Today, we are going inside the mind of author Lori Soard to find out how she came up with the idea for her latest book, Dear Viking. In addition to writing romance novels, Lori spends the rest of her work day writing articles and creating websites and promotional campaigns for authors and businesses.
Today, I want to take you on a journey into my mind – a place I like to call Lori La La Land. I should probably offer a word of caution. It isn’t for the faint of heart inside my brain. My thoughts whirl a million miles a minute and I skip from one subject to the next faster than an hyperactive child filled with soda and sugar hops around the room.
I’ve often been asked where I come up with story ideas and it isn’t always an easy question to answer. Ideas seem to almost fall out of the sky at times. At other times, they come from song lyrics, something I’ve read or seen that sparks another idea, my daily life, stories I’ve heard about other people’s lives, a conversation I overhead at lunch or even a dream.
My latest book, Dear Viking, started with a dream I had one night. This was one of those extremely vivid dreams where you suspect you aren’t really dreaming at all. To find out, you pinch yourself, because the old wives tale is that you can’t feel pain in dreams. However, you pinch yourself and it hurts, so you still aren’t sure you are dreaming. It was one of those dreams that stays with you even after you wake up and part of you wants to go back to sleep so you can continue dreaming it.
My dream was pretty simple really. I was standing at the base of a hill looking up. It was night and it was one of those still, humid nights. I was in some type of old time village with a well with the bucket to draw water in front of me and a cabin-type structure behind me that I knew was my home.
The sky was pitch black with no hint of a moon or even a star to lighten things. However, about once every three seconds lightning would flash and light up everything. Back then, prior to Henryville getting struck by a tornado, I wasn’t scared of storms. I wasn’t scared in my dream either. I kept looking toward that hill as though expecting to see something and when the lightning flashed again, I did.
Outlined at the top of that hill was the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen in my dreams or awake. He was also slightly menacing. His hair was lifted by the wind and I knew he had light eyes and dark hair.
Then, I woke up. However, I couldn’t get my man standing on the hill out of my mind. I thought about him for days. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to put him out of my mind until I wrote his story, so I wrote about a chapter to get the character down and forgot about it for a while.
However, as with those strong-willed characters that wind up having their own books, Rok, who didn’t even have a name at the time, would not leave me alone. He kept popping up in my mind, in my dreams and everywhere else he could think of. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew he was a Viking.
I don’t typically write historical novels, save for a short story or two. I really resisted writing this one because I wasn’t interested in writing about Vikings. Everything I’d ever heard about Vikings suggested they were rather brutal, greedy people.
Finally, when he wouldn’t leave me alone, I very grudgingly decided I would do some research on the topic. It took me another year to read old texts that had been translated, study the middle ages, map Viking travel of the time, discover a rare few were Christians and begin to wrap my brain around this society that was far more advanced than I had suspected.
There were hints of things that made me like them more, even if they could be rather brutal. It was expected of them to be warriors. They loved their families fiercely. Rok Erikson’s story began to take shape for me. He became even more real and I realized that a character who had raided a monastery (something Vikings did at times) would have encountered monks. What if one of those Vikings saw something special in one of those monks? What if a brief encounter made a huge impact on that Viking and forever changed him so he no longer fit in even in his own family?
That was it. I was writing the story. Once Rok’s character was in place, it was simple to write his brothers, who wouldn’t understand his Christianity or his new behaviors that were very unwarrior-like to Vikings. It was also simple to come up with the heroine, because she is basically me, but prettier, smarter and braver.
Leani loves her family and will do whatever she needs to protect them. That describes me pretty accurately. That is the basis for every choice Leani makes. She either is protecting her family, avenging her family or trying to get back to her family.
I had so much fun writing this story, but it is the only time I’ve created an entire book from a simple image from a dream. I am open to coming up with more characters and books that way, but it just hasn’t happened yet.
I hope you enjoy reading Dear Viking as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope you love Rok and Leani as much as I do. They really are interesting characters, and despite their differences, they are perfect for each other.
Blurb: Rök Erikson comes from a long line of Viking warriors. The tradition of his upbringing, his new Christian faith and the code of honor that says he must protect his family at all costs wage war within him. He and his brothers go on a mission to kill Jarl Van of Colby before the man can make another attempt on their father’s life. The code of honor insists that they either kill or be killed, however, there are dark forces at work of which Rök is unaware.
Leani is the daughter of the jarl Rök believes is making attempts on his father’s life. When the eldest brother reaches her village ahead of Rök and the rest of the party, he kills her father and defiles her frail sister. Enraged, and fearing for her own life, Leani drives a silver dagger into his neck. Leani is captured by the vile Eriksons and forced to leave behind her broken sister as they take her to face a trial for killing the Viking who murdered her father.
