… but having a strong villain is only one small piece of the puzzle. Obviously, you need heroes as well, and I knew who I wanted them to be. I knew I wanted both Viking and Native peoples to take on the roles of protagonists, but there was very little information available when I started this on the Natives of Newfoundland. We know that at least two groups of people have called Newfoundland home since the Neolithic times and before European encounters – the Beothuk, who the likes Cabot came across when they landed on Canada’s shores; and the people of the Little Passage Complex, who predated the Beothuk and likely were the ones who Leif Eiriksson would have met on his travels to the island he called Vinland. These mysterious people have left us very little behind – a few burial sites and tools are all we really have.
There are, of course, many stretches of the truth in Spirits of the Ice Forest, even the truth as we know it. Wolves, for example, don’t have Alphas. The geography of Newfoundland has been altered significantly to create my version of “Vinland.” And it is believed by many archaeologists that Vinland likely connected to the mainland back in 1000AD by a narrow land bridge. But look, this is my world. The only thing I really want to get right is the people and how they survived.
I used words from the Beothuk dictionary to give the characters names and scant traces of a language. The Beothuk also left behind a good deal of knowledge as to their migratory and hunting practices, so that served as inspiration, but not replication – we must remember, the people being depicted in here were not Beothuk yet. I made the choice to give them Island Dwarfism, it made sense, but it might not be accurate. Little by little, with a mix of research and imagination, my Natives took form.
Then there were the stakes. History provided – both peoples were facing annihilation; the Vikings from Christian encroachment in the Nordic Lands; the Natives from Viking encroachment in their lands. Even if the Natives could have formed a peaceful alliance with the Vikings, as was done in the Middle East where Christians seemed to invariably follow Vikings where they went, and there was no living in peace with them. It was convert or die by torture or the eventual disease that missionaries always seem to have with them. The only hope for the Natives was to get the Vikings away – this was tragically proven true in 1829, when the last Beothuk died in captivity. Here, at least, we had a story where the Natives could be the winners.
By this time, it was about 2016. I had my characters, I had my world, but the heart of the story was missing. Depicting a war is great and all but there needs to be a central objective. Tolkien had his Ring, Star Wars had R2D2, Martin has the Iron Throne, Spielberg had Private Ryan… Hitchcock called it a MacGuffin. While I obviously cannot consider Spirits to be in league with The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, A Song of Ice and Fire, or Saving Private Ryan, I needed to figure out what person or thing was going to form the central focus of this enormous struggle between two powerful and driven peoples. You need to anchor your story. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself spiraling into endless complexity that, while it might be entertaining and well written, will never fully resolve because there is no central resolution to strive for.
It proved to be such a problem I stopped working at it and took on Mighty Mary in the meantime, but in 2017, I found what I was looking for. You’ll have to read the book to find out exactly what it is, but I hope it gives you an exciting and engaging read.