Sunday, March 27, 2011

Interview with Historical Fiction Author Jeff Foltz

 Jeff Foltz received a B. A. in history from Marietta College and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. He lives with his wife, Sue, in Camden, Maine and has three grown children and seven grandchildren. Jeff loves writing and Birkebeiner is his first novel.

Hello Jeff. Your novel is “A story of Motherhood and War.” Please tell us about your new book.

Norway, 1203. A mother’s compulsion to protect her children is timeless and primal. War is insidious and ageless. Birkebeiner is a story of both.

Two years after her son Hakon’s birth, Inga, wife of the Birkebeiner leader, King Hakon, realizes that the Crozier army will overrun her home, the fortress of Lillehammer. Inga is certain the Croziers will kill her child because he is the prince who may ascend the throne and unite the country. To save little Hakon, King Hakon asks his two best warriors to flee with his son for the safety of Nidaros (present-day Trondheim). It’s a long and dangerous journey on skis through two treacherous winter valleys and over a 7,000-foot snow-blown mountain. Willing to risk everything for her son, Inga insists on going with them. For eight harrowing, exhausting days, they’re pursued by a cadre of enemy soldiers bent on killing her child. Magnus, the Crozier’s military leader whom the church and the bishop call King -- and who has lost his own wife and two-year-old son -- must lead the chase.

What an intense novel! Where did you get your inspiration?

The cover of the book is a portrait painted by Knud Larsen Bergslien in 1869. Its title is Skiing Birchlegs Crossing the Mountain with the Royal Child (Norwegian: Birkebeinerne pa Ski over Fjeldet met Kongbarnet).

I’m an avid cross country skier. The first time I skied in the largest cross-country ski race in North America, The American Birkebeiner (8,000 skiers), I saw this portrait. It more than intrigued me. It dragged me in. “These guys are not babysitters,” I said. “Who are they and what are they doing with that kid?”

Inga, the two soldiers in the portrait, Torstein Skevla and Skjervald Skrukka, and the event are revered by modern Norwegians, as are the Birkebeiner. The name Birkebeiner was used by the bishop’s army, called the Croziers, as a term of derision. It means “Birch Legs”. In the early part of the war, the army that opposed the bishop was made up of poor farmers who couldn’t afford horses, mail coats, good weapons, or adequate clothing. The farmers would wrap their lower legs with birch bark to keep the snow out. The Croziers would yell “Run Birkebeiner, run Birch legs”, chiding them as their inept opposition turned tail. But the Birkebeiner army gained experience and got better and, when they started to win their share of the battles, started to call themselves Birkebeiner. They turned a derisive epithet into a proud hallmark that endures in Norway to this day. Some of you may recall that the stadium at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, was called Birkebeiner Stadium.

Roland Merullo said, “Brilliantly researched, fully imagined, and finely written, this story examines both the tenderness of family relationships and the viciousness of war--a mix of human extremes that is achingly timely.” What kind of research did you do?

I traveled to Norway to ski terrain my main characters skied, to see the countryside they saw and to experience the kind of arctic weather they endured. I also researched with Cornell University’s Nordic History Library, spent hours in the Oslo National Library and in the Holmenkollen Ski Museum in Oslo, Norway. I enjoyed every second of it.

What a wonderful story to read! Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I love my workouts. They’re part of my lifestyle. In the spring, summer and fall, I scull (row) at 6 AM on beautiful Lake Megunticook in Camden, Maine and in the winter, what else, I wax up the boards and head for the ski trails. 

What an awesome thing to do! Sounds fun! Thank you so much for this interview. It was fun getting to know you and learn about your book.


buddyt said...

My only knowledge of Norway and its myths comes from reading some Norse myths many years ago about Odin etc.

This sounds like a different and interesting story so please enter me in the giveaway.

I am Internationa,


Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Anonymous said...

Love the interview.
Would love to win.

My Hyer Space said...

Enjoyed reading your interview. Love the history. I would love to read your book. Thank your agent3547ataoldotcom

karenk said...

a great posting/interview...thanks for the opportunity to read this novel :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

The Doves said...

Not only is the Knud Larsen Bergslien original on the cover a way to really draw in the reader, the primal and wonderful blessing we are given to above everything protect our children, reading this humbling heroic interview to the book leads me to not only long to read the book but to also hold dear to the blessings I have been given and thank God I ma not in a war filled country where such decisions are a fact of life.

nicolesender said...

I enjoyed your interview. Sounds like a very interesting book.

Faith Hope Cherrytea said...

absolutely intrigued!
a book of substance!
blstef1 at mts dot net
thank you - for interview and participating in the hop.

Linda said...

Your research is what I applaud authors for. It makes for great reading. I know absolutely nothing of this time era. Would love to win your book.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Katy said...

Thanks for the Interview! I would love to read it!
hense1kk AT cmich DOT edu

JessS said...

Nice interview.

Dinda_SI said...

I enjoyed the interview. Sounds like good book.


Diana said...

This book looks very intriguing!


goldangel69 said...

Enjoyed reading your interview. Love the history. I would love to read your book. Thanks

Charlotte Kay said...

I would love to win this book so that I can learn more about this part of history from an expert.
Thanks for the opportunity!
charlovesmark at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

I love the author's idea of writing a story about a mother protecting her children during the war. I would love to win a copy of this book. Great interview!! wandanamgreb(at)gmail(dot)com

IdentitySeeker said...

Wow! I've actually learned something new today. I found it interesting to learn about the 'birch legs'. This book sounds like something I'd like to read.

SweetShenanigans said...

This sounds like such an exciting book! I'd love to read it
girl23rocks at hotmail dot com

clenna said...

I would love to read this book - it sounds like a page turner.

clenna at aol dot com

Dinda_SI said...

Sounds like great book. I would love to read it.


Aik said...

Sounds interesting! Please enter me!

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulations, Jennifer Dove! You are the winner of this wonderful and inspiring book. I know you'll enjoy it very much. Thanks, everyone, for participating in this book giveaway. I have a book giveaway every week so please stop by and visit.

Lady K said...

Really interesting ! ^^
anais.styling [@]