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  • Writer's pictureastrid v.j.

The Seed of an Idea

The Last Vasa series: Insight and Inspiration

When I first moved to Sweden, I read several history books to get a grasp of the country and its people. Both my father and husband are fascinated by history and I suppose some of that rubbed off on me. As an anthropologist, I understand that, just as we are each shaped by our experiences, which form the backbone of our personal identities, so too do the experiences over time create the foundation of a culture. Understanding where Sweden came from, how it came to be, and what makes it tick also helped me build an understanding of why things are the way they are now in Sweden.

Sweden's flag (yellow cross on a blue background) against a bright blue sky. Last Vasa series image. Coat of arms with a faces bundle of sticks with a stylized bear on either side.
The Last Vasa series is an urban fantasy trilogy set in Sweden

As time went by, I began to realise that although utterly fascinating, Swedes rarely learn about their own history. A lot of it is deemed irrelevant even. To me, that shows a level of shortsightedness I cannot begin to put into words coherently, and I won’t bore you with any rambling here.

However, there were a few things that were immensely clear to me.

  1. The story of the first king of Sweden was one of a refugee who overcame the adversity life placed in his path and achieved the greatest level of success possible to any person. His actions changed the face of Northern Europe forever, and influenced not only Scandinavia, but also outcomes in places like Poland. In a country so heavily influenced by refugee immigration, this particular fact seems crucially important to me. Gustav Vasa’s experience is the ultimate rags to riches story.

  2. Sweden has always had a constitutional monarchy. The first king was voted into power, and the current royal family came to power in the same way, by a vote. It is incredible to me, that a country which has existed for half a millennium could have such solid, democratic roots. It also explains so much about why Swedes are so proud of their democracy. They have a long history of it, after all.

  3. When Sweden became Lutheran, heavily influenced by events leading up to the country’s declaration of independence and the crowning of their own king, it meant that this country became deeply involved in the religious politics of Europe, and was a key player in the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants. Although many Swedes are non-practising Christians today, it is telling that the country as a whole was still officially Lutheran until 2002 when the separation of church and state took place. You wouldn’t think it when seeing Sweden now, but it’s only been a non-religious state for 20 years. Quite something, and an element I’ve personally always found fascinating—since I happen to be Catholic.

Over the years, I kept toying with the idea of writing an urban fantasy story to highlight what I see going on around me in Sweden, but also to bring to light certain elements of the history that are brushed under the carpet in modern times. The Last Vasa series germinated when I read Herman Lindqvist’s fascinating book De Vilda Vasarna (The Wild Vasas), which follows the exploits of the royal family of Sweden. Several small details, including the fact that Swedish kings ruled Poland in the 16th and 17th centuries were the seed that started this whole story and gave me the idea of having a descendant of the Vasa royal line who is Polish and Catholic. Almost in the same heartbeat, it struck me that the Swedish noble families have the perfect names and crests to represent clans of magical creatures like lion shifters, vampires, magicians, and more.

Additionally, the idea behind the Vasa royal family’s crest, similar to the Roman fasces and the proverb about “sticks in a bundle are unbreakable” added another layer to my ideas on creating an urban fantasy set in Sweden and drawing on the history of this country. So far, the puzzle pieces in my mind have slotted it all together perfectly, down to the fact that a small aristocratic family in Western Sweden, near Gothenburg had a bear on their family crest and made the perfect location for a clan of bear shifters that I just had to have as part of this story. If you’d already like to start reading about this element in my world, you can check out It’s a Bear’s Life: That’s no Picnic, my origin story for one of the side characters included in this series.

I’ve also just finished writing Milena’s Fear, a short prequel to the main series, detailing the day Milena, the FMC of this story, comes into her powers even though she doesn’t know that’s what happened. It is also slotted into a real event that took place in Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, in March 2022. In my next post, I’ll discuss the significance of this event and how it pushed me to start writing the story that had been a vague idea up until that point.

Further events during 2022 and 2023 have accumulated, adding themselves to my puzzle and over the coming weeks I’ll go into details on how these real events have inspired my writing for this urban fantasy trilogy and which novel, novella, or short story each event is relevant to.

You can also sign up to my author newsletter for access to early content from this series or to my blog mailing list for updates on new posts from me.

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