‘The Lords of the Wind’: Six Questions for C.J. Adrien [INTERVIEW]

C.J. Adrien

Author C.J. Adrien never seemed to fit, until he started to do a little digging into his family’s history. (Photo by Zach Bascom, Dry Sky Photography)

My family has always been fascinated by history, particularly on the maternal side of my family. My great uncle and his children, in particular, dug deep into genealogical records, tracing ancestors back to European roots before following their travels to Australia and the Americas. Still, I didn’t know any of this until I was a senior in high school and had to start researching that information on my own, so I remember what it is like to wonder how you fit into the fabric of time and what made me the way I am. In The Lords of the Wind, the first in a new series about Viking history, we discover how Hasting the Avenger faced similar questions and why author C.J. Adrien is the perfect man to tackle telling his story. We hope you enjoy reading this exclusive interview! —J&H


J&H: The Lords of the Wind marks your third novel about Viking history. What is it about these people that stirs your imagination? And when was your passion for medieval history born?

CJA: It started as an exploration of my ancestry. I grew up half in France and half in the U.S., and growing up, I was always considered “other” wherever I was. In France, they called me American; in the U.S., they called me French. History gave me a way to find my place in a world where everyone around me made me feel I had no home. Medieval history intrigued me early on. At eight years old, I was given an illustrated book about the 100 years’ war, and I immediately fell in love with the pageantry of the chivalric knights. All my toys were medieval—a Playmobil medieval chateau (that I got for my 4th birthday) with knights and soldiers (and an assault tower and catapult!), swords, shields, and even pewter figurines that I still have today. Living in France, we had some of the most famous castles and palaces in history close by, and my [American] mother enjoyed touring them. I wrote my first short story about a medieval knight when I was 12. My grandmother still has it!

Most importantly, I think, is that my grandparents live on the island of Noirmoutier. My grandfather was born there and grew up during the German occupation. The island is home to one of the oldest castles in all of Europe, and I spent my summers in its shadow. I was fortunate in that my grandfather was the president of the local historical association who took care of the castle, and I had free access to the grounds. I learned everything there is to know about it, including its mysteries. One of the puzzles had to do with the Vikings. Noirmoutier had been the first victim of the Vikings on the coast of Aquitaine, and the castle had been built specifically to repel their frequent and persistent raids. Historians at the time still had no idea why they kept coming back, and no one seemed to care. It was enough for them to know that the Vikings arrived, terrorized, and left, and after that, medieval history started. It wasn’t enough for me.

On top of having the castle in my midst, my grandfather’s sister happened to be a history teacher and had researched the family’s genealogy. She had heard rumors as a child that the Vikings had stayed on the island and become the locals. She believed the fact that our family, with blond hair and blue eyes in a region of France where that was uncommon, may have been evidence that the Vikings had established a settlement on the island and never left. Her assumptions, I have since learned, were based on some problematic assumptions about genetics and genealogy, but at the time, it sparked my imagination. Could I be the descendant of Vikings? Who were they, and why did they want to live in France? I had more questions than answers, and I’ve been researching the subject ever since.

C.J. Adrien at the Holy Island of Lindisfarne

C.J. Adrien at the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. (Photo courtesy C.J. Adrien, Facebook)

J&H: In this new book, you relate the story of the Viking Hasting. His childhood was rough, to say the least. Where did he find the wherewithal to survive such a brutal beginning and what traits do you most admire about him?

CJA: I wanted to play with the idea of nature vs. nurture. Are we a tabula rasa (blank slate) when we are born, or do we arrive in the world with fully formed personalities? Hasting takes a middle-of-the-road approach. He is born with a desire to survive, with grit and determination, and a willingness to learn from the world. At the same time, he is also molded by his experience and will develop character traits based on how he has been treated—he will have impulse control issues; he will struggle with anger. He will display a touch of mania to cope with a hint of depression (all a result of his early trauma). What I admire about him is his willingness and ability to learn, which makes him exceptionally adaptable, and he never thinks of himself as a victim. He thinks more carefully about the mundane and will have the ability to change his behavior when it becomes problematic. Ultimately, he is a survivor.

J&H: Egill and Eilif have two very different views of a man named Thor, a powerful man in Ireland that they strike a reluctant bargain with. Why do their views of him differ and how did most people view the Irish during the time of the Vikings?

CJA: The real difference between the two is how they each deal with a crisis. That difference is why Eilif is in charge and not Egill. Egill is more impulsive, hardheaded, and lives in the moment. He’s not one to shy away from a fight. Eilif, on the other hand, is thinking and plotting into the future. Both want to preserve their autonomy, vis-a-vis Thor, but Eilif is more practical about how to accomplish that without getting himself killed. The two men also have a different idea about how the social hierarchy of the warrior culture works. Eilif sees the oaths of fealty as a necessity, and one may not always have the luxury of choosing to whom he is sworn. Egill believes he should only swear to someone he respects and wants to follow. But Egill has the luxury of not being the leader, Sail Horse is not his ship, and he is not on the hook for debts to Eilif’s brother. A modern analogy would be when a business owner is having cash flow issues, and a competitor offers to buy them out. The employees may complain and not agree with selling to the competitor, but they are not on the hook with the banks, even if the sale ultimately affects them.

