Sandi Layne is the fabulous author of Éire's Devil King and the Éire's Viking Trilogy. Award winning author of short Celtic fiction, she is the creator of several works of contemporary Christian romance.
She's kindly accepted to share some precious suggestions for fellow writers.
Raum: Hi Sandi! Could you describe your experience writing this book (and the whole trilogy)?
Sandi Layne: Hi! First, Raum, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog for the Éire’s Devil King blog tour! So very kind of you! Thank you, too, for your willingness to help with my Latin as I’ve written two of the books in the Éire’s Viking Trilogy. Your expertise has been appreciated.
Raum: You're always very welcome!
Sandi Layne: You asked about my experience in writing this trilogy, as well as this book. It’s been quite a ride!
Éire’s Devil King was the hardest thing I’ve ever written, and that includes my Masters Thesis. The main reason for this was that the main character, Tuirgeis, was a real person, an actual historical figure with whom there are dates associated and things he did in a particular order. Granted, as a writer of historical fiction, I felt I was allowed to tinker with these dates and events—and I did!—but I didn’t want his life to be unrecognizable to someone that might be familiar with him.
Not only did I want to give a believable history to this Viking who sought to become a High King of Ireland, but I wanted to make sure to include all those from the prior books who would make it possible for him to do so. Keeping up with Cowan and Charis, Agnarr and Aislinn, the villagers of Tuaim Rithe, and Northmen like Erik the Hard-Headed required a certain amount of juggling to make sure that the readers got to see what was going on in a variety of different places on the island of Éire.
There was a great deal of fun to be had as I researched and wrote, though! I learned about place names still extant in Ireland that date back to the Viking invaders. I also got a huge rush when I sent Tuirgeis and his men to a place in an initial settlement attempt, only to find a year later that researchers have indeed found evidence of a Viking settlement in that same place.
I danced for days on that!
The best part about writing this trilogy was getting to do all the research necessary. I learned so very much about different cultures—cultures I thought I knew going in—and I appreciated trying to understand them as (hopefully) they might have tried to understand themselves. There is a joyful challenge in arranging my thinking to fit a character, whether or not I would agree with them in my real life or not. I have to make them make sense to themselves, and I hope I have done with Tuirgeis, as some readers have been so kind to intimate I’ve done with Charis and Agnarr, among others.
Another awesome part of my experience with the Éire’s Viking Trilogy has been interacting with readers! It is an honor to get notes on Facebook or Twitter or on Pinterest from folks who want to share Viking stuff with me. Clothing, history, weapons, jokes…I delight in all of it. I never would have thought that would happen, back in the 2003 when I started researching about a small part of Irish coastline, a man named Tuirgeis, and the medicinal powers of certain plants.
It’s been fantastic.
You asked about suggestions for others who might be considering writing—I’m guessing either works of historical fiction or tackling a trilogy.
I think one of the most challenging thing about writing a trilogy is to keep the characters growing but consistent throughout. One of my editors mentioned that it was “good to hear from Charis again” in book three. She was a narrative voice in book one, but not in book two. Her character had grown, immortal as she is, over the time that the series has covered, but she still had to be herself, with her voice intact and her manners familiar. Agnarr, the hero of the second book had to change considerably from the man we met in book one, but still there is consistency to be expected; my readers have to recognize him as Agnarr Halvardson, not some Random Viking Hero I tucked in here with the same name as the man from a prior book.
For me, a huge challenge was making sure to include all the characters from the prior books in ways that were meaningful to the plot of the final book. The story of Éire’s Devil King is about Tuirgeis, yes, but without the support of the earlier characters, the world of the Éire’s Viking Trilogy wouldn’t be the same. So my story had to be fleshed out from my original notion of it, to make sure to include everyone.
In writing historical fiction, too, I had to keep track of where everyone was and how old everyone was, and what the social, political, and religious standards of that place and time were—not only for the Christians of Éire but also for those who worshiped the Northern Way from Nordweg. As a novelist, I know I have some historical license for these details, but I try not to take them without reason.
Writing a trilogy was harder than I had appreciated before I did it, I can tell you that! Would I do it again? Only if I had a story arc that merited it. I think this one, though it might not be seen as a typical trilogy, did. But not all stories would.
I’ve been asked if I might write more about Vikings. My answer is, “I don’t know.” I’ll wait and see if a story calls to me. As a writer, I know I can’t force a particular story, though I can keep writing if I have one in mind already. So if I am again inspired to visit the men of the North, I’ll be back.
I can tell you that Charis has been whispering in my ear; we might hear from her again someday.
Thank you, Sandi!!!
As always, dear reader and writers, your comments are welcome.