Research and the Coolest Things
by Sandi Layne
I approached my research with the understanding that pop culture has done the Ostman a
disservice. Often, the initial image that springs to mind when one hears the word, “Viking” is
either a Minnesota professional football player or a guy with a horned helmed guzzling some
frothy alcoholic beverage or beating on a round shield. The early raiders that I got to know (in
my own, long-distance way) from the late eighth and early ninth centuries were not, by and
large, the stereotypical viking.
One thing that I learned was that the men from Scandinavia were men of faith. Not Christian,
not at the juncture in which I am writing, but they did have faith in powers beyond themselves.
To learn about the practices and misconceptions, I went to a community called Northvegr,
online, about ten years ago or so. This was a group of men and women who still hold to the
Northern Way - the belief in the Norse gods and goddesses, as they wait for Ragnarok—the
chaotic final battle signifying the end of the world as we know it. The people of Northvegr
were more than willing to answer my questions and clear up some ideas I had garnered from
Other things I learned that fascinated me about the Norse that I studied involved their
laws and social customs before the Althing came into play. How revenge was considered
honorable—but only if carried out in the right way and after a proper amount of time. How the
local laws were read by the Law Reader (lovsigeman) and interpreted on a smaller scale. How
courtships were conducted and the notion of paying a virgin bride the morning after the wedding
as a gift/compensation for her virginity, almost, as well as a token of gratitude for having taken
the groom to her bed. All of it was, to me, a vivid portrayal of people who lived in a time with
impenetrable winters and brief, vibrant summers.
Another area I particularly enjoyed was reading about the weaponry and the attitudes a
warrior held in battle. A Norseman fought with the idea that if he fought well, death would see
him in Valhalla—the golden hall of heaven, where feasting and battles renewed themselves daily
among others just like them. It was glorious for them to contemplate. They fought these battles
largely with axes and spears, as swords were extremely expensive and cherished. I, too, learned
how to fight with a battle axe and with a sword and shield. I blocked out fights (blocking out in
the theatre term meaning giving a rough design for) with my husband and asked my brother, a
medieval weapons fan, for help, too. The strength of a Norse warrior came from a fearlessness
not often found, and it was their faith in their afterlife that helped them fight with such will.
I started doing purposeful research for what became Éire’s Captive Moon in 2002. I began
writing the book in 2003 and continued (as I still do) to research the time and people and learn
more words in Old Norse. For me, this will be a long-term project and I am enjoying every
Éire's Captive Moon is NOW available in paperback and ebook on Amazon, iTunes, B&N.com and TWCS.
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Having been a voracious reader all her life, Sandi never expected to want to write until the idea was presented in a backhanded manner. Once the notion occurred to her, though, she had to dive in the deep end (as is her wont) and began by writing historical fiction. She has since written more than twenty novels—most of which will never see the light of day.
Sandi has degrees in English and Ministry, has studied theology, spent years as an educator, has worked in escrow and sundry other careers, but research is her passion. She won an award for Celtic Fiction in 2003, but as well as history, she is also fascinated with contemporary research and has self-published several novels in the Inspirational Romance genre.
She has been married for twenty years to a man tolerant enough to let her go giddy when she discovers new words in Old Norse. Her two sons find her amusing and have enjoyed listening to her read aloud—especially when she uses funny voices. A woman of deep faith, she still finds a great deal to laugh at in the small moments of the everyday and hopes that she can help others find these moments, too.