In honor of the $.99 promotion I am currently running on Amazon for my Viking adventure novel Prince Dead, I would like to share a little bit about my inspiration for it.
I had known for some time that I wanted to write something set in the Viking era, though I did not know what. So, I had tinkered around with some research to understand the Viking age and the customs of it's people. I knew that the pop culture image of horned-helmet wearing, blood swilling, culture-lacking barbarians was not based in reality. Not even the name we call them, The Vikings, is accurate. Vikingr described the raiders, adventurers, and conquerors who traveled the seas and rivers in pursuit of fame and fortune. To call all Nordic people of this period Vikings is like calling all Europeans in the 18th century pirates.
When I wrote the novel, I knew I wanted to portray a more accurate, rounded image of these people and their cultures, though much of their history is shrouded in mystery. I also knew I would probably write about a raider, a true Vikingr for the simple reason that, like most people, they captured my imagination. The trouble was, I had no idea for a general plot line.
Authors get their ideas in myriad ways and this one came to me in the form of a single picture. I was never a fan of HBO's True Blood. I think I watched half an episode once. One day, however, I happened upon an image of Alexander Skarsgard as vampire / Viking Eric and, for whatever reason, a character started to form in my head.
The character I wanted to write was born to his bloody profession. He did not choose it. He was a quiet man who led a hard life, full of loss and misery. His fate seemed to him to be predestined. He felt he was living on borrowed time.
Further research helped me better sketch the character. The Nordic countries in the Viking age were generally politically turbulent, ruled by clans rather than kings, and plagued with blood feuds and invasions. There were, however, some united kingdoms, and a few great kings. To write about a common man would not provide that feeling of fate to the character, but to write about a noble king or a prince seemed too tediously cliche.
Yngvarr would be the son a a great king, but the disposable son. Nowhere close to being in direct line for the throne, he would be the black sheep of the family, the one they sent to lead the troops into battle when they could not surrender but knew there was no hope of victory. He was raised to serve his family and did so with pride and single-minded determination. The brutality of his era, his military training, and his unwavering loyalty made him ruthless, uncaring, and wary in many ways. He would be a bit of a dark hero, a man whom very few knew well.
At last I had a general sketch for my hero. Now, I needed my setting and my heroine.