recognition and win back the right to self-determination over lands they’ve lived on for thousands of years.
Last Winter’s Snow is Hans M Hirschi’s first novel set almost entirely in Sweden, but it is the second time (after Fallen Angels of Karnataka) he takes his readers on a journey into the mountainous regions of Scandinavia in one of his acclaimed novels.
Have a wonderful weekend! See you Monday?