Author Interview: Lars Walker, Author of West Oversea
Lars Walker is a native of southeastern Minnesota, where he grew up on a small farm. He is a graduate of Augsburg College in Minneapolis and has worked over the years as a crab meat packer in Alaska, a radio announcer, a gas station attendant, and an administrative assistant. He currently lives in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis, where he works as librarian and bookstore manager for the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations. In his spare time, when not writing, he can often be found playing Viking with a local reenactment group. We'll talk to Lars today about his youth, his writing, and his plans for the future.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Lars. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Very quiet, very, very shy (although, oddly, I have no stage fright, and am a pretty good public speaker and actor). The shyness is a kind of backhanded blessing, though. It keeps me at home, where my writing laptop is.
Where did you grow up?
I was raised on my parents’ farm, southwest of Kenyon, Minnesota. I lived in the same house from my birth until I left for college at 18. I expect that’s a pretty rare experience nowadays. My novel Wolf Time is in part a tribute to my home town, a pretty Lake Woebegonesque place. And yes, I am Norwegian. And Lutheran.
When did you begin writing?
When I was a kid, I actually thought I’d be an artist when I grew up. I drew obsessively—“action” pictures that would get me in all kinds of trouble if I were a school kid today. I was never entirely happy with my drawing, though. I didn’t like the way I handled proportion, and I never really mastered perspective. Then, sometime in high school, I started experimenting with writing stories. Over the course of a couple years, I found I’d given up drawing almost completely. Writing turned out to be a much more satisfying instrument for whatever music I was trying play. It scratched my itch better.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I generally write in the evenings, after work and supper. I often have the TV on while I write; I find a little distraction stirs the broth for me. Or, when I’m in the zone, I find Bach or Grieg are conducive to my work. I also write on Saturdays, as much as I can, but I take Sundays off. I believe in a day of rest.
West Oversea is a historical fantasy. The hero is an actual 11th century figure, Erling Skjalgsson of Sola, a Norwegian chieftain who became the most powerful man in Norway. In this installment in his saga, he gives up his property and power in order to avoid doing a shameful deed, and embarks with his friends and family on a voyage to Greenland, to visit Leif Eriksson (this isn’t historical name-dropping; Erling probably did know him). It’s a stormy voyage, and they end up stopping over in Iceland, and then getting blown to the strange new land recently discovered by Leif. There are plenty of opportunities for fights, and (this being historical fantasy) there’s a good deal of magical trouble too.
What inspired you to write it?
I’ve been a nut about Vikings since I was a kid (probably because nobody’d invented video games at that point in time). I started reading all I could get my hands on the subject, so I’ve been essentially doing my research ever since.
Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?
I have some friends who are discerning readers, whose advice I’ve come to rely on. They get the unpublished text files when they’re finished (or I think so), and they tell me what they think.
Who is your favorite author?
C. S. Lewis. I love the science fiction trilogy, the Narnia books, and the apologetics. Screwtape and The Great Divorce too, of course. He was interested in Norse myth, as I am, but never did much in that field; I like to think he’d have enjoyed my stuff.
Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
I started my first novel (as a short story) around 1970, and gave it up because it wasn’t working and I really didn’t know what I was doing at that point. Around 1980, I sat down and finished the thing. It was rubbish and I knew it, but I wanted to be able to say I’d written a novel all the way through. I reasoned that someday I’d be ready to craft a book, and it would help me to know I’d done the physical work once already.
Around 1990, I figured out what I wanted to do with it, and wrote it again from scratch, without a glance at the first version.
By that time I’d gotten a few short stories published in a national magazine. The editor quit to become an agent, and asked me if I had anything he could offer to publishers. He then started shopping the book around, and he eventually sold my first published novel (a different one, as it happened) to Baen Books. It was published in 1997.
So it was a snap; it only took a little over 25 years.
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
I’m working on that. As they say in the industry, it’s in development.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
All things being equal, the prize goes to the persistent. If you have a modicum of talent, and are able to take advice, the main thing is to keep doing the thing, and to see your failures (you will have many) as learning experiences. This is easier to say than practice, but that doesn’t make it less true.
What is up next for you?
I’ve got another Erling book finished, plus a couple modern fantasies.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Thanks for your time and space.
Thanks for spending time with us today, Lars. We wish you much success.