Guest blog with Violetta Rand on researching Vikings
Today I’m pleased to have author Violetta Rand with us to talk about research for her book, Blind Allegiance. She’s got some interesting facts she picked up as she studied the vikings, which are an important element in her novel. Read all about them and then check out the details on her book, along with an excerpt from it. This looks like a really good one to pick up!
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Take it away Violetta…
Luckily, research is the cornerstone of my environmental scientist career. I know the game; interviews, exhaustive internet searches, library visits, and site visits whenever possible. Of course, there’s a world of difference between analytical methods and quality assurance processes and Vikings. But the concept is the same. Quality over quantity. The most important thing is writing. Blogging on how/what I researched is another thing altogether, but I’ll try to keep it interesting.
I decided early that I didn’t want to limit myself to just historical references (peer reviewed articles and books). I wanted to see how Vikings were depicted in films. Visual sources are wonderful, so I picked out a few movies. The Vikings (Kirk Douglas and Toni Curtis), Outlander (James Caviezel), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) were great (if you’re interested in an extensive list of Viking movies visit http://www.imdb.com/list/ssWeP92-RHE/). Each film provided valuable insight and kept me highly entertained.
Brushing up on historical events in the 11th century was the next step. Although I’m a history nut, there’s plenty to learn and I read four invaluable books. The Vikings (Clements), The Vikings, Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder (Chartrand, Durham, Harrison, and Heath), Knights in History and Legend (Bouchard), and The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World (Jotischky and Hull). From these sources I was able to construct my world.
I was intrigued by the extensive dietary choices and habits the Norse had. One of the most interesting facts I learned (information taken from the Vikinglady.com)… The very word for “riches” or “money” in Old Norse, fé, has a root meaning of “cattle”, so for each cow that the farmer could not successfully support over the winter, represented an economic loss. Meat as a food was in some ways an admission of failure, not success, which probably contributed to the value of meat as a foodstuff in Viking Age society.
Although this doesn’t necessarily relate to the nobility or wealthy landowners, it shows the difficulties of survival in northern climates. I was also intrigued by similarities between Native Alaskan (I live in Alaska) and Norse cultures. For example, similarly designed smokehouses were/are used for food preservation in both cultures.
Beef, pork, mutton, and wild game were common enough in Norway, but horsemeat was eaten regularly, too. In fact, according to some Pagan traditions, it’s believed to have been spiritually beneficial—providing a link to the gods. With the advent of Christianity in Scandinavia, by the 8th century, the Catholic Church had banned the practice of horse slaughtering/ingestion.
The struggle between Pagans and Christians remained constant throughout the Viking Age. Forcible conversion (by threat of death) to Christianity was not uncommon. To the Norse, the White Christ (the name used for Jesus) represented cowardice and weakness. This remained unacceptable to Odin supporters who needed to die in battle to reach Valhalla (Odin’s hall), the ultimate honor. This hostile environment provides fertile ground for my novel, Blind Allegiance, which demonstrates how two people from opposing religious backgrounds find love.
Thanks, Violetta, for your informative post. As a former history major I love learning unique details like that and enjoyed reading about what you learned. Those were certainly some things I didn’t know about!
Now on to the book details…
It’s a risk of a lifetime loving a man you’re supposed to hate…
Betrayed by a brother she hardly trusted before the bloodthirsty Viking, Jarl Randvior Sigurdsson, attacks her home, Noelle Sinclair is conveniently bartered as a means to save her cowardly sibling’s skin. Forced to leave her homeland and accompany the petulant Viking to the untamed wilderness of central Norway, Noelle is ever-aware of the burgeoning dangers around her—including her weakening resolve to resist Randvior.
Should Noelle surrender to his resplendent charms and seduction, or fight with every ounce of strength she possesses to get home?
She covered her face, blocking Randvior’s eyes from her own. She was only guessing—which never served anyone very well. She whirled, retreating full speed, heading directly for the cabin. She collided with a soldier. Noelle shoved him away in a huff, and tripped over her own feet as she stumbled through the door. She slammed it shut, barricading herself inside.
Confinement was the only escape at her disposal. But that only lasted a few minutes. Randvior tried to open the door. She braced her legs, hoped to keep the rest of the world locked out until they reached Norway. Randvior twisted the knob and pushed, but she stayed stubbornly locked in position. He banged on the planks and demanded she open the door. If she refused any longer, he’d probably just kick it down. She braced herself for what might happen when he came in and reluctantly stepped aside.
“What happened out there? Did you see a ghost?” he asked, entering the room.
“I would consider myself most fortunate if it was only an apparition taunting me.” She sat on the bed and wringed her hands nervously. “My conscience troubles me.” She raised her eyes to meet his.
He leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed. She couldn’t keep herself from sneaking admiring looks at his body. Only flesh and bone, she reminded herself, he’s only flesh and bone. His fine looks did little to relieve her; she was so helplessly riddled with guilt, she didn’t know what to do with herself any more.
He closed the door and moved closer. “Remember the things I told you in England?”
“I remember too much.”
What she really wanted were assurances for her future. She wanted him to vow he would care for her life as loyally as he would his own kinswoman’s. If he wouldn’t make her his wife, he should choose someone else. She needed a husband to protect her interests now. Even an inexperienced adolescent or an old man would do. As long as he had a pulse and a respectable name, she’d accept it. This was the only bargaining chip she had left.
Violetta Rand holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy and a master’s degree in Environmental Management. Serving as an environmental scientist in the state of Alaska for over seven years, she enjoys the privilege of traveling to remote places few people have the opportunity to see.
Violetta has been “in love” with writing since childhood. Struck with an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age, at five, she wrote short stories illustrated by her best friend and sold them in her neighborhood. The only thing she loves more than writing is her wonderful relationship with her husband, Jeff. She enjoys outdoor activities, reading whatever she can get her hands on, music, and losing herself in the ancient worlds she enjoys bringing to life in the pages of her stories.
Visit her at her website: www.violettarand.com