J&H: After a raid on the Celts, Conwoїon interrogates the survivors. How common were raids of this sort and what was their purpose? Also, what interrogation tactics might a man in Conwoїon’s position have used?

CJA: Raids on coastal settlements were widespread. The abbot Arnulf of St. Philibert complained of “frequent and persistent raids” in a letter to a colleague in 819. Eventually, the raids got so bad that coastal settlements were abandoned entirely. The city of Vannes, in particular, was raided at least twice, according to sources. As far as interrogation tactics, Conwoïon did not employ any—he brought in outside help. However, insofar as investigating the raid, there is no evidence that anyone went around trying to figure out who raided what. In the story, the investigation is used as a plot device to move the story along.

J&H: When Hagar is betrayed, he pulls a sword in anger but gets stabbed with a knife in return. What were the most common weapons of the time and how were they selected? And was there any significance to his use of the blade that belonged to another man’s father?

CJA: The sword in question is of Frankish make. The sword style most often associated with the Vikings (a broad blade with a rounded pommel) was built in the Carolingian Empire and smuggled into Scandinavia. Swords were not considered particularly functional. Warriors could more easily kill another man with an ax or spear. And the swords were expensive. Hence, carrying a Frankish blade (the most famous of these are the celebrated ‘Ulfberht’ swords) was a status symbol for wealthy chieftains, in the same way, wealthy business people wear Rolex watches and drive Porsches. Hagar bought the sword to show off his wealth and status, not to fight. But when Hasting challenged him, it was the only weapon in his reach. Had he wielded an ax or spear, there is little doubt he would have killed Hasting. With a sword he’d never actually used nor ever learned to wield, he left the door open to his challenger to take him down.

To Hasting, the sword meant everything. It was his father’s and proved his father had been a chieftain with enough wealth to buy one. To Hagar, the sword was one more luxury item to add to his collection. He did not kill Hasting’s father, nor would he have wanted to kill him. The men who sold Hasting to him as a slave also offered him the sword, and he bought it. Until Hasting showed up demanding the sword, Hagar hadn’t given it a second thought.

J&H: Your next book in the Hasting the Avenger series, In the Shadow of the Beast, releases next summer. Can you give us some hints about what we can expect from Hasting in the future?

CJA: The next novel takes place two years after the end of book one and is going to put the concept of social capital front and center. Hasting is going to need to navigate his relationships with other chieftains and his warriors carefully. Bjorn’s family will be getting involved, which will present a whole host of additional challenges. Hasting is also going to struggle with some of the consequences of his upbringing—his behavior (as discussed in question two, above) will threaten to unravel the loyalty of others unless he can reconcile his past with his present.

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CJ Adrien's THE LORDS OF THE WIND

C.J. Adrien Books

ABOUT THE LORDS OF THE WIND

“For indeed the Frankish nation, which was crushed by the avenger Hasting, was full of filthy uncleanness. Treasonous and oath-breaking, they were deservedly condemned; unbelievers and faithless, they were justly punished.”

Orphaned as a child by a blood-feud, and sold as a slave to an exiled chieftain in Ireland, the boy Hasting had little hope of surviving to adulthood. The gods had other plans. A ship arrived at his master’s longphort carrying a man who would alter the course of his destiny, and take him under his wing to teach him the ways of the Vikings. His is a story of a boy who was a slave, who became a warlord, and who helped topple an empire.

A supposed son of Ragnar Lodbrok, and referred to in the Gesta Normanorum as the Scourge of the Somme and Loire, his life exemplified the qualities of the ideal Viking. Join author and historian C.J. Adrien on an adventure that explores the coming of age of the Viking Hasting, his first love, his first great trials, and his first betrayal.

ABOUT C.J. ADRIEN

C.J. Adrien is a bestselling French-American author of Viking historical fiction novels with a passion for Viking history. His Kindred of the Sea series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follett.

He is also a published historian on the subject of Vikings, with articles featured in historical journals such as L’Association des Amis de Noirmoutier, in France. His novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), conferences on Viking history in France, among others.

C.J. Adrien earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oregon, a Master’s degree from Oregon State University, and is currently searching for the right university to complete his doctoral thesis.

To learn more about C.J. and his work, visit his home on the Web at CJAdrien.com and be sure to check out his Viking blog. Readers may also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

THE LORDS OF THE WIND
By C.J. Adrien
337 pp. C.J. Adrien Books. $19.99

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours bannerPurchase The Lords of the Wind at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

The Lords of the Wind is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

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About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to ‘The Lords of the Wind’: Six Questions for C.J. Adrien [INTERVIEW]

  1. Amy Bruno says:

    Thank you so much for hosting CJ Adrien! It was a fabulous interview!

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book Tours

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