The official blog of Historical Fantasy Author, Mary Anne Yarde, and home to The Coffee Pot Book Club.
Come and join me on the hunt for everything mythological, as well as historical. Oh, and let's not forget the odd book or two! Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy...
Guest Post - author Michael E. Wills, talks of everything viking! @MWillsofSarum
Today I have the pleasure of welcoming fellow author, Michael E Wills, onto my blog.
Many years ago, when I was working
as a teacher in Sweden, I had the good fortune to buy an old wooden manor house
beside a lake, north of Uppsala. I say good fortune, but in fact it was
extremely dilapidated and repairs required not only all my spare time, but
every krona I had to make it habitable.
The rumour in the hamlet was that
the house was one of several, which through the centuries, had been built on
the site of a monastery. The extensive vaulted cellars under the house seemed
to support this possibility. To my eternal regret, I never had time to research
the history of the building. However, the existence of the cellars did make me
aware that I was living on an ancient site. This awareness was heightened when
I discovered that not far away, on the other side of the shallow, small lake,
were the remains of a castle. Why would anyone build a fortress by a small
landlocked lake? Who lived there? How old was it? My fascination with
Scandinavian history was sparked and has remained with me ever since.
Eventually, my attention focused on the Viking era. I read extensively on the
subject and took every opportunity to visit historical sites and museums. I
recorded much of my research in diaries and vowed that one day I would use it
to write a book.
It was many years before I was able
to fulfil my ambition to write about the Vikings, but with family now grown up
and a move into semi-retirement, in 2009 I got my chance. I was working in
Weymouth that summer and became aware of rumours in the town, that the men
working on the building of a relief road, in preparation for the 2012 Olympic
sailing events at Portland, had made a gruesome discovery of headless skeletons
on the top of the ridgeway. I followed events closely and was thrilled when
Oxford Archaeology confirmed that the remains were those of Vikings who had
been executed between the years 910 and 1030. What had happened? Who were they?
Who had killed them? This was an absolute gift for a novelist, there had to be
a story here. My interest was heightened when further research of the bones
revealed that at least one of the victims had been born north of the Arctic
Circle. Who lived that far north in the tenth century and how on earth had they
ended up in a shallow grave in Dorset?
I decided that in order to write a
book about what had become known as the Ridgeway Skeletons, I would need to do
a great deal of research. As well as reading everything I could find on Viking
activity on the Dorset coast, I decided to undertake a voyage in my 30 foot
sailing boat to Scandinavia, to get a feel for what the journey was actually
like, storms and all. A further strand in the research was a visit to Lapland
to learn the history of the Sami and to try to identify whether any of them travelled
with the Vikings.
Many hundreds of miles later, I
published my novel, “Finn’s Fate”. The story follows three brothers from the
north of Sweden who in their search for a better life, join Danish Vikings on a
raid to England. And no, they don’t all get killed in Dorset! This book was
followed two years later with a sequel, Three Kings, One Throne, which tells
the story of Harald Hardrada, the Norwegian Viking who nearly succeeded in
taking the crown of England.
More recently, I have become
interested in telling children stories about the Vikings and I embarked on
writing a trilogy of books for 8 to 13 year-olds. The series is called Children
of the Chieftain. The first two books, “Betrayed”, (Longlisted for the 2016 HNS
Indie Award), and “Banished” are now available.
And why was the fortress built by
the side of a landlocked Lake? The answer, I discovered in the research for
Finn’s Fate, was that since the tenth century, the land in parts of Sweden has
risen up to ten metres in height. Streams and rivers have disappeared or become
shallow and in the case of the castle, it had once guarded a major waterway
into central Sweden, a waterway which has become a shallow lake.
Where can I buy these fabulous books? http://www.michaelwills.eu/buy-books/
About the author.
Michael E. Wills was born on the Isle of Wight, UK, and educated at the
Priory Boys School and Carisbrooke Grammar. He trained as a teacher at St
Peter’s College, Saltley, Birmingham, before working at a secondary school in
Kent for two years.
After re-training to become a teacher of English as a
Foreign Language he worked in Sweden for thirteen years. During this period, he
wrote several English language teaching books. On returning to the UK in 1979,
Michael and his wife started a language school in Salisbury, which received
accreditation by the British Council in 1983. The school was sold to
International House in 2006.
Today, Michael works part-time as Ombudsman for English UK, the national
association of English language providers. Although a lot of his spare time is
spent with grandchildren, he also has a wide range of interests including
researching for future books, writing, playing the guitar, carpentry and
electronics. He spends at least two months a year sailing his boat which is
currently in Scandinavia.