A Conversation with Gary L. Doman, Author of Vinland Viking

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Gary L. Doman, whose (pen-)surname rhymes with “roman”, the French word for “novel”, was born in Syracuse (New York) and has spent the majority of his life in Connecticut.  He has degrees from Fairfield University and the University of Connecticut.  He has developed an interest in just about everything, especially history, geography, religion, language, and the natural world.  He began writing as a child and has never really stopped, although he does periodically need to eat and sleep, and also devotes considerable time to his other creative and intellectual endeavors; these include his “weblog” the Doman Domain and one of the items of interest found there, namely, “The Best Comic Strip Ever!”.  Further, he has taught himself to sing and founded his own political philosophy.  His greatest accomplishment may be remaining humble despite the preceding! 

Visit Gary online at http://domandomain.blogspot.com/

Q: Thank you for this interview, Gary. Can you tell us what your latest book, Vinland Viking: An Original Saga by Gary L. Doman, is all about?

A:  Vinland Viking is an “epic novella” and a “Christian historical fantasy-adventure” set at the time of the conversion to Christianity of Iceland and Greenland.  The protagonist is a young Northman who longs to lead the storied life of the pagan Vikings. His opportunity comes with Leif Ericsson’s exploration in North America, but his fortunes change in a way and by a means that no one could have anticipated, and which lead him ultimately (in a surprise ending) to the one true god.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters? 

A:  The protagonist, Yngar (later Brand-Yngar) Magnusson, is a native of the Orkney Islands.  He’s basically virtuous but also young and obstinate. He resents the fact that the Scandinavian world is accepting Christianity, which is putting an end to the practice of going “Viking,” that is, raiding.  Like me, he admires character in women at least as much as he does beauty, and he finds both those qualities in Asny Svansdottir, Vinland Viking‘s leading lady (or, to use a silly coinage of mine that does not appear in the book, “Viqueen”).  She’s even younger than Yngar, being just 16 when she first appears. Unlike him, she’s a devout Christian.  These two are really the only main characters.  The supporting cast consists largely of giants, dragons, other monsters, dwarves, and even some gods.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A:  Only the monsters are based on “real people.”  Actually, I create characters from my imagination, since, for me, the ability to do that is one of the greatest rewards of writing.  I cannot say, though, that no actual human beings have any influence on them.  As I stated in my answer to the previous question, Yngar shares my taste in the opposite sex; he’s also obstinate, and I think that at least the potential for obstinacy exists in my personality.  It ought to be noted here that Vinland Viking is just one tale in what I regard as an “epic cycle” built around several protagonists of a common ancestry, who live in different periods of history (over a total span of 13,000 years) and together represent all mankind, and that I’m trying to give each a different prime character trait that I deem present in myself.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write? 

A:  The plot can evolve somewhat as I write, but my policy is to map it out with as much detail as I can before starting one of this fella’s novellas.  A nightmare of mine is writing a large portion of a story and then realizing that it just won’t work as planned, because of something that I’d failed to consider. (I’ve always succeeded at whittling down the edges of a square peg so that it fits into a round hole, but I’d rather that everything just proceeded smoothly.)

Q: Your book is set in lands that border the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean.  Can you tell us why you chose this place in particular? 

A:  Yes: The reason why my story is titled “Vinland Viking” is that Yngar Magnusson, who has just settled in Greenland, flees to the part of North America that Leif Ericsson has explored and named “Vinland;” in my novella, it’s part of Newfoundland.  This gives him the opportunity to fulfill his dream of becoming a true Viking (one who goes “Viking”, or raiding), although, as I hinted in my answer to the first question, his life takes an unexpected turn. 

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story? 

A:  It does.  One of my chief interests is geography, and so I try to make the most of the location of a scene.  Local weather phenomena such as blizzard and fog, and even local wildlife, play a very significant role in advancing the plot. 

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening? 

