For those of you who waste your time on the Interweb playing on Facebook or doing who knows what, Lars had a great book published recently called West Oversea. I asked the author, Lars, who blogs right here if you haven’t noticed, a few questions about the book, which is also called “Westward Ho.” These questions may be more interesting to those who have read the book, “Go West, Young Viking,” but even if you haven’t, I hope the following will pique your interest a little more, assuming the strong reviews have not piqued it enough already. And if this introduction has just confused you . . . so let’s get to the questions.
- One of the major tensions in West Oversea comes from a magical object called The Eye of Odin. Is that object entirely your creation or did you pull it from one of the old myths? If it was from a myth, did the story you give in the novel about it’s origin come from the same myth?
A: The myth says that Odin plucked out his own eye in return for a drink from Mimir’s well of foreknowledge. He dropped the eye into the well, and we know nothing more of its history. I suspect I may be the first person to wonder about it.
- In both this novel and The Year of the Warrior, Odin or the power of Odin is a major villain or evil force. Is that just the way it worked out? Did you weigh Odin against other Norse gods when planning stories?
A: I find it impossible to think of heathen gods as having any real existence other than as evil spirits. C. S. Lewis hinted at some order of good daemons, at least in the past, but that’s kind of rarified for my ideas of the spiritual world. In any case, Odin has always been a sinister figure. He can look kind of noble and ethereal in a kid’s book, but in the poetry of the period he’s associated with corpses and hanged men and carrion-eating ravens. He routinely betrays those who put their trust in him.
Thor’s a little more sympathetic, and I treated him more kindly in THE YEAR OF THE WARRIOR. So I guess I’m doing the good daemon thing anyway. I imagine I’ll be sorry someday.
- At one point in West Oversea, Father Aillil has a vision of the future with several distinct figures speaking from their viewpoints. Did you have specific people in mind for those figures? I tried to peg one of them as Sigmund Freud, but I’d have to study them a bit before making my final guess.
A: Some of them are meant to be well-known people, some are just representatives. But I’m not going to spell it out. That would spoil the fun. Or the irritation, as the case may be.
- I could ask the same question of the American natives you describe later in the novel. Did you have specific tribes or people groups in mind there?
A: I did some research on pre-Columbian Eastern Woodlands tribes. But our information on their cultures that far back is limited, and I made a lot of guesses. I think I vaguely meant the “nice” Native Americans to be Algonckians, or their ancestors.
- At one point, Erling, the hero of many and admired figure for many in that time, explains one of the things it takes to be a good leader. As a novelist, do you think you understand different types of people, at least academically if not more so, even if you couldn’t emulate them yourself?
A. I observe leaders and brave men with considerable interest. The novelist’s working question is always, “What would I be like if I were like this person?” We’re very different from one another, we humans, but we’re not so different as to be mutually incomprehensible–in most cases, at least.
- Have you thought about writing a novel in the same time period with a different focal character, say Olaf Tryggvason or someone in his court or maybe St. Olaf after him?
A: I hope to extend the Erling series into the reign of St. Olaf, and to do a St. Olaf-only book to cap the series. And I hope to write a non-Erling Viking book sooner or later. Maybe several.