Author’s Inspiration by Eric Schumacher
|Håkon den Gode og bøndene ved blotet på Mære by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1860)|
I write about Vikings. Which doesn’t sound all that crazy until you consider that I was born and raised in Southern California.
So why Vikings? The truth is, I’ve been fascinated with them since I was young. Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons (a board game) sparked my imagination. History books, historical fiction authors, sagas, and then, movies, did the rest.
I have now completed two novels -- GOD’S HAMMER and its sequel, RAVEN’S FEAST -- and am working on a third, which is coming soon. The novels tell the story of a little known historical figure, Hakon Haraldsson, and his fight to win and keep the throne of the North (it wasn’t called Norway back then).
Hakon was the youngest son (and bastard child) of arguably one of the North’s greatest kings, Harald Fairhair. When Hakon was roughly eight years old, Harald shipped him off to England to be raised in the Christian courts of Wessex. There, he adopted Christianity and presumably learned something of the Wessex way of governing a kingdom.
|Harald Fairhair, in an illustration from the 14th century Flateyjarbók.|
At fourteen years of age, he was summoned back to the North by nobles who wanted to oust Harald’s unpopular son Erik “Bloodaxe” from the throne. Erik was a rather unsavory king, who, according to the sagas, killed off three of his brothers to make himself the most powerful king in the North. Ousting him will be a daunting task for the young Christian Hakon, but one he must undertake.
|Coin of Eric Bloodaxe. The legend reads "ERIC REX" (King Eric)|
So, what was it about Hakon and his story I found so intriguing? After all, he was not the type of person I originally envisioned myself writing about. He was not a Boromir (for you Tolkien fans) or a Beowulf. Or a well-known king, such as Harald Fairhair. On the surface, he seems pretty obscure.
But consider this: would you have a nerve to venture into a country as a fourteen year old boy to take on its brute of a king, all the while clinging to a religion that could get your killed at any moment?
That was intriguing enough for me; but there is more to Hakon’s story. His character takes many of the norms of Viking literature and turns them on their head; and his reign, which is marred by warfare, lasts almost thirty years, which in those violent times, was an eternity.
The sagas and literature are bursting with tales of strong, fearsome Viking warriors. Yet we presume, though don't know for sure, Hakon’s teenage body is not fully developed. Nor is his mind. While he may have been strong or large for his age (we have no way of knowing), he is anything but the Beowulf-esque champion we think of when he think of a Viking. I found that an interesting twist.
What’s more, Hakon’s life is the story of the Viking Age told in reverse. The Vikings left their homes to raid in foreign lands that were often Christian. Their lightning strikes and brutality are a threat to many of the Christian leaders in Western Europe. Conversely, Hakon is a Christian who returns home to fight his heathen brother. His religion poses a threat to many of the leaders back at home who fear he will try to convert them.
Hakon does himself no favors by sticking with the Christian god. He has difficulty gaining followers, and he has difficulties keeping them. His religion sows doubt and mistrust in his nobles, who more than once try to get him to adopt the old gods. How easy it would have been for him to denounce his Christian gods, and win the support of his people. But he doesn’t, and it plagues him. By staying true to himself and his beliefs, young Hakon ends up fighting two battles: one against his enemies and one against himself. That, too, was an intriguing idea.
History remembers him as Hakon “the Good”. It was a violent time. But my hope in the telling of Hakon’s story is that readers see some goodness in it too.
Eric Schumacher (1968 - ) is an American historical novelist who currently resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife and two children. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended college at the University of San Diego.
At a very early age, Schumacher discovered his love for writing and medieval European history, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Those discoveries continue to fuel his imagination and influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God's Hammer, was published in 2005. Its sequel, Raven’s Feast, was published 2017. A third, yet-to-titled book, is currently in the works.
For more information, connect with him at one of these sites:
History and legend combine in the gripping tale of Hakon Haraldsson, a Christian boy who once fought for the High Seat of a Viking realm.
It is 935 A.D. and the North is in turmoil. King Harald Fairhair has died, leaving the High Seat of the realm to his murderous son, Erik Bloodaxe. To solidify his claim, Erik ruthlessly disposes of all claimants to his throne, save one: his youngest brother Hakon.
Erik's surviving enemies send a ship to Wessex, where the Christian King Athelstan is raising Hakon. Unable to avoid his fate, he returns to the Viking North to face his brother and claim his birthright, only to discover that victory will demand sacrifices beyond his wildest nightmares.
Only 0.99 on Kindle (19th - 20th April) Amazon UK only.
It is 935 A.D. and Hakon Haraldsson has just wrested the High Seat of the North from
his ruthless brother, Erik Bloodaxe. Now, he must fight to keep it.
The land-hungry Danes are pressing from the south to test Hakon before he can solidify his rule. In the east, the Uplanders are making their own plans to seize the throne. It does not help that Hakon is committed to his dream of Christianizing his people - a dream his countrymen do not share and will fight to resist.
As his enemies move in and his realm begins to crumble, Hakon and his band of oath-sworn warriors must make a stand in Raven’s Feast, the riveting sequel to God’s Hammer.