Behind the Scenes of Book 5: Becoming Halfdan

During the coming months, I plan to periodically post about book 5, the final installment of The Strongbow Saga. Some of the posts will offer tidbits and glimpses into the story itself. Others, like this one, will explain some of the processes I follow to write the book.

Writing this story does not come easily to me. It is not simply a matter of sitting down at my computer and banging away on the keyboard, churning out X number of hours and words per day. I know writers who do that, and am awed that they can. But for me, writing—writing this story, at least—is a complex and slow process. I first began working on The Strongbow Saga in the late 1990s. Over time, as my years of research into the world of the Vikings revealed new aspects of their history and culture to me, and as characters became more vivid and took on lives of their own, the story has evolved considerably from my earliest concepts, though its core elements have remained the same.

Now, finally, I am writing the last installment of the story. In truth, I am more than a little bit intimidated by the task. Over the years I have been contacted by a great many readers, and I have more than a few times been stunned, though certainly very gratified, by those who have told me how much the story has moved or touched them. Many readers have been waiting a very long time for the conclusion of this story—Viking Warrior, its first installment, was initially published ten years ago, in 2006. For all of the readers who have been waiting for years, for all those who have been touched in some way by Halfdan’s tale, and for all those who have not yet found the story but someday will, I want to get this right. I have to get it right. I do not want to let you down.

The first step of the process is that I must, once again, become Halfdan. Halfdan is not just the hero of the story. He is its voice. It is told through his perceptions, his experiences, his thoughts. To become Halfdan, I must immerse myself in him, in his story. Halfdan is a man of the 9th century, of a distant time and a very different culture. I am a man of the 21st century, but when working on Halfdan’s story I must, as much as possible, shed my own skin, my own perceptions and attitudes, and adopt his. Otherwise, I cannot write true to Halfdan, and to the story.

To do that, I have been rereading each of the four books of The Strongbow Saga, taking detailed notes as I do. I have been refreshing in my mind how Halfdan perceives the world and the events he experiences, I have been reminding myself of the things that have shaped who he is, and how he grows and changes over the course of the story. As the Norns weave the threads of all men’s lives into the fabric and pattern of fate, so I must weave together the numerous threads that have made up each installment of this story in order to give it the culmination it, and its readers, deserve.

What would Halfdan do? I must become him, and let him tell me.

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9 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes of Book 5: Becoming Halfdan

  1. What is the current status of book 5? I’ve been looking forward to reading it since the day book for was released.

    • Spring is a very busy time on our farm. My wife and I produce a lot of the food we consume, and in the spring there’s a tremendous amount of work necessary to bring that about, including getting our large garden going and butchering some rams to keep our sheep herd a manageable size and bring meat in before hot weather arrives. As a result, recently I haven’t had much time to work on the book, but that will change before too long, and I still am planning to publish it by the end of the year.

    • I’m looking forward to the end of it too!

      Thanks very much for the link to that article. That Norwegian school sounds very cool. We have a small herd of sheep on our farm that are of similar, very ancient heritage–they’re Soya, originally from a small island off of Scotland. Like the Norwegian ones, they shed their wool, and are very hardy and self-sustaining.

  2. I’m truly looking forward to reading the book when it’s out! It makes sense that you really have to get into Halfdan’s head to be able to write. You have made three young hero’s story amazing. Write from your heart as you’ve done and you’ll blow us all away.

  3. I am happy to hear that you are writing the sequel to the Strong Bow Saga I have read the first 4 books and like you will go back an read them again before reading the final chapter of Half Dan’s Life. I enjoy reading series of books that depict a persons life in different periods of our history. I understand how you feel that when you write it is as if your are the person in the storyline. I feel the same way when I read and try to imagine as if I am in the same period of time as the story and how I would handle each dilemma and decision that the main character has to decide to go forward in a complicated time of life.
    Good luck with the final chapter of this amazing character, cant wait to read it.