BackStory: Five Questions with Lindz McLeod

Harald Hardrada wielding a battle axe

BackStory: Five Questions with Lindz McLeod
Author of Harald Hardrada Intensifies

What inspired you to write ‘Harald Hardrada Intensifies’?

I’d been thinking about Harald Hardrada for a while; he’s quite the character! I’d been teaching myself Danish ahead of a trip (which still hasn’t happened due to Covid), and when I learned that the modern Danish word for magpie can also mean damage or hurt, the idea of combining the two began to seed. I was impressed with Hardrada’s fierce ‘battle rage’ and the intensity with which he fought and lived, and the collective noun for a group of magpies is a ‘tidings’, so one could also read the physical body being lifted by magpies as a metaphorical conveyance of the news of his death.

What are your favourite pieces of historical flash? What do you like about them?

The first one to spring to mind is ‘A Short And Slightly Speculative History Of Lavoisier’s Wife‘ by Amber Sparks, which marries (pardon the pun) historical fact with speculative fiction in a comedic yet poignant way. I also particularly enjoyed Flashback’s ‘Tapeworm‘, by Kristen Loesch, which is one breathless sentence spanning an indeterminate period of time; it lands such a gut-punch with the final lines.

Were there any interesting facts, details, or turns of phrase that didn’t quite make the final piece?

I experimented with just the first few lines of the rhyme—up to ‘four for a boy’—but ultimately it felt incomplete without including the entire thing as an arc. There are several different versions of the magpie rhyme but I ended up using the one most familiar from my own childhood.

If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?

There are so many! I would love to witness some of the big battles — Agincourt is a particular favourite of mine, as is the stand of Thermopylae in 480 BCE. I have a real soft spot for Alexander the Great and also his father Philip II of Macedon, who really doesn’t get enough credit for being a wonderful tactician (both on the battlefield and off) since he’s so often overshadowed by his son’s accomplishments, so I would have liked to have been around while he held court, or perhaps at the Olympics games in Dium in 348 BCE.

What, if anything, do you have in common with your main character?

I confess we share a certain stubbornness! Although I’d like to think I have a bit more sense than to refuse armour in battle — I’d prefer to be practical.

Lindz McLeod is a queer, working-class, Scottish writer who dabbles in the surreal. Her prose has been published by/is forthcoming in Catapult, Flash Fiction Online, Pseudopod, and more. She is a member of the SFWA, a Rogue Mentor, and is represented by Headwater Literary Management. She is on Twitter @lindzmcleod and her website is

Detail of illustration of Harald Hardrade’s defeat at the Battle of Stamford Bridge from The Life of King Edward the Confessor by Matthew Paris, 13th century.  Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, MS Ee.3.59, f. 32v; MS produced c. 1250-60.