This week I’m excited to bring you a fabulous guest post by the lovely Lucy Morris! (*Cue round of applause*) Lucy writes for Mills and Boon Historical and her brilliant book The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance is out on the 27th May! In today’s post she’s telling us all about worldbuilding. Over to you, Lucy!
The Magic of Worldbuilding
At the time of writing this guest post for the lovely Katie, my debut book ‘The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance’ with Mills and Boon Historical was about to hit the shelves and the real world. Early reviewers have praised my world-building and research, which was hugely satisfying and a relief! As honestly, the historical accuracy of the worldbuilding was my biggest concern when I first set out to write my book.
Mainly because I have no academic background in history. People always say to write what you know and love. I love historical romance, particularly medieval romance. I’ve watched hundreds of films and TV shows — “Hello, ‘Vikings’!” (On a side note, the gorgeous Clive Standen who plays Rollo was my inspiration for Thorstein.) I’ve also read countless historical romance books, so I know my castles from my long-house.
But ‘know’ the Viking era? Know it enough to write confidently about it? How could I? I’m (sadly) not a shield maiden from Viking times. I didn’t even study History in high school (my catholic school meant Religion was compulsory and I could only choose one other humanities subject. I chose English Literature.)
Anyway, I thought myself ‘unqualified’ to write historical romance.
Turns out I was wrong.
You don’t need a history degree to write historical (although, I’m sure it would help). You do however need to research, and I did, A LOT. I read lots of non-fiction books on the Viking era (I still do in fact), the funny thing is, I thought I would hate researching, but I don’t …I actually really enjoy it. I guess if you love something it’s no longer a chore, and I certainly feel that way about it now. Non-fiction is factual, but there’s also a lot of opinions and presumptions (especially in such a murky time period as the Viking era). It’s a good idea to read widely, because of the countless different interpretations, and that’s what history is …an interpretation of facts.
Knowing that free’s you.
Yes, you have to pay attention to the facts. What happened to who, where and when.
But actually, everything is your interpretation. Your world. At the end of the day, I write historical romance. Yes, there’s historical accuracy, but I’m still writing a fantasy world, with a delicious romance at its heart. I can’t be writing about my hero having round-worms or lice —no matter how accurate that might be. My reader needs to fall in love with my characters and my setting. It’s a fairytale at the end of the day… but isn’t all fiction? It certainly is in my mind and that’s why I love it. Pure escapism.
And, that’s what I like to do. Escape into my imagination. Wonder about the facts I’ve learned and interpret them in my own way.
For example: What would a Viking hall look like?
I know what my research tells me. A large ship-shaped stone or wooden building, with a smoke-hole in the roof.
Now is the time for your interpretation. Where you use all five of your senses to build your world and bring it to life.
Maybe with the smoke-hole, your hall wouldn’t be as smoky as you’d first presume? There’s a hole in the roof after all. If you looked up, you might see the northern lights shimmering above you, or at the very least the stars twinkling in the sky? You would definitely hear the fire crackling, and feel the softness of the furs wrapped around you for warmth. What food would you be eating and drinking? Rich venison stews flavoured with sharp Scandinavian cloudberries and aromatic herbs? Sweet honeyed mead with a hefty alcoholic kick?
You have the sights, smells, sounds, touches, and tastes. Now for the final aspect of worldbuilding…the people.
What would someone living this life be like? What would they believe? Would they see the swirling blues and greens of the night sky and think, ‘There is another world above and around us. One that we cannot always see, but is definitely there. Where Gods have the power to throw lightning bolts across the sky, and are at constant war with each other.’ I bet they told stories to each other, trying to explain the world around them with stories of Gods and monsters.
No doubt they did this during their long winter nights as they waited for the return of spring, light and life. I wonder, did they ever sit and say to themselves, ‘I believe in magic.’
I think they did.
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A challenging wife
For a warrior Viking
When Thorstein Bergson rescues a beautiful woman from a storm-tossed long-ship he little expects to broker a powerful marriage alliance with her. This high-status ice queen is not the comfortable wife this warrior chief is seeking. But maybe the bitter-sweet pain in Gyda’s eyes hides another woman beneath? The one he tasted that first night when she’d kissed him with such pent-up longing…?
Sounds fabulous doesn’t it?! And thank you so much, Lucy for sharing your fabulous post with us!