When I first began writing Shieldmaiden I was very arrogant thinking that being Scandinavian, growing up with legends and sagas and being a student of History I wouldn’t really need to do much research. Please insert hollow laughter here!
The Vikings left practically no written records. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle was written by monks who weren’t over-fond of Vikings and anyway don’t deal with everyday life. So I have used what sources I found, the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, Icelandic Sagas, reports from archaeological digs and secondary sources such as the writing of W.G. Colloingwood and Nicholas Size.
They were both scholars, specialists on the Viking settlers in
. Collingwood wrote Thorstein of the Mere, a Saga of the Northmen in Cumbria . This saga fills in the gaps that the Historian has to leave alone due to lack of unambiguous evidence or simply lack of any evidence at all. Nicholas Size writes about his novel The Secret Valley, the Real Romance of Unconquered Lakeland : “There are details to imagine and suggestions to make in order to cover points which have not been recorded; and as life is too short for most of us, it seems best to put the facts into the form of a readable story appreciated by the many, instead of into a dry handbook appreciated by the very few.” I couldn’t agree more. Lakeland
The novelist can continue where the historian must stop and admit that we don’t know. But to use conjecture and create fiction carries responsibility and, like Collingwood and Size, although I am no longer an academic, I do take that seriously. More about sources and inspiration in my next blog.