Leani’s life hangs in the balance as she struggles with her guilt over taking the life of another and tries to find forgiveness where none should exist. Her faith will be tested to the limits as she fights a growing attraction to her enemy, tries to hide the truth about her identity, uncovers a treachery that runs deep within the Erikson clan, and sees how God can come to your rescue even when all hope seems lost…
Bright twines of lightning lit the sky. Leani lifted her head, allowing the rain to saturate her face. If she could only wash the sin of murder from her soul. The thunder stopped for a moment, as if the angels held their breath.
Leani looked to the crest of the hill. Lightning spooned across the night, highlighting the dark figure standing on the mound. Leani’s heartbeat hammered in her ears. She rose to her feet, braced for another confrontation.
A leather tunic covered his torso and a red cape was clasped with a bronze brooch. With the lightning flashing around his head and his long golden-brown hair blowing in the wind, the man looked like the war god. Impossible. Leani didn’t believe in gods. Her family had converted to Christianity when she’d been in her ninth summer.
An inner awareness whispered that she knew this man, had always known him. Yet, he was a stranger. The night closed around them once again as the storm paused.
Leani pushed aside the stubborn hair that kept blowing across her face. Her gaze was unfocused on the blackness of the hill. The very earth seemed to hiss with the next jagged burst of lightning.
The man was no longer in sight, and Leani wondered if he had been real. A weight settled on her spirit, like water washing over the sides of a sinking ship. When the light came again, the warrior was twenty feet in front of her, taking ground-eating strides.
Leani’s knees trembled. Had she avenged her father’s death only to meet the same shame as her sister? She glanced around frantically for a weapon. She would not give up her life or her virtue without a fight.
With each step in her direction, the man appeared even more imposing—broader of shoulder, firmer of resolve. Leani took a step backward and another. Lightning flashed and she had the impression of pale silver eyes. Piercing. Cutting. Another bolt and she saw an angled jaw and firm chin.
Halting when her back hit the rough planks of the door, Leani resisted pushing her way inside. Another assault would kill what little essence her sister had left in a hollowed-out body. If she kept the Viking monster from her dwelling, he would never realize another woman was within.
Leani summoned all her courage into a tight fist of bravery, letting it sit heavily in her midriff. Her only weapon lay buried in the fallen man’s neck.
Fear dissolved as the man passed her by and dropped to his knees beside the dead warrior.
“Brother.” His voice cracked on the word.
Leani edged closer. The warrior pulled the dagger free and held his hands over the wound as if he could hold the blood in.
Vikings were cold, heartless warriors. She’d been raised among them. Never had she seen such a display of emotion on a battlefield. They did not stop to cry over those who had fallen. Dying in war was glorious. Brother… Father… It did not matter the relationship to the fallen warrior. Vikings didn’t lament the passing of life from this world to the next.
“May the angels of heaven escort you on your journey to Valhalla with the Valkyries.”
The man’s voice had the sharp timber of cracking ice. Leani shivered again.
“Angels?” The word slipped past her curious lips. Was the man a Christian? But, he’d also mentioned the lovely maidens sent down from Asgard to escort slain warriors to the great hall of Valhalla.
The man rose slowly to his feet and turned to face her. Leani’s heartbeat pounded in her ears. He had called the vile, murdering beast brother. Had he seen her plunge the knife into his brother’s throat? Would he now ram his sword through her?
“Murderess.” The words sizzled off his lips like steam.
Leani raised her chin, fighting her own conscience at having taken another’s life. She had killed to avenge two wrongs and to protect others from the same fate as had befallen her sister. If that was wrong, then she was a murderess.
“Your brother was the murderer.”
“Your jarl tried to assassinate my family. My brother was justified in whatever he did.”
“J-Jarl?” The bitter taste in her mouth must have been a premonition. Had these men come here to eliminate her father for political reasons?
“Jarl Van of Colby.”
Leani expected the words and yet they still stole her breath. “Jarl Van is dead.”
“It’s no less than he deserves.”
If Leani had possession of the knife she’d sunk into his brother, she’d sink it into his flesh as well. Her father had been a gentle farmer. Now he lay dead because of this man’s brother. What would he do to her if he discovered she was Jarl Van’s daughter?…
Note: Lori is hosting a drawing on her website. If you sign up for her newsletter, you will automatically be entered into a drawing for a $10 Panera gift card (US recipients) and an electronic copy of my book The Lipstick Diaries (worldwide). Visit her website and click Newsletter in the tab to sign up for her newsletter and enter the drawing.