On the release day of his new book from Hakon’s Saga, I had the pleasure to speak with author Eric Schumacher about War King. We dive into his creative process of the series, along with what he has learned during his writing journey, and a glimpse of what to expect in his third book.
GOING VIKING: How difficult is it writing about an historical figure, such as Harald Bluetooth, to find the right balance between historical accuracy and fiction? How much research goes into a character like this before you jot it down on paper?
ERIC SCHUMACHER: I spend a lot of time researching. That’s part of the fun of writing historical fiction. That research often unearths information about large historical figures such as Hakon the Good or Harald Bluetooth, such as what they did at certain times or perhaps what they looked like (roughly). But there is little to no information about what they were actually like as people. You usually have to infer some of that information from their actions. For instance, we know that there were many building projects that happened while Harald Bluetooth ruled Denmark. Can we then infer that he was industrious, or was he perhaps a fearful king trying to tamp down unrest in his kingdom? Another example is Hakon the Good. We know that he clung to his Christianity for some time, despite resistance from his people. Why, and what does that tell us about his character? Those are the things I look for when resurrecting characters from the distant past when there is little to no description of them as people.
GOING VIKING: This is now the third book in Hakon’s Saga you have written. What are some things you have learned along the way to create these wonderful stories? Have these characters impacted you in any way?
ERIC SCHUMACHER: Great question. In terms of writing, I have learned to have a pretty solid plan in place before diving into the writing. The whole story doesn’t need to be there, but you should have a pretty good idea of historical events, the story arc, the characters who impact it, and so forth. I made the mistake of veering from that in book 2, and it set me back a bit.
I have also endeavored to be as accurate as possible from an historical sense. Where there is simply no data, I really try to find plausible links for why characters did certain things or why certain events happened. I feel like I’ve gotten better at that over time.
Regarding the characters…I don’t know if the characters have impacted me as much as they’ve drawn me closer to them. I’ve been writing about most of these characters — and Hakon in particular — for over twenty years (the first two books took me a while!). I am pretty invested in their story and their lives and remain fascinated by them as well as the age in which they lived. It’s hard to stick with characters that long if you don’t love them!
GOING VIKING: Playing off the last question, was this always the plan you had outlined when you first began writing this series? Did you ever find yourself scratching a significant part of the story and rewriting it?
ERIC SCHUMACHER: I always had the plan to tell Hakon’s complete story and had the rough idea that it would take several books when I first started out.
As for the second part of your question – yes! With book two, Raven’s Feast, I actually had the crazy idea to tell the story from someone else’s first-person point of view. I really enjoyed the process and that character, but the story didn’t work at all. Unfortunately, I ventured down that path for over a year before realizing it wasn’t going to work. I scrapped it all. 150 pages or so down the drain. That was extremely painful, but it taught me a lot about writing and story development, so it wasn’t a complete loss.
GOING VIKING: War King is a very anticipated book for many people and because of that, it may attract new readers to this series. Now, could a reader jump right into the third book without previous knowledge of book one and two? Or do you suggest starting from book one to understand the overall arc of the story?
ERIC SCHUMACHER: I think a reader could get even more invested in Book 3 if they started at the beginning and saw Hakon’s triumphs and struggles from an early age. Also, reading from the beginning can definitely help with the backstory and understanding Hakon’s history. That said, someone could dive right into War King and get pretty invested in Hakon’s story, or so I hope.
GOING VIKING: Just by reading the synopsis of this book, readers are in for a treat when it comes to action. As a writer, is it difficult to choreograph action scenes?
ERIC SCHUMACHER: I love writing the action scenes. My imagination often carries me away to that bygone battlefield or skirmish, and I usually write them without stopping. But that takes some planning. I need to set it all up in my mind first. Before I write, I want to make sure I understand the landscape, the weather, and other factors that could impact the scene. I also want to make sure the strategy of both sides makes sense and seems plausible. With those in place, I then dive in.
But as much as I like writing those scenes, I also want to strike a balance between action and calmer scenes that drive the story forward, and War King definitely has that balance.
GOING VIKING: In a few words, what can you tell us to expect from the sons of Erik?
ERIC SCHUMACHER: They have an unrelenting drive to re-capture what they believe to have been stolen from them: their father’s realm.
GOING VIKING: After two successful books and no doubt a third on its way, how many more books do you have planned for Hakon’s Saga?
ERIC SCHUMACHER: Hmm…I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll just say I have plenty of ideas for stories, so stay tuned.
Thank you to Eric Schumacher for taking the time to conduct this interview with Going Viking. Congratulations on the release of War King! You can get his book now at http://mybook.to/WarKing.
About Eric Schumacher
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.
For more information, visit his website: www.ericschumacher.net
Follow him on Twitter: @DarkAgeScribe