It’s funny how much research you have to do on books like “Colum” – well, you don’t have to :). But I do. I’m setting the action in 810 AD, a few years after the raid on Iona, when the Norsemen were on the verge of a great war with Charlemagne – who, I didn’t know until I started this series, was a genocidal monster who would convert Saxons en masse to Christianity, and then kill them all anyway. It’s a bit tough narrative-wise, since I’m jumping forward three or four years from the Iona events, but for the sake of historical accuracy, I gotta do it! That’ll mean some flashbacks to the three intervening years, but so it goes.
I see what a hard slog real historians have in front of them. If you just look up info from one source on this 810 event, which is a thinly documented place/time anyway, you’d miss out on all kinds of information. Each historian seems to have one nugget that he feels is important, that the rest didn’t bother with.
For instance, from the Cambridge Medieval History, I learned that Guthfrith, a great Norse king, was king of not only Denmark, but much of Norway and Sweden, and that at the time of his death (SEMI SPOILER LOL) he was preparing to attack Charlemagne himself.
“Early Medieval Ireland” didn’t mention that, but did tell me that he had two hundred ships when he began to harry the Frisian coastline. Whether this was before or sort-of-during-the-run-up-to his planned war with Charlemagne, I don’t know.
And then it was Anders Winroth’s “Conversion of Scandinavia” which told me that the raiders imposed a tribute of 100 pounds of silver out of said harrying as a payment for leaving. But was this before Guthfrith died, or after, or what?
So each of those sources had part of the puzzle, but each one thought a different part was more important. But for the novelist, they’re all important, especially since the whole episode in 810 doesn’t warrant more than a paragraph anywhere!
The good part is, with so little recorded history, the fiction writer is free to make a lot of shit up! So it’s into the fray Colum and Viggo go… (Oh, and yes, Niall has a role to play as well – besides submissive slave bitch bottom, that is!)