Interview: Tales of Iceland author has more stories to tell

When Chicago author Stephen Markley hopped an Icelandair flight to Reykjavík last summer, he had no idea that a year later, he would be promoting his book about the trip and longing for authentic blueberry skyr. In April, Markley released Tales of Iceland, or, Running with the Huldufólk Through the Permanent Daylight, through his fellow traveler Matthew Trinetti’s indie publishing and lifestyle company GiveLiveExplore.

Iceland was a catalyst for the development of GiveLiveExplore and its foray into publishing, explained Trinetti via email. “Before our trip … Steve and I had no intention of working together … But our experience together in Iceland inspired us to give this a shot.” The guys enlisted award-winning Icelandic artist Sigga Rún to round out the book with a handful of illustrations. Markley credits Trinetti’s social networking savvy for the connection, but Trinetti said they “serendipitously stumbled upon each other over Twitter.”

Contacted via email, Markley explained that in his opinion, Iceland’s appeal is a combination of the personal connections possible in such a small country and the stunning nature he admits he had a difficult time describing. “Reykjavík on any given weekend feels like the most exciting small town on the planet,” he said, adding, “and I mean that in an extremely complimentary way.”

Living in the city, Markley said, he doesn’t “have a lot of opportunities to get out and see vistas that don’t contain glass, concrete, and steel.” Iceland’s nature made such an impression on the guys, in fact, that they decided to donate a portion of Tales‘ proceeds to SEEDS, an Icelandic nonprofit dedicated to humanitarian and environmental projects in Iceland and around the world.

Just months after Tales of Iceland was published, Markley and Trinetti are about to head off to Ecuador, where Markley hopes to find inspiration to write Tales of Ecuador. In fact, if all goes well, the plan is to create an entire series of anti-guidebooks that Markley hopes can “serve either as a companion when visiting a place or as inspiration to get there someday.”

And what advice would Markley give to someone who is inspired to visit Iceland after reading his book? “It’s more universal: actually take some time to understand the place you’re heading to. I’m very pro-travel, but I feel like it has also become commodified in many ways… Americans and other Western people vacuum it up like any other consumer product. Learning about Iceland’s history, its politics, its environmental challenges, and its recent banking crisis was actually one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. It made me far more appreciative of the experience.”

Originally published in the Lögberg-Heimskringla, 15 July 2013.

Many thanks to Stephen, Matt, and the L-H team.

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