A:  If you mean page 69 of the print version, the answer is “nothing,” because that edition is only 67 pages long.  Since the revised, electronic Vinland Viking is readable on various techno-gizmos that allow one to change the font size and so forth, which page is number 69 is largely a matter of one’s preference, but, let me look at the manuscript in “reading view;” this yields 110 screens.  On number 69 of those, I see that Brand-Yngar is examining weapons that dwarves have just given him so that he can fulfill a certain mission. I provide a detailed description of the weaponry, rather as Homer did for the armor and shield of Achilles in the Iliad

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts? Vinland Viking cover

A:  Only if you promise to give it back!  I don’t want to excerpt material that gives away too much of the plot, and I like to think that every part of Vinland Viking is the best part, but I’ll provide the following:

Long after they had left the sight of the Kraken, Brand-Yngar and his cohort could see nothing in the bleakness except an occasional skua, ptarmigan, or arctic tern, all of which were too adept at flying to be caught by a party of such limited resources.  Nonetheless, since snow did not currently cover the ground, the trio considered that they had a good chance of locating whichever animals had already donned their white winter fur or plumage.  They also remembered to examine the nearby shore, knowing that the ocean might provide what they needed.

Later they spotted another avian, but one that seemed to hold out more promise of being caught: a beautiful, black-barred female snowy owl, roosting in a depression in the treeless tundra.  On Brand-Yngar’s advice, he and the others flattened themselves on the frozen earth and inched toward the bird.  As they did so, Brand-Yngar felt hypocritical, for he had recently admonished these same charges of his that “A Viking never crawls!”

The men continued to slide and grind forward on their bellies; if this part of the island had been frosted by snow and ice, they might have resembled oversized penguins.  They had approached their quarry within a few score of yards, never knowing whether it failed to detect their presence, merely bided its time before taking flight, or perhaps had to stay put to protect eggs or owlets, when abruptly its mate winged to the attack from a heretofore unseen post on the summit of a boulder.  In silence the golden-eyed, nearly pure-white partner repeatedly and fearlessly swooped upon the hunters, each time wheeling away to strike from a new angle; the flustered Northlanders sought to down the large bird with their weapons, but it manoeuvred around the flailing steel, getting its talons so close to their eyes that they thought it very capable of gouging them from the sockets.  In frustration they conceded victory to the owls, and swiftly circumvented the area.

As the group trod further along, the air grew noticeably chillier.  This did not alarm anybody until one observed that the very storm that had forced the dragon ship ashore was moving northwest.  Worse, it now qualified as a blizzard, for the winds were beginning to dust Helluland with snowflakes.  Death was merely a possibility to those staying with the Kraken, whereas it was a certainty here in the midst of a snowstorm; Brand-Yngar therefore instructed the other members of the triad to attempt to retreat to the longship, even though this meant going straight into the powerful and blinding air currents.  They saw several animals hiding from the atmospheric fury; to catch these would have been easy, but all their attention was now dedicated to their own immediate survival.

Brand-Yngar felt his legs growing heavier with each step, and he had no doubt that the rest were growing similarly exhausted; the fact that they had to lift their feet steadily higher to extract them from the swiftly accumulating snow didn’t improve matters.  During particularly strong gusts it seemed to the comrades that they were barely progressing, for the might of the wind was nearly equal to their remaining determination.  Brand-Yngar would have offered words of encouragement, but the frigidity had numbed his lips.  He couldn’t avoid marveling that he was experiencing a worse blizzard than any that he could recall as an Orcadian, where his home had lain at 59 degrees North Latitude, yet this was not yet autumn!  Being ignorant of the Gulf Stream, which brought warm water to his birthplace, and of the Labrador Current, which carried cold water south in the Western Hemisphere, he wondered in his distress if this might be a stage of the Fimbulwinter, the severe winter or winters that the sages had foretold would precede Ragnarok.

Hours passed.  His associates faltered, first temporarily, and then permanently.  Their leader wanted to give them a proper burial, but he knew that to expend the necessary time and energy would merely expedite his own demise.  He could only unsheathe each dying man’s sword and place it in each man’s hand, so that the pair would, in Norse belief, be granted entrance to Valhalla.  Brand-Yngar himself continued onward as long as he was capable of movement, and prayed, as long as he had consciousness, to the deity who, as the creator of storms, had the power to calm them: Thor.  Then, he blacked out. 

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Gary.  We wish you much success! 

A:  You’re welcome, and thank you.

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