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.