I found the experience of writing my first novel, “Finn’s Fate”, very fulfilling and the challenge of trying to sell it quite exciting. I had published several books before; all of them co-authored school text books, but creating and telling a story based in a period of history which I found fascinating was new to me and quite a thrill. I very quickly decided that I wanted to do it again.
Initially I planned this new book to be a sequel to “Finn’s Fate”, a continuation of the story, but as soon as I started researching for the story I realised that although I could integrate links to my previous novel which readers of “Finn’s Fate” would recognise, the new book had to be a stand-alone novel. There was just so much to write about concerning the first half of the eleventh century. It was an incredibly turbulent time with all kinds of unexpected associations – Vikings in Constantinople, Normans at the Anglo Saxon court, a Norwegian king in Humberside, an English king in exile in Flanders and Normans on Sicily, to name but a few.
I wanted to write a novel which could encompass as much as possible of the drama of the period by involving two key characters with very different backgrounds and yet with an ancestor in common. But the multitude of historic events throughout Europe, Scandinavia and the Middle East during the period presented a challenge; there were just so many events and people of note that I had to be restrictive. Not to be so would have made the novel unwieldy and over complicated. Nevertheless, by using two protagonists who lived and travelled in different geographical areas I felt I would be able to give the reader a real flavour of the lives, the loves and the deaths of the key historical characters of the period.
Just as with “Finn’s Fate”, I felt that it was vital to hang the story on the “pegs” of real historical happenings and relevant dates. I realised that to do this I would have to research the period of the book very carefully. I read widely and I am greatly indebted to the scholarship of others, most of whom I have acknowledged in the book. But reading was not enough. I had to see as many of the places as possible that I would be writing about. I found such visits hugely inspiring. In Old Uppsala, Kiev and Istanbul I saw features from the period of the book which are clearly identifiable, whereas in others, for example Trondheim, and in particular Stiklestad, the eleventh century remains are less obvious. The former because of the ravages of time and development, and the latter by virtue of land movement.
Nearer to home, I was surprised to discover that the riverside hamlet of Britford, just ten minutes from my home, was the site of a meeting between King Edward the Confessor and rebellious earls. The decision made at the meeting initiated a series of events which ultimately decided the fate of England. History is most often thought of as a record of great events and the actions of heroes and villains, but it is much more than that. I wanted to look beyond the historical “headlines” and to consider and imagine, with the help of my travels and reading, how the people of the period experienced and reacted to the tempestuous times in which they lived. And so my story, while covering the main historical events of the eleventh century, follows the lives and travels of the two men, Torkil who lived in Anglo Saxon England, and Ivar, a Dane who was enslaved by Norwegian raiders. The two of them lead separate and very different lives until one day they meet. What happened then is symbolic of what happened to thousands of others.