by Lars Walker
My novels, I think, are essentially about heroism. I write of heroism with a spectator’s fascination—like a football fan watching Brett Favre play, analyzing what he’s doing, knowing all the time he’s criticizing a level of play to which he’ll never attain.
There’s no need to explain just here the sad shortage of heroes in my own life, and why it’s so important to me that there should be heroes around. I remember an older boy who defended me from a bully once in elementary school. I’ve had the benefit of very few such rescues in my life, and that boy’s image stayed in my mind, and eventually grew into Erling Skjalgsson, the hero of West Oversea and its prequel, The Year Of the Warrior. Erling is an actual historical character, a man who appeals to the modern saga reader because we’re told he helped his slaves earn their freedom. I want there to be many more such people in the world. I want to tell stories that will, perhaps, help people to become like that.
I’m not a hero myself, to my shame. When I think of heroism, my mind inevitably goes back to a day when I broke my word to a man, in order to seize what I thought was a better employment opportunity (for the record, it wasn’t). That memory still keeps me up nights.
So my hero, Erling, has to be a man who will pay any price to do what is right. In West Ovesea, he surrenders his political power and much of his property, in order to avoid doing a shameful act. Instead he sets out on a sea voyage to Greenland, which puts him on the road to the adventures of the story.
My personal voice in the book isn’t Erling, but Erling’s Irish priest, Father Aillil, the narrator of the story. Aillil is a man capable of heroism at moments, but he’s been a slave, and so lacks Erling’s high self-esteem. He expects less of himself than Erling does, and accomplishes less, and is ashamed of it.
But spending time with Erling makes him long to be more, and strive to be more. I hope it will have the same effect on my readers.
And, perhaps, on me.
Lars (pronounced Larce) Walker is a native of Kenyon, Minnesota, and lives in Minneapolis. He has worked as a crabmeat packer in Alaska, a radio announcer, a church secretary and an administrative assistant, and is presently librarian and bookstore manager for the schools of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations in Plymouth, Minnesota.
He is the author of four previously published novels, and is the editor of the journal of the Georg Sverdrup Society. His latest release is West Oversea: A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure and Faith.